Guest Column: Eminent domain: ‘public use’ vs. ‘public good’

I have never liked the use of eminent domain for other than pure “public use,” i.e., roads, highways, flood control, national parks and other such things that benefit all the people, not just a retailer, developer or government. The term “public use” is not the same as “public good.” Twisting the meaning of the Constitution’s meaning to “public good” is grammatically wrong, and in my opinion legally wrong. It is what we call now, “spinning.” To put a new “spin” on the meaning. Notice I said NEW meaning, and hope nobody notices.

In recent years, more and more local governments have used or tried to use eminent domain to gain more tax dollars and say this benefits all the people. It really only benefits Realtors, developers and retail companies. I am a retired carpenter and know jobs can be created by development, but at what cost to my fellow citizens? Government ALWAYS wants more tax dollars and will search every nook and cranny to find new ways to get them, within technically legal but not moral means. Politicians like to brag what they did to “build” their community, but don’t seem to care who, or how many they hurt, to get those bragging rights.

In Illinois, the state Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that it was unconstitutional to take property from one private party and give it over to another for the purpose of enhancing tax revenues. What does Machesny Park not understand about this ruling, or do they have a “new spin” on the interpretation of the ruling? As a layperson, I see maybe one spin. That would be to say, the village is not taking the property to “turn over” the property to another party, but the village will outright “buy” (forced sale) the land from one party and then “sell” the land to the party of the village’s choice. Some “spin,” huh? It may be legal, but not moral.

The U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate are working on legislation to stop this kind of “eminent domain” TAKING of private property from citizens. The penalty for taking property by a government or its agent, would be the loss of federal dollars for “other uses.” I think this means federal grants for all sorts of things on a local goverment’s “to do” list. This should give real pause to local governments wanting to use eminent domain. How many federal dollars will they lose? Money talks!! The information below may be found at The actual bills are (H3135 and S1704) and as of now have NOT been passed. They are added to another bill and will be addressed after holiday breaks.

Jim Ditsworth is a Rockford resident.

From the Dec. 14-20, 2005, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!