"Eminent Domain & African Americans–What is the Price of the Commons?"

Hopefully, we now how a better understanding of the police powers of government in their abuse of eminent domain activity, but do we really have any idea as to the impact of those actions on the victims?

Mindy Thompson Fullilove, M.D. is a professor of clinical psychology and public health at Columbia University. She is author of “Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America.” She is also author of “Eminent Domain & African Americans..What is the Price of the Commons.”

Ms Fullilove will be our Keynote luncheon speaker at the MORR/CURE conference on Redevelopment Abuse being held this Saturday at the Anaheim Sheraton Park Hotel.

In “What is the Price of the Commons” she writes about the Federal Housing Act of 1949 that was in force between 1949 and 1973 where cities were authorized to use the power of eminent domain to clear “blighted neighborhoods” for “higher uses.” In 24 years, 2,592 projects were carried out in 992 cities that displaced one million people, two-thirds of them African Americans.”In that article she refers to David Jenkins whose family lost their home in Philadelphia.

Gilbert sidebar. There is a more recent, yet similar, story of which I have personal knowledge that occurred in Fresno, CA. The eminent domain abuse against Ronzel Cato, a fifth generation African-American, the first to own a piece of the American dream, who’s family lost their home which motivates me in this ongoing battle. Ronzel testified in Sacramento that he did not want to sell their home but the city of Fresno had other plans.

Ms Fullilove states, “But the Jenkins family, like many other upwardly mobile families, was proud that they had gotten a toehold in the American City. Both of David’s parents had migrated from the South, drawn to Philadelphia–and the Elmwood neighborhood in particular–by abundant industrial jobs that offered unskilled workers a chance to make a decent living. Buying a home–that crucial American dream–seemed a start in the right direction.
But a home is not just a symbol of social status. Rather it is a splendid invention that gathers, protects, and situates the family. A home keeps the warmth in and the rain out, the predators at bay, and the loved ones close.”

There is a local illustration where Garden Grove activists, led by Manny Ballestero, Verla and Leo Lambert, organized to stop a “bulldozer” led city council from razing hundreds of their neighborhood homes to make way for a potential theme park. Verla and Leo will be in attendance at our conference this Saturday. So too will be OC Register Senior Editorial Writer Steven Greenhut who wrote about the Garden Grove story in his book entitled “Abuse of Power.”

The bottom line is that we can install dead bolts on our doors to stop intruders from entering our homes without permission, yet local governments, armed with the powers of eminent domain, can declare neighborhoods as “blighted” and with a simple self created Resolution of Necessity document, can force us out of our small piece of the American dream called our homes, places of worship, small businesses, family farms and investment properties.

We still have a few spaces open for any last minute attendees. Simply call 714.813.5899 or 323.567.6737

Larry Gilbert, Orange County Co-director, CURE and OC Chairman Prop 98, the only real property rights protection Proposition to be found in the June 3rd Ballot.

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