Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A very public shakedown

It is almost unbelievable that the below op-ed piece, which ran in the Wilsonville Times, could be written by an elected official in America. The reasoning it reveals is summarily collectivist, and is based on the philosophy that one person's need is a claim on another's assets.

I've inserted, in bold, my comments throughout the column.

By Wilsonville Mayor Charlotte Lehann

Ordinance rights a wrong

The City of Wilsonville recently passed an ordinance dealing with the displacement of homeowners who are evicted due to the closure of their mobile home park. [The ordinance requires the owner of the park, who wants to sell the property for about $8.5 million, to spend about $4 million relocating the tenants.]

The protections we put in place are similar to what governments must provide any homeowner when government condemns property for a new road or other public purpose: reasonable relocation costs and compensation for the value of the home. Whether the displaced homeowner owns a mansion or a modest mobile home, we are expected to make them whole. [The difference here, Mayor Lehann, is that when the government condemns property and pays to relocate the prior occupants, the public bears the cost. In this case you want to force that cost on a private person.]

Similarly, if homeowners are displaced by a park closure the landowner must pay the homeowner’s reasonable relocation costs, or if the home cannot be relocated, must compensate the homeowner for the in-place value of the home. [There it is. A bald faced shakedown. There is NO similarity between a government exercising the power of eminent domain and a private landowner selling his property. She is claiming the two are equivalent. They aren't.] The landowner is exempted from the ordinance if they reach a negotiated settlement with the homeowners.

Without these protections for the property rights of both the homeowner and the landowner, [Just exactly how does this "protect" the landowner's property rights? It's an outright theft of $4 million, and she tries to pass it off as protecting his rights? And what property right does the "homeowner" (which is a tenant on rented land) have in this case? This sentence is overtly Orwellian] there is a large transfer of wealth when a park is closed. The wealth of the homeowners is dest
royed and the wealth of the landowner is greatly increased. [She obviously doesn't understand the first thing about wealth creation. The landowner has an asset that has a use far more valuable than as a mobile home park. The renters own none of this wealth. There is NO transfer of wealth when the park is closed. What could she be talking about?]

In most mobile home parks homeowners have made space payments [Space payments? You mean rent?] for years or decades in addition to investing most of their life savings in the purchase of their home. [Yes, and in apartment buildings the tenants pay rent, sometimes for decades. That doesn't mean they own the apartment, or that they should get relocation money if the building is sold.]

With notice of closure, the expectation of a secure place to spend their retirement years disappears. Since older mobile homes cannot easily be moved and are usually not allowed to locate in other parks, the owner’s only major asset is immediately made worthless and is likely to be demolished without compensation. Sorry to point this out, but a mobile home that cannot be moved is not a major asset. [It is too bad that these people will have to figure out somewhere else to live. If Mayor Lehann thinks the public should help these people out, she is welcome to make that case and convince taxpayers to do something. But instead she wants to force the park-owner to pay the cost of her welfare dreams.]

In the meantime, the landowner is able to take advantage of decades of space payments [Rent!] and escalating land values to realize windfall profits at the expense of all those homeowners. [I love the rhetoric here. Windfall profits! Expense of homeowners! Where does their rent contract say that the park owner must rent to them in perpetuity?]

This is clearly unfair. [This is what I love about communists like Mayor Lehann. They always whine about unfairness, and their solution is to steal money from someone who has it. Is THAT fair? In their world, yes it is.] In Wilsonville’s case, as in many communities, homeowners in mobile home parks are predominantly senior citizens of modest means. They include many World War II and Korean War veterans, or their widows, who have carefully planned to remain self-sufficient in their retirement years, living independently on modest pensions and Social Security. [And again.... if she wants to help these people - and that may be a worthy goal, ask the public for the money. Don't steal it from some private person just because you have a gun.]

Some retirees supplement their incomes with part-time jobs nearby. Most are longstanding members of the community, including lifelong residents from Wilsonville’s pioneer families. Many of them continue to volunteer their time in public service at the library, Community Center, and local schools. [This justifies stealing from a rich guy?]

Loss of their homes can mean loss of financial independence, and along with it, loss of community, friends, jobs, and much of their social support system. It can also mean loss of the gardens and pets that are a large part of their lives. [That is all true.... so take up a collection.]

These are potentially debilitating losses for anyone, but for people in their 80s and 90s the stress can be truly life-threatening. That is why Wilsonville approached this issue from the standpoint of public health and safety.

After we watched the tragedies unfold in New Orleans, we cannot stand by and expect a physically and financially fragile population — stripped of their assets and without assistance — to manage mass eviction any more than we would expect them to manage mass evacuation.
What do we say? “Why haven’t you relocated? Didn’t you get the notice?” [No, you say "let's find some guy with a "windfall profit" who we can shake down so we don't have to pay to help these people from our own pockets.]

These people are not looking for subsidies, but if through no fault of their own they are suddenly left homeless and made dependent on public assistance then the windfall profits of the landowner will also be realized at the public’s expense. [OK so let me understand this argument. If he sells his park, and the renters have to go on public assistance because they are unable to find other accomodations, then it is his fault and he ought to pay instead of the public. In other words, he is duty-bound to operate his asset as a mobile home park even if there is a far more valuable use. So basically the Mayor's position is that he should be forced by law to be a charitable operation.]

Oregon taxpayers shouldered part of the responsibility in the last legislative session by offering potential tax credits for both the landowner and the homeowner. But the landowner, the one who stands to gain the most from escalating land values, also bears some responsibilities to the homeowners who have purchased homes in good faith — some only days or weeks before receiving notice of intent to sell the park. [If he took new tenants days or weeks prior to selling the land, knowing that he was going to sell it, then they would have a bad faith case in a lawsuit. This can be dealt with easily under existing law without the need for the looters on the city council to shake him down.]

We fully expect to defend this ordinance in court, but we believe we are on solid ground. [Sadly, in Oregon the courts just might side with Wilsonville on this. If they can throw out Measure 37 on the thinnest of all possible legal justifications, they can concoct some legal sounding justification to allow a straight out looting of a private landowner's value for public benefit.]

In the three days since its passage, we have received at least 10 requests for copies from other Oregon cities facing the potential of mass evictions without compensation for homeowners in mobile home parks. [I'm sure this is true. I'll bet the League of Oregon Cities is helping spread the word of how to turn evil capitalists into unwilling charities.] This is clearly an issue that needs our attention.

Wilsonville Mayor Charlotte Lehan is serving her third term as mayor. She first joined the City Council in 1992.

It really is quite sad that we have elected officials that think it is OK for a local government to do something like this. If this is OK, then any city anywhere can basically co-opt your property and use its value for whatever purpose they think fulfills someone's need.

Here's a quote I love, quite valid here:

"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."

-William Pitt, 18 Nov 1783


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately for me, she is my mayor, though I would never vote for her. How a communist such as this could be elected in Wilsonville, which is moderately conservative, is troubling. But people don't really pay attention to local races and officials such as Ms. Leehan often run unopposed.

second class citizen said...

There IS a solution which maximizes liberty for all parties, and harms none. The mobile home owners should have the right to acquire (by purchase or rental) land in quantity sufficient to place their home, upon bearing the cost of moving it and placing it there. These homeowners are not currently permitted to do that - where are THEIR property rights to relocate their homes on a small land parcel? Your "zoning" denies property rights to those who those who cannot meet your middle-class standards. There has been much talk recently of the supremacy of property rights, yet we deny property rights to the least of us.