The Houston-area Metropolitan Transit Authority’s plan to build light rail east of downtown has come up short. As the Houston Chronicle reports: “Metro board chairman David Wolff … said Metro had considered crossing [Union Pacific’s] double tracks at street level. ‘But it doesn’t seem the railroad is too enthusiastic about that.'” So they are going to have to reduce the length of the line.
Courtesy of federal law, railroads get to decide how to best use their private property-even if the local government decides it has the perfect “public use” in mind. Such is not the case for the rest of us.
El Paso is a prime example. In January, its city council defeated a proposed ordinance to limit its power to use eminent domain as part of its downtown redevelopment plan. Starting in November, the city will be able to use eminent domain to take private property from its owner and sell it to a developer, who will then replace the existing residence or office building on the property with one that will produce more tax revenue for the city’s coffers.
Texas still hasn’t fixed the problems with its eminent domain laws exposed by the 2005 Kelo decision. After debate on this issue in both a special and regular session, the path to restoring Texan’s property rights are clear. Texas should to act decisively in 2009 to address this assault on this most fundamental of all rights.
– Bill Peacock