Its time to stop Eminent Domain for Private Gain in Missouri!
Court Rules in Favor of
Jefferson City, MO Wednesday, April 20, 2011: Cole County Circuit Court Judge Daniel R. Green ruled in favor of Missouri Citizens for Property Right's position in the challenge to our eminent domain initiative petition ballot titles.
The judge gave us everything we wanted, including a bench decision. That means he ruled on the spot without taking the typical weeks to hand down a decision.
It was clear that the judge saw how our rights were being abused through misuse of the courts. At one point he even commented, “So Mr. Calzone is the only one here not being paid by government.”
The plaintiffs in the court challenge are headed up by the Missouri Municipal League, an organization funded by dues from towns and cities across the state – dues from taxpayers' pocket books.
As you may recall, the Secretary of State purposely added language different than that which was ordered by the appeals court in our last ballot title challenge. Those six extra words gave the Missouri Municipal League an additional excuse to litigate – it was a malicious act by someone who is supposed to be a public servant and I'm sure the judge saw it that way.
The taxpayers are paying for the litigation being used to keep them from the opportunity to vote to stop the abuse of government eminent domain power!
MML now has ten days to appeal the case to the Western Court of Appeals. I'm confident they will. I am also confident that we will be able to shorten the appeal process even more than we did the circuit court, since we can easily make the case that this is simply a rehash of our court case from 2010.
Stay tuned, we are getting closer to putting petitions on the street!
At first we were fighting against bills that would result in making petitions a tool only available to those with deep pockets at best or even no one at all, but the last couple of years we have been able to go on the offensive, with legislation that would level the playing field – particularly by limiting the length of time a petition can be tied up in court.
Controversy over Proposition B (dog breeders) has killed any positive developments and may even put us back on the defensive. We will continue to fight to protect the People's constitutional right to petition their government for a redress of grievances – your help is always appreciated!
For Immediate Release:
Petitions Seeking Constitutional Property Rights Protections Approved for Circulation
Dixon, MO -- December 15, 2010: Monday, Missouri Secretary of State, Robin Carnahan, certified Ballot Titles and approved for circulation the eminent domain petitions submitted by Missouri Citizens for Property Rights (MO-CPR).
Approved were two versions of an amendment to Article I of the Missouri Constitution and one petition to amend Article VI. One of the two versions of the Article I petition will be chosen for circulation along with the Article VI petition. Two separate petitions must be circulated because eminent domain is currently mentioned in more than one article of the state constitution. A separate ballot issue must be offered to voters for each article amended.
The Secretary of State has a statutory responsibility to write a 100 word or less Summary Statement of any ballot issue submitted by citizens. That statement, along with a Fiscal Note Summary from the State Auditor, make up the Ballot Title voters see in the voting booth.
BALLOT TITLE LITIGATION KILLED OUR 2010 EFFORT
It was litigation over the Ballot Title that kept us from collecting signatures in the 2010 election cycle. The suit filed by opponents of eminent domain reform, led by the Missouri Municipal League, consumed all but a few months of the limited time allowed to collect petition signatures. In the end, the court of appeals ordered an extraneous reference to
“just compensation” removed from the Ballot Title because our amendment did not change the existing requirement for just compensation and to include it could be confusing to voters.
The final ruling from the Supreme Court was rendered in February, 2010. That left only three months to collect 450,000 signatures, so we decided to wait for a fresh start in the 2012 cycle. Our hope was that the litigation would be behind us and we could get an early start.
SOS DRAFTS BALLOT TITLE SHE KNOWS WILL CAUSE LITIGATION
We are not pleased with the Ballot Title the SOS certified on Monday. It includes some of the same “just compensation” language the court ordered removed from the previous Ballot Title, so MML and company will have an excuse to file suit once again.
It is our belief that Secretary Carnahan has not acted in good faith or properly executed her responsibilities. The secretary of state has dual responsibilities when petitions are submitted for circulation. She must protect the interest of the voters, who deserve a fair and accurate summary of the effects of the proposed measure, but she also has a responsibility to facilitate the constitutional right of citizens to use the petition process. (See Mo. Const. Article III, § 49)
The language she insisted on including in our current Ballot Title provides the voter no useful information but it does provide our opponents with an excuse to take the Ballot Title to court and cause delay they know hurts our effort. She included it in spite of our strong objections and amidst a flood of phone calls from citizens.
We are left wondering what her motives are. Monday we served the secretary of state with a Sunshine Records request.
IMPROPER USE OF THE COURTS USED TO SQUELCH THE PEOPLE
When circulating a petition, your most valuable asset it time.
In the last election cycle, an attorney with the firm representing the Missouri Municipal League met with a committee of the Missouri Bar, where she explained the purpose of the lawsuit. She said, “the main objective [was] to delay the gathering of signatures”.
Such use of the courts is illegal and subject to disciplinary action. Although we had an audio recording of the admission and filed complaints, neither the courts nor the Missouri Bar took any disciplinary actions.
Opponents of our petitions have 10 days to file suit challenging the new Ballot Titles.
In the event of the likely challenge, we will ask the court to expedite the case and begin collecting signatures as soon as we have proven ballot titles.
HISTORY OF MO-CPR EFFORT
For over five years MO-CPR has been trying to provide the citizens of Missouri an opportunity to vote on constitutional amendments which would restore the original purpose of eminent domain – that is, for obtaining property needed for publicly owned and publicly used projects, such as roads and sewers. The petitions just approved for circulation are the fourth set so approved for MO-CPR.
Our first effort was for the 2006 election cycle – right after the U.S. Supreme Court's “Kelo” decision. We soon learned that there was too little time to collect the many required signatures and began planning for the 2008 cycle. (Another group circulated an eminent domain petition that year, but did not gain ballot access.)
For the 2008 cycle we raised about $800,000 and a host of volunteers. Between the volunteers and paid circulators, we collected 428,000 signatures on the two petitions. Although we had more than enough total valid signatures to gain ballot access, there weren't enough in the 2nd Congressional District to qualify. The law requires a minimum number of signatures in each of 6 of the state's 9 congressional districts, and excess in one district can't be applied to another district.
It should be noted that all but a few thousand dollars raised in that cycle came from Missouri property owners. Our project is Missouri born and Missouri bred.
We started the 2010 election cycle a lot wiser and better prepared, but so were our opponents. Led by the Missouri Municipal League, they challenged the ballot titles drafted by the secretary of state. All but one minor issue (the language we are presently concerned about) were dismissed by the court, but they managed to tie up the petition until February, 2010, leaving only 3 months to collect signatures.
We chose, once again, to “punt” and prepare for the 2012 election cycle. We are determined to finally achieve success this time
Questions about this release can be directed to:
Secretary of State Robin Carnahan
For Immediate Release:
Missouri Citizens for Property Rights believes Robin Carnahan is violating the people's rights and showing disdain for the courts with the Ballot Title she is drfating for their eminent domain petition.
For over five years the group has been striving to bring constitutional protection against eminent domain abuse -- the taking of private property for private use. Ever since the Missouri legislature failed to properly deal with the issue in 2006, they have been trying to take it to a vote of the people through an initiative petition.
Calzone explained, "
That leaves an excuse for more litigation of the Ballot Title and more court delays -- possibly so much delay that there will be no time left to collect signatures -- AGAIN!"
Click for Copy of full Appeals Court Order
Court delays were too much for us. It would be too risky to collect signatures with such a small amount of time so we will have to "punt" for the 2010 election cycle.
In the mean time, we must fight to reform the petition process!
In Jefferson City there are bad bills designed to kill the people's right to petition and there are also good bills that would prevent foes of petitions from misusing the courts as pawns to delay signature gathering.
Crowd Swarms to Sign Petition
Eager petition signers lined up several deep to sign. Missourians think it's time to restore real constitutional property rights protection.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Missouri Citizens for Property Rights Wins Major Court Victory
Another Blow to the Missouri Municipal League
Kansas City, MO - January 5, 2010: Today the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, issued an opinion on the Missouri Municipal League's (MML) challenge to the summaries that appear on petitions and the ballot for two eminent domain petitions. The court ruled exactly as the proponents of the petition, Missouri Citizens for Property Rights (MO-CPR), suggested in their court brief, affirming in part and reversing in part, the circuit court ruling.
The court ordered the Secretary of State to certify ballot titles which will allow signature collecting on the two petitions after a full year of court delays. The opinion came just 21 days after the oral arguments - much sooner than the appeals court typically issues opinions.
“This is a huge victory after a year long court battle.”, said Ron Calzone, chairman of the property rights group. “We believe the court's action points out the weakness of the Missouri Municipal League's position.”
The court's decision came on the heels of fresh allegations of misconduct by MML. In an audio recording of a meeting of the Missouri Bar's eminent domain committee, a managing partner for the law firm representing MML stated that their main purpose in bringing the suit was to delay the collecting of signatures. Missouri law and Supreme Court rules prohibit using the legal system for the purpose of causing delay or unwarranted expense to opposing litigants, and provides for the awarding of damages to injured parties.
On December 14th, MO-CPR served MML with a motion for monetary sanctions to help make up for the additional expenses that will result from a diminished time frame to collect the hundreds of thousands of required signatures. MML has 30 days to respond to the motion before the court gets involved and decides whether or not to order sanctions.
Calzone says the challenge to the ballot titles has added tremendously to the cost of collecting signatures. “Not only have we lost many months, we've lost the best months to collect signatures. Now we have only four months – four months when cold and wet weather are likely to prevail.”
Bruce Hillis, a member of the MO-CPR board explained their frustration, “Although we respect the right of a citizen to challenge an unfair ballot title, it's just not right to use the courts to thwart the people's right to vote on a public policy measure. In Article III, section 49 of the Missouri Constitution, the people reserved for themselves the right to use the petition process. We think MML has been maliciously trampling upon the most basic rights of Missouri voters.”
MO-CPR has also filed a complaint with the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel (OCDC), the agency of the Missouri Supreme Court responsible for investigating allegations of misconduct by lawyers where a lawyer’s misconduct poses a threat to the public or to the integrity of the legal profession.
Throughout the process, MO-CPR has complained about municipalities, through MML, using taxpayer resources to keep citizens from voting on a public policy issue. They will begin collecting signatures in the next few days.
The CaseNet numbers for the cases are WD71224, WD71230.
Now is the time!
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December 16, 2009:
Ballot Title Challange - Court Rules on June 30, 2009
Nearly 8 months after we began this process, we finally have a circuit court ruling on the challenge to our ballot titles and it is good news for our project! (Here's a copy of the decision.)
Cole County Circuit Judge Richard Callahan ruled that only one sentence be removed from the Article I ballot title. Bullet point three was fine as written by the Secretary of State, but it is not really that important to our effort to inform the voters about the affects of the Article I amendment. We're happy with the ballot titles with or without that one sentence. Since we have not yet begun to circulate the petitions, the court's ruling does not invalidate any voter's signature.
That does not mean the challenge to the ballot title has not done damage to our effort. As the Missouri Municipal League's Challenge to the ballot titles progressed, it became more and more obvious that they had no real substantial argument against the ballot titles. Their goal has been to delay the start of our signature gathering and they have been successful at that.
The question now is, "Will they continue to use taxpayer dollars to keep the taxpayers from the opportunity to vote on a public policy measure?"
ACTION NEEDED: Call the officials of your city and tell them to instruct the Missouri Municipal League to stop their effort to keep the people from voting on a public policy measure!
NUTS AND BOLTS (For those interested in the details of the decision.)
The court upheld both of the Fiscal Notes and Fiscal Note Summaries as well as both Summary Statements, except bullet point three of the Article I statement, which he simply removed.
Here's the Article I Summary Statement:
Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to restrict the use of eminent domain by:
The decision to remove bullet point three was based on the court's opinion that "the third bullet point suggests that restrictions on takings without just compensation or without a public use would be added to the constitution." Since those provisions have been part of the Missouri Constitution since 1820, the decision says, the voters would be mislead into thinking the amendment provided a "new" protection.
|Why did the city of Arnold want to take Dr. Tourkakis' dental practice? City counselor says its a matter of decor!|
The Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the city of Arnold could, in fact, take Dr. Homer Tourkakis' dental practice by eminent domain and make it part of a privately owned retail shopping center.
The dentist's property is in perfect repair and is not in the way of development - it only slated to be an open space - an "out lot". If the city doesn't need the land for the development, why do they want the dental practice leveled?
In a candid moment on video, Arnold City Counselor, Robert Sweeny, revealed the truth. He said, "His retro fit two bedroom house is not compatible with a 21st century commercial development,"
There you have it - it was a decorating decision! The American institution of private property rights is made to give way to decor!
Next time you see some improvements in YOUR neighborhood, don't rejoice too soon - those improvements might make your home or business "incompatible" with the new decor and a target for eminent domain!
March 18, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MO-CPR Says High Court Decision Shows Need for Constitutional Changes
Missouri Citizens for Property Rights' chairman Ron Calzone made the following statement regarding the Missouri Supreme Court's decision in the case of Arnold vs. Tourkakis:
"My heart goes out to Homer and his wife, who are now a step closer to having a quarter-century of hard work destroyed by city bulldozers. The high court ignored the clear statement in Article I, Section 28 that 'private property shall not be taken for private use with or without compensation' as Missourians' fundamental protection against private use eminent domain."
"The court instead stretched the application of Article VI, Section 21, despite plain language limiting those powers to chartered cities. This illogical decision puts hundreds of thousands of Missourians' property rights in greater danger."
"That's not the worst of it, though. In the majority opinion, the court wrote, 'Unless limited by the constitution, the legislature has the right to authorize the exercise of the unlimited and practically absolute sovereign power of eminent domain.'"
"Like the US Supreme Court's 2005 Kelo decision, this decision proves that we cannot rely on the courts to protect our property rights. Only our ballot initiative, which unequivocally outlaws eminent domain for private profit, will reverse the Supreme Court's wrongheaded decision and give property owners the protections they deserve. We are grateful that in the midst of his legal battle with the city, Homer has found the time to support our effort to gather the signatures to put these amendments on the ballot. Homer's determination to fight for not only his own property rights but those of his fellow Missourian's is a real inspiration."
Go to THIS PAGE to read the stories of some fellow Missourians who are fighting eminent domain abuse.
This video is a short explanation of the problem built into the
HOT OFF THE PRESS! The Wall Street Journal reports a new study from the Institute for Justice which reveals that eminent domain reform does NOT hinder economic development.
Eminent Reality (Wall Street Journal)
(Fox-2-StL) Jan. 22, 2008: Sunset Hills, Mo. -- You Paid For It: Eminent Domain
LANDMARK MISSOURI SUPREME COURT CASE
Flash video Petitioner's Guide
History! Click here to watch a Flash presentation about the history of property rights in America. Turn your speakers on and find out how the War for American Independence relates to eminent domain abuse. Click Here
We need YOUR help!
Missouri Citizens for Property Rights is not proposing that we do anything new or revolutionary – we simply want to restore the traditional, time tested, concepts of property rights. We believe that the primary role of government is that of protecting property rights and that eminent domain should be used only rarely and only for truly public uses, such as roads and sewers.
Eminent domain has traditionally been called “the despotic power”. When it must be used for a truly public use, every safeguard to the rights of the one losing his property should be employed. He should have the right to due process prior to losing his property and should be well compensated for his loss. After all, if the public use will truly benefit the masses, the rest of us should be willing to each chip in a little to minimize the suffering of the one making the sacrifice.
Perhaps of greatest importance, Missouri's constitutional provisions for protecting property rights should protect everyone's rights equally. We should accept no less than “justice for all” whether they be rich or poor, home owners or businesses, urban or rural. And the state's awesome power of eminent domain should never be conveyed to private entities for their personal profit!
Here are some details about the proposed amendments to Missouri's constitution:
THE FIRST PETITION
Title (Written by the Secretary of State)
Article I, Section 26 Explanation
Article I, Section 28 Explanation
THE SECOND PETITION
Title (Written by the Secretary of State)
Article VI, Section 21 Explanation