Blog Archive

08 June 2009

More on the Flight 93 Memorial

The government has shelved plans to use eminent domain to acquire land for the Flight 93 memorial- for now.
  • From an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. "The federal government backtracked today and decided not to seize the western Pennsylvania property needed to build a Flight 93 memorial, saying instead it would renew negotiations with landowners."

The federal government will attempt to negotiate with the landowners and pay them "fair value" for their properties in order to complete the memorial. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, however, does not rule out the use of eminent domain to seize the land stating that "I know that if we can't get it resolved, eminent domain is still a backstop." In other words, we will smile for the cameras and attempt to make nice, but make no mistake we are prepared to take your property if need be. Complicit in this scheme and present at the meetings with landowners was none other than Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Senator and political survivor extraordinaire. Thanks for standing up for your fellow citizens, Arlen.

The proposed memorial will consist of over 2,000 acres of land. For comparison, the Washington Monument occupies 106 acres and Arlington National Cemetery consists of a little more than 600 acres. Why is such an immense piece of ground needed to commemorate this event thereby necessitating the taking of land from private citizens ? Wouldn't a small park of say 10 or 20 acres and a monument be sufficient ?

Plans for the memorial design are here. Look, I'm no landscape architect and I have zero artistic ability but the design looks hideous to me.


  1. Of all of the abuses of state power, eminent domain takings of private property are right up there with forced sterilization. O.k., maybe that's an exaggeration, but these takings make the Ruby Ridgers seem rational. That's why this case is interesting -- it's not an urban renewal effort a la Kelo v. City of New London 545 U.S. 469 (2005). The liberals on the court carried the day in that case 5-4, saying that the state could transfer condemned property from one private citizen to another (a corporation -- a developer) for the public good. Not entirely new law, but disturbing in its application. As a sidebar, folks in the intellectual property area have wondered if IP is also subject to emninent domain takings. Seems far-fetched to me, but I guess you never know. I guess if a pharma company has a patented flu vaccine and a pandemic rolls around, the state could take the IP without full compensation. More likely the government would pay for the vaccine and the company would be happy for the transaction. That's the difference -- real property is not a fungible good. Anyway, where is the compelling need for the gov't to take the 2,000 acres? Seems to me the gov't has a loser of a case if it ever went to trial. Maybe that's why they are back to negotiations. Nice point about the size of the parcel in play.
    Really, the Fifth Amendment is problematic: "No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation." Too vague -- it's an invitation to let the courts decide what "due process of law" is, and what "just compensation" is. It has a communist odor: gov't beaurocrat has a vision for gentrification in the name of the "public good," so he takes my land because he has the power. Where's my constitutional right to keep junked cars in my front yard? Is the gov't now just one big homeowners association?

  2. I remember the New London case. Wasn't it driven by the desire of the city to tear down old housing in order to increase the tax rolls by allowing new construction ?