Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"Now the government is in the business of telling the people what’s best for them — whether the public thinks so or not."

Commentary column

Perry sold out the rural areas

June 20, 2007

The Palestine Herald-Press
Copyright 2007

Once upon a time in some history class long ago it seems like we heard somebody from this nation’s past say something that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from this earth.

These words by Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address were meant to reflect the subservient role of government to the public.

A lot has definitely changed over the past 150 years. Now the government is in the business of telling the people what’s best for them — whether the public thinks so or not.

This post-modern precept can be seen by Texas Governor Rick Perry’s veto of the state’s eminent domain bill.

The Texas House passed an eminent domain measure that would have made it harder for the government to obtain private land by a 125-to-25 margin while the same bill passed unanimously in the Texas Senate.

The Legislature pushed the bill through because of a largely grassroots response from Texas landowners in the path of the Trans Texas Corridor, the proposed transportation and broadband infrastructure leading from the border with Mexico north through the middle of the state to Oklahoma.

With the eminent domain bill in place, the process of stealing hundreds of thousands of acres of privately held land much harder to do, but now he has vetoed that pesky impediment to his and his financial backers' plans.

In an Associated Press story, which appeared here in the Herald-Press, it was pointed out that after the Legislature passed the measure the governor's office began hearing phone calls from, "fast-growing cities and counties asking him to veto the bill."

The AP story also stated that having to change the direction of some of the proposed projects because of eminent domain issues would cost the state an extra $1 billion.

What all of this means is that Perry sold out the rural areas of the state for the population centers.

It doesn't matter if a piece of property has been in a family for over 150 years, if the state wants it then the state is going to get it.

It is no secret that politicians hold all voters in contempt, but it seems rural voters are having less of a say in government than ever before.

Politicians always like to claim they have the public's best interest at heart. Here is a quote from Perry on his official Web site concerning the veto.

"The state and local government would be over-paying to acquire land through eminent domain in order to enrich a finite number of condemnation lawyers at the expense of Texas taxpayers," Perry said. "This bill will slow down and shut down needed construction projects through the creation of a new category of damages that are beyond the pale of reason."

What is beyond the pale of reason is that property owners have no say if the government decides it wants to steal a piece of land.

There were two specific issues cited in the governor's veto, one had to do with compensation when land access is changed; and the other concerned monetary compensation due to change in traffic flows resulting in decreased exposure for their property or business.

Now I don't know a lot about politics, but I have been able to keep up with a lot of rural issues over the past couple of years and the idea of somebody taking land for any reason doesn't sit well with most folks.

One of the most valuable rights we have are property rights and those shouldn't be given up for the sake of progress.

I urge everybody to call their local legislator and let them know this issue needs to be resolved during the next legislative session in 2009. Let them know your intentions, because trust me, their “good intentions” do not match yours.


Wayne Stewart may be contacted via e-mail at

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