Fogarty Accepts Support from an Opponent of Eminent Domain Reform
Rhode Island Gubernatorial candidate Charles Fogarty is appearing today with Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, who is a leading advocate for seizing property by eminent domain in order to further economic development. Governor Vilsack believes that government needs broad powers to take property away from private owners in order to “create new jobs and strengthen their communities”.
In June, Governor Vilsack vetoed an eminent domain reform bill passed by the Iowa legislature in response to the Supreme Court�s Kelo v. New London ruling. The Governor believed that the bill’s mild restriction on the use of eminent domain in cases involving “blighted areas” to cases where 75% or more of a condemned area had been deemed blighted was too strong. (Before the law was passed, there was no restriction on how much non-blighted property could be swept up when blighted areas were targeted for seizure). The Iowa legislature overrode the veto, 90-8 in the House and 41-8 in the Senate.
Given the opportunity, Governor Vilsack almost certainly would have vetoed Lieutenant Governor Fogarty’s initial eminent domain reform proposal for Rhode Island, which prohibited using eminent domain to take “significantly residential” property.
However, Lieutenant Governor Fogarty’s strong version of eminent domain reform never reached the full Rhode Island Senate. During the committee process, the protection for residential property was removed, leaving a “reform” that still allows the government to force residents out of their homes if the government determines that new owners will pay more in taxes. Lieutenant Governor Fogarty, at least on his official web site, didn’t make any official statement regarding the differences in his bill as proposed versus as passed. Senator James Sheehan, the primary Senate sponsor of the bill, did tout passage of the watered down bill as a success.
This sequence of events, first claiming to be an advocate for eminent domain reform, but then allowing the legislature to gut his bill, and then making a major campaign appearance with a staunch opponent of eminent domain reform sums up the concerns voters have about Lieutenant Governor Fogarty. Whatever he may personally believe about an issue, he just doesn’t seem to be someone able to take a meaningful stand against the special interests and the groupthink within the Democratic Party.