eminent domain -Voter

Forum to explore issue of eminent domain

By ELAINE TALARSKI

The program committee of the League of Women Voters of the San Antonio Area has begun planning for a public forum on eminent domain, to be held on June 4 at the San Antonio Public Library downtown.

Eminent domain, also called taking or condemnation, is the power of the government – or, in Texas, also a private entity granted the power to do so – to take private property for public use. The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution – better known for its protection of a citizen from being forced to testify against himself – also requires “just compensation” when the government takes private property.

Concern has grown recently in Texas over the issue of eminent domain, and the terms “public use” and “just compensation” are being questioned.

In Medina County last year, a private, out-of-state company was granted the right to condemn 43 properties to build a 9-mile railroad spur from its quarry to existing tracks, because Texas declared the line a

common carrier with rights of eminent domain. Farmers found some of their agricultural land unusable or inaccessible and the value declined.

Citizens in East Texas are concerned about possible loss of their land for a right of way to build tracks for a bullet train between Houston and Dallas.

Along the border between Mexico and the United States, private citizens are voicing concerns about access to their property by the federal government to complete the building of a fence or wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

Environmental groups and others are also expressing concerns about environmental impacts such as impeding rights to water and loss of wildlife habitat.

The proposed format for the League’s program on eminent domain is to have four panelists with expertise in the legal aspects, environmental impact, role of municipal government, and academic view of eminent domain, and a moderator knowledgeable on the topic.

Details will be announced later.