Monday, March 13, 2006

Watkins on Eminent Domain

John Watkins, Publisher of the Daily Independent published an editorial in Sunday's newspaper titled Corner should be dealt with now. Mr. Watkins seems to attempt to explain why we should use eminent domain or just plain vandalism to solve the problem at the corner of Ridgecrest Blvd and China Lake Blvd.

According to Mr. Watkins, leaving this corner of town undeveloped will adversely effect the outcome of the latest BRAC.

The city’s infamous corner at China Lake and Ridgecrest Boulevards is taking on all sorts of proportions. It’s been an eyesore for some time and needs to be dealt with now, not in the future.

I agree Mr. Watkins it would be nice if the corner in question was cleaned up and developed. But it is not the only corner in town that could use some cleaning up. You would be hard pressed to drive a mile on any street in town without finding a run down home, an empty business, or an empty lot that could use some fixing up. But since this is the only corner that the city is considering taking away from the lawful owner in order to give it to another we'll deal with this corner.

The issue has some long range consequences for the city’s growth through the BRAC recommendations. It is no secret that some elements of the Navy are “circling the wagons” around Point Magu both in Ventura and back east. And according to my sources, despite BRAC decisions being acknowledged as law, they are winning.


Simply put, it is issues like the corner in question, poor streets and basically poor infrastructure. Time is short; now is the time for action not flowery words or committee meetings on top of committee meetings.

This should not surprise you. The last BRAC determined that 2000 jobs from Pt. Mugu should be moved to China Lake. Of course the managers at Pt. Mugu are going to try and fight this. But what you should be asking is why they seem to be successful in their efforts to thwart the will of congress, the pentagon, the Secretary of Defense, and the President of the United States. I seriously doubt that the heart of their champaign to keep their jobs is an abandoned gas station and an old nightclub at "the corner."

China Lake Naval Weapons Center leaders have done their part to help the city by earning the Center of Excellence merit. They are to be commended for this achievement. Such an honor did not come easily.

Kern County is now doing its part by developing a specific plan to protect the base from encroachment but at the same time the plan addresses growth issues.

Now the City of Ridgecrest management and current city council members must do their part. They are a part of the county specific plan but in addition to that effort they need to address internal city issues. They hold the city’s future in their hands. Their legacy as individual councilmen, as well as a council as a whole, will be determined in the next six to twelve months.

Yeah that's setting a lofty goal. The China Lake Navy Base earns a Center of Excellence achievement. The County is protecting the base from encroachment. Now all Ridgecrest has to do to contribute is trample the property rights of a local taxpayer by taking their property away from them. Do you really believe that a brand new Rite-aid pharmacy at "the corner" will convince Pt. Mugu management to abandon their efforts to bypass federal law.

Then Mr. Watkins says that he is against the use of eminent domain and offers two other solutions. Except that they aren't solutions, nor are they options.

Personally, I am against eminent domain. But to resolve the issue concerning the restaurant in question such a process may be necessary ... or is it?

Two simple solutions come to mind.

One is to get three appraisals on the land in question, throw out the top one, throw out the bottom one and then use the middle one for the developer and land owner to settle their differences. Appraisals should be secured from licensed offices that do such work and should be generated by the land owner, potential buyer and the city.

The second one is also simple. If the potential buyer has already secured the gas station site as well as the JD’s building, tear them down. And when, it is my belief, you tear down the JD’s wall adjacent to the restaurant I believe it will leave the restaurant with only a three sided building since the restaurant was built as such a using JD’s wall as the fourth frame.

The first solution is not an alternate to eminent domain, it is just way to determine the price that the city will pay the property owner when they force him to sell his property. That Mr. Watkins is eminent domain.

Mr. Watkins second "solution" is even more abhorent that eminent domain. Since the property owner won't sell, we should damage his property so as to make it unusable. Now I'm not a legal expert but that plan sounds like vandalism to me. But then I guess I shouldn't expect too much from Mr. Watkins. Anyone who doesn't see a problem in forcing one business to move so that another business can have his land probably wouldn't see a problem with tearing down a wall of the original business in order to force him to move. Where does this end Mr. Watkins? If I don't mow my lawn regularly will my neighbors be justified in burning the weeds in my grass? Or if my neighbor leaves his cars parked in front of my house for many days am I allowed to destroy them in order to get him to move them?

So there is the solution to the eminent domain issue at "the corner." If you can't legally steal it, destroy it.

Mr. Watkins final statement ammounts to a proclimation of doom:

But one overlying factor needs to be made and be made sooner than later. A resolve of this issue is mandatory for a progressive city to emerge in the future.

Mr. Watkins, Ridgecrest was built around and by people who spent their professional lives working for the freedom of all Americans by improving the ability of the United States Navy's to defend our nation. We don't need Ridgecrest to emerge as a progressive city, we need Ridgecrest to stand as a free city, protecting the rights of all it's citizens. If gaining 2000 new jobs means we have to surrender our rights to property or submit to violence or destruction than Pt. Mugu can keep the jobs. They are not worth having.

More eminent domain in Ridgecrest stuff here:
Eminent Domain - part 2
Eminent Domain in Ridgecrest

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