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Columbia Missourian

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Koster's eminent domain bill is a farce

By Ron Calzone
October 29, 2012 | 12:31 p.m. CDT

For the last seven years I have been fighting against eminent domain abuse in Missouri. That's why I am troubled by Chris Koster's campaign claim that he played a major role in stopping eminent domain abuse in Missouri.

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court's Kelo v. New London, Conn., ruling said it's OK to use eminent domain to take private property for private profit unless states enact prohibitions. The public outcry was immense, and it was popular for politicians to decry the court's lunacy.

Like many state legislatures, ours sought to address the problem. I was there in 2006 when the General Assembly debated and passed Missouri's “eminent domain reform” bill, House Bill 1944, the very bill Koster says he saved from oblivion and fostered to passage.

He did, in fact, have a lot to do with the passage of HB 1944, but that bill was a placebo — an imposter for real property rights protection. Even the experts from national property rights groups were saying that bill did virtually nothing to stop what most people despise — eminent domain for private gain.

They have since been proven correct.

Just ask Arnold dentist, Homer Tourkakis, who lost his dental practice in 2007 so they could build a restaurant. Or ask the residents of Sugar Creek who one year after HB 1944 went into effect received letters from the city demanding that they sell their homes to make way for a new shopping center or face eminent domain proceedings in court. The bulldozed lots sit vacant to this day.

Taking credit for the imposter bill is not the end of Koster's “creative” claims. Ever since the legislature took a pass onits responsibility to protect property rights, a group of us have tried to take the matter directly to the voters via an initiative petition. We've faced court battles over the secretary of state's ballot title, and each time Attorney General Koster has thrown little road blocks in the way – things that cause delays to the time-sensitive process of collecting signatures.

In my opinion, Chris Koster has not only failed to fight eminent domain abuse but has even been an impediment to those who are fighting it.

Ron Calzone is a Maries County business owner, cattle rancher and chairman of Missouri Citizens for Property Rights.