EDITORIAL: New movie, “Little Pink House,” highlights dangers of eminent domain abuse

The U.S. Supreme Court’s worst decision of the 21st century came in Kelo v. New London in 2005. By a 5-4 margin, the justices affirmed the notion that it amounted to a “public use” under the Fifth Amendment to allow government to seize private property with the intent of transferring it from one owner to a more favored interest.

The decision — which Justice Clarence Thomas called “far-reaching” and “dangerous” while noting that something “has gone seriously awry with this court’s interpretation of the Constitution” — led to widespread outrage and prompted many states to reform their eminent domain laws to better protect property owners.

And now, 13 years later, the story of the woman who refused to go quietly when bureaucrats insisted she and her neighbors give up their homes to make way for a redevelopment project is back in the news thanks to a new feature film.

Tedious local political discussions over zoning or land use would hardly seem a stirring topic for a Hollywood movie. But the story of Suzanne Kelo has more than enough intrigue to hold an audience while delivering a vital message about the importance of property rights and the threat to freedom inherent in an arrogant bureaucracy.

“Little Pink House,” which premiered last year at the Santa Barbara International Flm Festival, was released across the country last week. A screening is scheduled for Monday in Las Vegas at the Regal Village Square on West Sahara Avenue. The film serves as a wonderful educational tool for defenders of individual liberty and shines a floodlight on eminent domain abuse.

Ms. Kelo had lived in her 115-year-old home in New London, Conn., for eight years. But her neighborhood stood in the way of the town’s elaborate blueprint to transform an area near the Thames River into an “urban village,” complete with restaurants, lodging, shops and a walkway near the water. The project was being pushed by the drug conglomerate Pfizer, which owned a nearby office complex.

With the help of the Institute For Justice, a public-interest law firm in Arlington, Va., Ms. Kelo fought all the way to the nation’s highest court in an effort to keep her property. But the liberal justices turned a blind eye to her predicament and endorsed the insidious notion that government officials may seize your property through eminent domain as long as they believe a new owner would generate more tax revenue.

Ironically, the land on which Ms. Kelo’s working-class neighborhood once existed now sits empty, a monument to unchecked state power and judicial indifference. After the bulldozers had done their damage, the national housing crisis of 2008 scuttled New London’s proposed “urban village.” A year later, Pfizer pulled out.

Ms. Kelo’s home escaped demolition when it was moved a few miles away in order to avoid the wrecking ball.

“Little Pink House” pulls back the covers on an issue that deserves far more attention that it usually receives. For highlighting this gross abuse of state power, the film provides a tremendous public service and deserves a wide audience.

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