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Eminent domain: A tale of 2 propositions

May 29, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
The battle over property rights is heading toward a crucial election vote next Tuesday. The issues concern the government, eminent domain and rent control.Next Tuesday, California voters will be asked to decide two ballot measures on the issue of home seizure. However, one would also phase out rent control across the state.

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Here is more on Propositions 98 and 99.

On the surface, the two propositions seem to be about eminent domain. They both want to make it harder for the government to take private land to give to other private parties. Seems pretty simple, but when you look past their titles, you'll find the propositions tell two very different stories. And with less than a week before the vote, the battle between Prop 98 and Prop 99 is becoming a real "page-turner."

Atanacio Gonzales lives in a house on a nice, quiet block in Baldwin Park. "We've been here since 1962, so that makes it 46 years complete," he said.

Sounds like a fairy tale, but Gonzales and his wife say the city wants to huff and puff and bulldoze his house down.

"Our kids say that we'll survive, but I just don't know what we'll do," said Reina Gonzales.

The villain in this tale is eminent domain, the inherent power of the government to seize private property.

Only the Gonzales property wouldn't be used to build a freeway or school or some other public project. It would go to a developer who wants to build a massive 125-acre commercial project.

"At our age, 73 and 72, we can't start all over. Our house is paid for. We don't need this kind of abuse," said Atanacio.

But could a hero save the day? Proposition 98, supporters say, would protect homeowners from eminent domain.

"Our proposition would prevent government from taking your property and giving it to somebody else," said Jon Coupal, Yes on 98.

So get enough people to vote for Prop 98 and the problem's solved, right?

"Prop 98 is a fraud," said Larry Gross, Yes on Prop 98.

And that, kids, is what we call a plot twist.

These folks say Prop 98 is the "big bad wolf" that will wipe out rent control, creating unbearable housing costs for hundreds of thousands of people and would only benefit landlords.

"Prop 98 will do away with all rent control and tenant protections throughout California so they can make hundreds of millions of dollars on the backs of seniors, disabled and working-family renters," said Larry Gross.

And he says Prop 98 will weaken environmental laws.

Gross says the real hero is Proposition 99, which he says will leave rent control laws in place and protect against eminent domain.

But the Prop 98 people say the protections are too watered down and won't do enough to help people like the Gonzaleses.

"Ninety-nine is really a sham by the people who are really against property rights, not in favor of property rights," said Jon Croupal.

It is a true battle of the propositions - if they both pass, the one with the most votes wins.

Prop 98, which protects against eminent domain, but also eliminates rent control?

Or Prop 99 which has weaker protection against eminent domain, but leaves rent control in place?

The voters will decide.

There is another possibility as well. Voters could shoot down both props. That wouldn't be the first time: California voters rejected eminent domain reform back in 2006.

 

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