Nepotism trumps eminent domain

I wrote last week about UT’s attempt to push Player’s out of it’s home of 20 years. Eminent Domain is a hot topic these days with the recent Supreme Court ruling and many state legislatures are expected to propose laws that will limit the effects of the ruling. Since we’re in a special session here in Texas, it’s happening now. In fact, it just so happens that Carlos Oliviera, a co-owner of Player’s, has a cousin who’s a state rep., Rep. Rene Oliviera, D-Brownsville. I think you know where this is going.

Rep. Oliviera created legislation that would specifically save the restaurant. It would bar condemnation for a parking or lodging facility. The legislation also states the land must be used for the same commercial purpose for at least 20 years to avoid condemnation.


3 Comments so far

  1. timo (unregistered) on July 19th, 2005 @ 1:38 pm

    Here’s the rub on this issue. You’re right. The Texas Legislature’s eminent domain bill is a reaction to the ruling that said it’s OK for governments to take people’s property for any purpose. However, this bill has loopholes in it that will still allow the Dallas Cowboys to seize homeowners’ land in Arlington without paying them a fair price to build a sports stadium designed for profit. Another loophole would have enabled the University of Texas to seize Players because they would argue that its for an “educational purpose”–despite the fact that they’re planning to build a hotel and parking lot on the property and have a management firm (hotel chain?) run it. But the Statesman’s story (which I can’t even locate now–weird) had this headline that implied, “Shame on you, Oliveira.” This editorial has the Statesman’s position: “It prohibits condemnation for a parking or lodging facility if the property has been in commercial use for 20 years. Now that is public policy with a clear, if extremely limited, focus.”

    To me, the focus is plain. If there is a profitable (especially local) business, why should the government be able to seize the property for something as mundane as a parking garage? Could this amendment have saved Liberty Lunch?

    Yes, Oliveira was reacting from nepotism. But the interests against him are reacting for their vested interests and profit motives, which aren’t as open as Oliveira’s, but are there nonetheless. I guess the end doesn’t justify the means, but I think the business forces that would like to abuse eminent domain power are powerful.

  2. timo (unregistered) on July 19th, 2005 @ 1:49 pm

    Here’s the original story (Titled “Lawmaker seeks to protect cousin’s eatery”). My main point is that the eminent domain bill should apply to all parties that would like to abuse the law for private interests. Oliveira said it perfectly himself: “The University of Texas has no business going into the hotel business.” If UT wants the property badly enough, they should be willing to make an offer that the property owner can’t refuse rather than abusing eminent domain.

  3. M1EK (unregistered) on July 19th, 2005 @ 2:00 pm

    Uh, Liberty Lunch was a tenant (of the city) – they didn’t own their land.

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