Interior Secretary Ken Salazar continues to take a personal hand in the government's effort to force a group of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, farmers to part with their property, for use as part of a Flight 93 memorial. Salazar is using the threat of eminent domain to hasten the "negotiations," because the feds want it built before the 10th anniversary of 9-11. Otherwise, a touching photo-op with grateful survivors might me missed.
One Salazar deadline for landowners has come and gone. A few have come to terms, but holdouts remain. He hasn't brought the hammer down yet. But what, really, can be complicating and prolonging these one-sided "negotiations," unless the feds are trying to nickel and dime the farmers.
That's the really odd thing about these situations. Governments at all levels are notorious for wasting taxpayers' money. They do it as a matter of routine, on a grand and obscene scale. Yet they suddenly become penny-pinchers, and "good stewards of public money," when it comes to paying the victims of eminent domain what they are owed, in accordance with The U.S. Constitution.
Given the dislocation and trauma such proceedings can mean for targeted landowners, paying these people "fair market value" for their property, as determined by a government-paid appraiser, is a rip-off and crime. They should be paid 3 or 4 times the fair market value, at least, in order to compensate them for the pain and suffering they endure at the hands of the government. When these cases go to trial, juries routinely award compensation far in access of what governments were willing to pay -- one demonstration of the injustices that are perpetrated when governments use the hammer of eminent domain to drive a hard bargain.
Why doesn't Salazar just pay the Pennsylvania farmers their asking price, whatever it is, plus a few million more for their trouble? Who would object, or even notice, given the way Interior and every other federal agency spend (and squander) money?
I wouldn't call it a waste of money. I would call it "reparations," which the government should pay for perpetrating a great injustice upon American citizens, who became the targets of a government "taking" (a euphemism for theft) simply because they happen to live near where a tragedy occurred. That, in my view, would be money well spent.
The victims of Flight 93 at least will have their memorial. But how peacefully will these heroes rest if the government creates a second group of Flight 93 victims -- the landowners of Shanksville, Pennsylvania -- by callously mishandling the situation in an effort to drive a hard bargain and "get the deal done"?