Tuesday, December 1, 2009

No Laughing Matter

Not so long ago in America, finding a note attached to the front door, announcing that your property was being seized to pave the way for a new football stadium, wouldn't have been credible enough to elicit more than an incredulous shrug. But such highly-improbable abuses of eminent domain became all-too-plausible after the U.S. Supreme Court's infamous 2005 Kelo ruling -- which explains the genuine alarm that swept neighborhoods near Baylor University last weekend in the wake of a Friday night prank in which faux eviction notices appeared on hundreds of homes.

Reports the Waco Tribune:

"Prank letters no joke to residents around Baylor University, who feared losing their homes to make way for new stadium

Baylor University sophomore Jordan Washington was alarmed when she saw the notice that had been taped to the door of her 10th Street home sometime Friday night.

The official-looking flier said the university was seizing properties in the neighborhood to make way for a new, $255 million football stadium to be built next March over an area from Speight Avenue at 12th Street to La Salle Avenue at Seventh Street. And it described how her home had been condemned under the state’s eminent domain law so Baylor could buy it.

All of which, Baylor spokeswoman Lori Fogleman emphasized, is “absolutely false.”

Pranksters slipped the fliers under doormats and taped them to the doors of houses and apartment buildings in neighborhoods east and south of campus, Fogleman said. Baylor police canvassed the area Saturday afternoon and collected at least 232 of them."

One hates to see people needlessly alarmed, but my hat goes off to these pranksters. They may have just been out for a little fun, but they also managed to make a political statement of sorts, by demonstrating how deeply unsettling the Kelo ruling is to many Americans. What made the prank work was the plausibility of the scenario – something that wouldn’t have been taken seriously in pre-Kelo times.

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