Guest Column: Who actually owns property?

Who actually owns property and has right to it?

Alan Kelso
St Augustine, FL

Our Founders never would have envisioned the granting of eminent domain powers to non-elected bodies nor that the arm of Government would have become so far reaching as today.

In my personal opinion, the central question that every resident, every property owner, every citizen should be asking and which is central to these conversations is, “does government ultimately have ownership of property?”

The argument of giving equal parity to FSDB as granted to 67 other State Universities and Colleges is not the issue. Further, it is the responsibility of every property owner to follow ordinances enacted by local communities and commissions and follow the process of appeal as granted by our laws.

Eminent domain was a practice, which came to America from England and by the time of the Revolutionary war and the writing of our Constitution, had taken root in America and was a major concern of our Founders.

As the Constitution was being written this practice was a crucial issue debated by the Founders and compromises negotiated as to how or if we would be different from Britain and the tyrants of “English justice” to landowners.

Thomas Jefferson contended that all remnants of the practice known as feudalism, from England about property, should be eliminated. He pushed vigorously for absolute ownership of land by individuals; free from the ability of the state to reclaim it in an act of eminent domain.

James Madison, who wrote the Fifth Amendment, hoped to restrict the takings that had been made in the colonies under British rule. In the new states, after the revolution, he wished to make individual property rights more secure, but did not go as far as Jefferson would have liked. Perhaps he was unwilling to do so because he felt without compromise he would be unable to gain sufficient support for the Constitution.

He chose instead to require compensation explicitly, and he used the term public use rather than public purpose, interest or benefit, which has now been accepted by the Supreme Court in a 2005 case known as Kelo vs. City of New London.

If freedom of speech or Civil Rights were gutted as severely as the Fifth Amendment has been, there would be no end to the public outcry.

Property belongs to those who hold title to it. It is not the property of the State and the State should not have the ability to execute proceedings to take it back.

Alan Kelso is a local businessman and current candidate for St Johns County Commissioner of District 5.

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