The debate over whether Oak Creek should take Earl Giefer’s farm was really about how much authority we the people give our government in the name of the greater good.
In this case, the residents of Oak Creek said the city went too far when considering taking Giefer’s farm with the ultimate goal of promoting development and lowering tax rates. A few advocates on Giefer’s side said to me that this case riled people because, as private landowners, they would not want the government trying to take their land.
But, although people polished the pitchforks and lit the torches over the eminent domain proposal, I’m not hearing a public outcry over the city’s plan to enforce zoning codes against Giefer’s farm.
There is a catch-22 at the center of this story.
Everybody wants to have the right to do whatever they want with their land without government intervention. But citizens also want the protection government offers when it regulates other people’s properties.
Even the crusaders against eminent domain don’t argue against governments’ right to make private landowners follow zoning codes. Sure, there are enough complaints and appeals to pack the agendas of the Board of Zoning Appeals of the City of Milwaukee, but those are all individual cases. They are not complaints about the fundamental rights of government.
The first paragraph of the U.S. Constitution says it all: We the people formed a government to, among other things, promote general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty.
In order to enjoy those blessings, we have to sacrifice some of our rights.
So, in the name of well-functioning republic, I will commend the residents of Oak Creek who took the initiative to tell their elected officials where their power ends.
Sean Ryan, staff writer for The Daily Reporter, waives his right to remain silent.
Lawrence Haskin, Oak Creek city attorney, explains city staff members’ decision to consider declaring Earl Giefer’s 24.4-acre property a blight on city development.