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Eminent domain case strikes at Constitutional rights

By Sean Ryan

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.

One comment

  1. i know the feeling of this act my family farm is under attack from it. i have grown up on this farm my entire life and now a private business decides that they want to make a road thru the center of my property. it breaks my heart that this is happening . my grandfather came to this land a long time ago when it was just brush and cleared it into good beautifull farm land. we have always farmed it and to this day still do. our farm has come a long way and i carry alot of pride in what my father and me have turned it into to. now some big bully is granted the right to take it away just for his own profit. yes i understand that when roads are made they need land. and then people had the same problem that i do now but. i dont believe this is right this road makes no sense. it leads to no where it has no purpose yes the valley is growing but not in our town. it is a small town. we have a new bridge coming in from mexico on a road about three miles from mine. they say it is to benifit that but i just dont see how when it doesnt lead straight to it. everything about this is not right. i just wish someone could hear my story and help me out

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