Check out this year’s Forest Park Community Guide!

Online edition –>

I find people who call themselves conservatives an odd lot”they seem to see the world in just black and white, and if you dare disagree with them you a smarmy Democrat or, even worse, a liberal. They seem to yell quite a bit, and have no problem finding a TV camera to preen in front of.

Most of these “conservatives” aren’t really conservatives at all, merely jumpers on the Republican bandwagon that has controlled Washington for more than five years. They are attracted by simple solutions to complicated problems. Having an energy crisis? Cut taxes for the wealthy. Johnny can’t read? Cut taxes for the wealthy. Can’t capture Osama Bin Laden? Invade Iraq just in case he’s hiding there.

In the media world, there are several conservatives of the fake variety. Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly come quickly to mind. I actually think Rush is a liberal, but is making so much money preaching to other fake conservatives, he’d be a fool to come out the closet. There is one conservative whom I have always respected, even though I frequently disagree with him. His name is George Will and you can find his syndicated column in the Sun-Times. Maybe it’s his bow tie, maybe it’s his love of baseball, but there’s something about him that makes his writing and appearances on TV and radio mandatory for those who want to get a complete picture of any topic.

Last fall he had a column about a subject which he, as well as I, found alarming. He reported on a case that was going to go before the US Supreme Court. The city of New London, Con., had acquired, through the eminent domain process, private homes that it wanted to demolish in order to make room for high-end condos, a hotel and various shops. The criteria for eminent domain is “public use,” meaning that a governmental body can take the property for things such as highways, airports, parks, etc. In this instance the New London powers that be argued that “public use” was defined as their ability to generate more tax revenue from the development. By a vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court agreed.

This set off a firestorm on talk radio, in newspapers and magazines, and in Congress. Apparently, for people who follow all things Supreme, this was somewhat of a surprise decision. Phrases like judicial activism were bandied about again and various legal eagles were interviewed as to what this means.

But to me, what was left unsaid was more important than what was said. To me the bigger issue had nothing to do with legal dilemmas and interpretations, it was why the local officials in New London felt it necessary to go to such extreme measures as to condemn private homes to search for revenue. To me the more important issue is the continued incompetence shown by elected officials at all levels of government when it comes to balancing their respective budgets.

In their never-ending quest to find new revenue streams to pay bills, governments will say and do anything. It’s a whole lot easier for officials to do that, than to closely examine their own habits and make necessary changes to work within their budgets. New London seems to be a nice looking community and I don’t know all the economic particulars but, judging by the description on their website, it appears any economic crisis was self-inflicted and this development was a creative, if not crude way to bail themselves out.

Let’s bring the Supreme Court’s decision to Forest Park. In theory, any developer with a sharp accountant and a slick PowerPoint presentation could convince the village to condemn homes and existing business, if they can make reasonable arguments that the new project(s) would increase tax revenues. The evicted homeowners and businesses would receive “just compensation” for their property, with “just” being a wildly subjective term.

Now, it’s not quite a simple as this. Nothing created by lawyers ever is. But it’s clear enough that people who hope to remain in their homes or business for the foreseeable future better pay closer attention to potential developments in their community. I would personally suggest that the owners of U-Haul get their legal strategy in order, just in case Forest Park takes another run at their property.

Now the fake conservatives have decried this decision”some have blamed the liberal judges who formed the majority, even though three of the five were nominated by Republican presidents. But it’s a complicated issue in which their superficially educated audience will soon lose interest. It happened in Connecticut, not my hometown, so who cares? They’ll go back to touting constitutional amendments, such as banning gay marriage and flag burning; issues that they clearly feel are threatening to bring down our republic in the near future.

The true conservatives will begin the difficult process of amending the eminent domain section of the constitution that would preclude robber baron governments such as New London from seizing private property to mask their ineptitude. But, until an amendment is adopted or the laws are changed, the people of New London can serve as an example to those of us in Forest Park, and to the rest of the country.

You need to stay informed and involved with what’s going on in your community. Or you could be next …