St. Louis Residents Are Battling the City to Keep Their Homes

by Natalie Johnson
Republished with permission from the Daily Signal

Residents in a North St. Louis, Mo., community are battling to keep their homes as city officials pursue eminent domain proceedings for a federal project that may not even take hold in the area.

Eminent domain enables the government to take private property for public use as long as the government provides just compensation.

St. Louis officials have begun purchasing property and assessing the value of homes in the region to make way for the potential relocation of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.

The federal government has not yet decided whether it would move the building to the area, leaving residents uncertain about the future of their homes.

The NGA currently resides in South City St. Louis, but officials are hoping the federal government will relocate the building to the city’s north side in an attempt to reverse “decades of divestment.”

John Wright, a policy researcher at the Show-Me Institute, which is based in Missouri and advocates for free-market solutions, said residents he’s spoken to “feel like they’re being thrown under the bus.”

Others have told Wright the project is nothing more than a land clearance project to rid certain types of people from the predominantly black, working-class community.

“What they say is that they want to revitalize the community,” Wright told The Daily Signal. “I don’t know how you revitalize a community by getting rid of everybody who lives in the community and replacing it with a federal spy agency.”

City officials have begun evaluating homes, offering some residents $20,000 to $30,000 for their property, according to Wright. He said that is not nearly enough compensation for individuals to afford another home in a similar low-crime community.

The home of Charlesetta Taylor, that she has lived in for 70 years may be torn down by the city of St. Louis

The houses in the North St. Louis neighborhood were built of brick in the late 19th century. Wright said purchasing a similar Victorian house in the city would cost between $300,000 and $400,000.

“People don’t want to move; they don’t want to leave their community,” he said. “Some of these people have had these houses for generations; some were purchased back in the ’60s. We have retired people on a fixed income who live in these houses, and now they’re going to have to pick up and move, and they don’t know where to go.”

City officials have already begun excavating properties to survey the land and have prevented a grocery store from moving into the area.

Paul Larkin, director of The Heritage Foundation’s project to counter abuse of the criminal law, said even eminent domain proceedings can destroy the value of the land.

“If you have a house and it’s worth $100,000 and the government decides it’s going to take your house, in theory they’re supposed to pay you $100,000,” Larkin told The Daily Signal.

“But if on Jan. 1 they announce they may be taking it, but they’re not sure and they’ve started the eminent domain process, you may no longer have a $100,000 house … because if you sell it to someone, that person is going to be subject to whatever the state wants to do with it.”

Residents in the North St. Louis community have posted anti-eminent domain and anti-NGA signs along with Bible verses around the neighborhood. Wright said one woman posted a biblical verse reading, “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s house.”

Wright said the neighborhood, which is already depressed from leveled houses and a shrinking population, is a tight-knit, family-oriented community. Dozens of homeowners could lose their property as early as this summer, forcing families and retired individuals to relocate.

“If they do this here, you’re kicking people out. You’re destroying a community,” he said. “These people don’t know where they’re going to go or what they’re going to do.”

Larkin said residents are never fully compensated for the loss of their homes because the government doesn’t pay for the personal value placed on property.

“Where you live is an important part of who you are. It’s how you define yourself,” he said. “It’s not simply a place that protects you from the elements, it’s not simply a place that has memories for you, but it has a way of becoming a part of who you are as a person, and now they’re going to take this person’s home away from them.”

Tamir Rice’s Mother – No Candidate Endorsement

Why I Have Not Endorsed Any Candidate

Reflections from a Mom of the Movement
by Samaria Rice

Reprinted in Support of her fight for justice.

Over the past few weeks, I had been approached by many people all with the same question: Who will I endorse for President of the United States? I have heard this even more since the launch of the Justice For Tamir Speak Out Tour. I have watched as my fellow mothers that have lost children have chosen a candidate to invest their faith in and I support them in their pursuits of justice for their children, and the people want to know where I stand.

For over a year I have been fighting for justice for my son, Tamir , who was killed by Cleveland police officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmback. For over a year, I’ve waited to see if any candidate or official, including my state’s governor, would release a plan of action that addressed the failures and inhumane decisions responsible for my son’s death. While I’ve waited, I’ve been speaking out for true action, with changes that would help prevent another tragedy like Tamir’s murder, changes that truly hold these police accountable and give people power in the communities we live in.

As a resident of Cleveland, Ohio, my local and state governments have not only failed my family, they’ve caused us severe trauma. After shooting Tamir, Cleveland police neglected to call aid for my son and handcuffed my daughter, who was trying help her brother. Then the city of Cleveland later tried to charge me for the ambulance ride that was too late to save my son’s life. They said it was a mistake, and no one was held responsible for any of pain they caused my family.

After Tamir’s death, the county prosecutor, Timothy McGinty, an elected official, responsible for seeking justice for Tamir, instead blamed my 12 year old boy for his own death.

NOTE: Timothy McGinty, the Cleveland prosecutor who cleared cops in Tamir Rice’s death was defeated in primary

All of this happened under the administration of Ohio governor, John Kasich, a 2016 presidential nominee. Ohio’s state government has shown me repeatedly that the people elected to serve have no interest in justice. The loss of Tamir has made it clear to me that Cleveland is deeply invested in a system of injustice. No one has been held responsible for any part of this entire traumatic experience. No one has at least apologized for killing my son. Not a single politician has offered me some substantial support.

While I’ve continued to push my state’s officials towards real changes, several Presidential candidates have said my son’s name in their mouth, using his death as an example of what shouldn’t happen in America. Twelve year old children should never be murdered for playing in a park. But not a single politician: local, state or federal, has taken action to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Instead of plans for justice and accountability, I have been shown several plans for criminal justice reform, none that address my experience of the entire system being guilty. Those plans don’t address the many ways elected officials become exempt to accountability and the legal flaws that allow them to extend that exemption to cops who kill. These plans do not get rid of the trauma of knowing that my tax dollars help pay the salaries of the police officers that killed my son.

As one of the Mothers of the Movement, I know the death of Tamir has shown many just how important police accountability is. I also know it must be a piece of a larger plan to address the deep corruptions that exist in America. The people should be the ones determining what accountability looks like, not prosecutors who work closely with police to deny the people justice. County Prosecutors whose job requires them to believe the police the majority of the time, should not be the same people prosecuting them. Police officers often lie about fearing for their life.

True community oversight of the police is one that evens the balance of power and allows the communities police serve to judge how well they are doing their job. My experience has let me know that the system is working just the way the people in power want it to. That is why I refuse to accept plans or support politicians that offer what they propose as solutions, not informed by us, the community. It’s why I won’t accept plans for more “community police” as positive solutions when it was the police that killed my son. I cannot settle for partial solutions and lip service. I know we need real action, and I refuse to endorse any candidate that offers less.