- Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli
RICHMOND (October 29, 2011) – Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli addressed more than 200 attendees today at the NAACP State Convention in Richmond, discussing government abuses of eminent domain and the property rights constitutional amendment currently pending in the General Assembly.
The attorney general spoke about eminent domain and urban renewal, a project in the 1960s in which the government would raze blighted or poor neighborhoods, transforming the land for public use. This process displaced thousands of families and individuals, often in African-American neighborhoods, forcing them to give up their homes, businesses, and property, and forcing many into public housing.
“Life, liberty, and property are fundamental rights,” said Cuccinelli. “The ownership of private property is one of the original building blocks of a free society. When the government starts to chip away at that cornerstone, the consequences can be devastating.”
The attorney general has been an advocate of property rights during his entire tenure in public office. As a state senator, he successfully sponsored a 2007 law that protects homeowners, farmers, and business owners from having their property taken by the government for use by private entities merely to increase tax revenues or create jobs. Last year, he helped craft the constitutional amendment which passed the General Assembly in its 2011 session and which must pass the 2012 session before it goes on the November 2012 ballot. The amendment would increase current private property rights protections for citizens, as well as better shield those rights by putting them in the Virginia Constitution, ensuring that any changes to those protections would have to be approved by voters, rather than just by members of the General Assembly.
Cuccinelli encouraged convention attendees to tell their city councils and county boards of supervisors not to oppose the amendment. He told them that the lobbying organizations for Virginia cities and counties are already asking legislators to vote against the proposed property rights protections, and that they are using tax dollars to do it. He also encouraged them to get the commitment of incumbents and challengers running for the General Assembly that they will vote for the amendment in the 2012 session.
More details are in the text of the attorney general’s remarks to the NAACP:
Good morning. It’s an honor to be here with you today. Thank you, Salim, for inviting me to speak.
During the 2009 campaign for attorney general, you invited me to come speak to you. Back then, you also invited me to come back again, and that’s why I’m here today. I’m not up for re-election. I’m not here looking for your vote. I’m here because I want to talk to you about an issue that’s important to every citizen of this commonwealth.
Eminent domain is something that has affected communities across Virginia for decades. In the 1960s, cities across the country began the process of what they politely called urban renewal. They destroyed whole neighborhoods in the name of renewing the land for public use, and they left thousands of families displaced, with many forced to move into public housing.
And half a century later, this issue still affects us deeply. Homes and businesses still aren’t fully protected. And African-Americans and the elderly are still disproportionately affected by land takings. Just as an example, right now, the people of Charlottesville are still hurting over the razing of the once-thriving Vinegar Hill, where many African-American homes and businesses were located. Although that urban renewal project happened decades ago, city council has just drafted up a formal apology that they’ll vote on November 7. We need to make sure that what happened to Vinegar Hill, what happened in Roanoke and Norfolk and all over Virginia, doesn’t happen again-not now, not ever.
I’ve been a long-time advocate of strengthening our property rights in Virginia and protecting them from eminent domain abuses by the government. Life, liberty, and property are fundamental rights. The ownership of private property is one of the original building blocks of a free society.
In 2007, I successfully sponsored a law that protects homeowners, farmers, and business owners from having their property taken and handed over to a private entity just to build some new shopping mall or condo complex. Although this law was a major step forward in the protection of private property rights, because it’s only a law, it can be chipped away by future sessions of the General Assembly, putting our land in jeopardy once again. So the law needs to be enshrined in Virginia’s constitution to protect it from the whims of politicians who favor dollar signs over individual rights. If property rights protections are in the constitution, then they can only be changed by a vote of the people.
Last year, I helped write a property rights constitutional amendment which would create four reforms. Those reforms are:
private property can only be taken for true public uses, not for enhancing tax revenues, economic development, or private gain;
the cost of taking property must be borne by the public, not by the individual property owner. Fair and full compensation must be given when property is taken or damaged;
no more property can be taken than is necessary for the project; and
the burden of proof that the taking is for a true “public use” is on the entity taking the property.
The amendment must now pass a second time during the 2012 General Assembly session. It then goes on the November 2012 ballot for the people to vote on.
I encourage you to tell your city council or county board of supervisors not to oppose the amendment. The lobbying organizations for Virginia cities and counties are already asking legislators to vote against these property rights protections, and they’re using your tax dollars to do it! I also encourage you to get the commitment of incumbents and challengers running for the General Assembly that they will vote for the amendment in the 2012 session. And on Election Day in a week and a half, support the candidates who support this amendment and this very fundamental right of yours. YOU have the opportunity to put this power in the people’s hands.
Finally, I can’t leave without offering you my congratulations. I want to let you know I recently visited Lumpkin’s Jail, the slave trail, and the slave burial ground here in Richmond. I want to congratulate you on your victory of getting that land in the hands of preservationists. While the site represents a dark reminder of Richmond’s slave-trade past, it also reminds us that from evil can come good, as we saw with the establishment of a school to educate freed slaves on that very site; a school that would eventually become Virginia Union University.
I was also really struck by a quote engraved on the Reconciliation Statue on the slave trail. It said: Acknowledge and forgive the past; embrace the present; shape a future of reconciliation and justice.
That’s a tremendous reminder of the power we all have to change society for the better and to preserve and protect the liberties of all people.
Thank you for letting me be here with you this morning. Welcome to Richmond, and have a terrific convention.
Posted By Valerie Garner
Categories: Politics, State Politics
Tags: attorney_general, black_history, cuccinelli