On November 6, Virginians have a lot of important decisions to make at the ballot box. There are choices for President, U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. In some cities, there will be choices for mayor, city council and school board. But there is another important decision to make that does not involve a candidate: Virginians will have an opportunity to amend the Virginia Constitution to protect private property rights. Protecting private property rights has become an urgent and priority issue for The Family Foundation and other concerned organizations since 2005 when the U.S. Supreme Court incredibly ruled in Kelo v. New London, Conn. that the U.S. Constitution did not protect one's private property rights in the case of a taking by a locality. (Funny, other protections, such as free speech, seem to trump state and local laws.)
Since then, state after state has enacted constitutional protections. Virginia, meanwhile, dragged its feet for seven years as the General Assembly, session after session, found ways to deny and delay its citizens' the opportunity to speak on this vital issue — and by the trick of a parliamentary maneuver came within a vote of killing it again this year.
Property rights are vital because without the guarantee of private property, there is no check on government's ability to grow in size or power. Without private property, you have nowhere from which to speak, worship or work. Without it, government is unchecked in its ability to do anything it wants, including taking property only after you have increased the value of it, as has happened time after time across Virginia.
The amendment specifically prohibits what happened in Connecticut — perhaps the most blatant abuse of governmental power in recent years — when New London took private property (in this case homes) and not only did not use it for a public purpose, such as a school or road, but gave the homes to a private company! New London said the company could do something better with the property and create more tax revenue for the city. It's always about revenue to the government, isn't it?
So, who could be against this amendment? Precisely! Local governments, which use your tax dollars to lobby against your rights. They claim this amendment will prohibit economic development. That's a peculiar argument because securing private property is the best way to promote economic development. What entrepreneur wants to build a business if he or she knows the city or county will decide it can do something better with that land and take it for themselves?
Only local government can think this way because local government bureaucrats think their job is to run their county or city as their own powerful, controlling entity, and not as stewards of your money and rights. This amendment — which among its guarantees provides that government can only take the amount of land it needs when it truly has a public use; and that it must provide just compensation for that land, including for lost access to the property and for lost business profit — will be a necessary brake on that attitude. It will foster true economic growth by guaranteeing property rights as well as limiting government power. It will be another stroke for the liberty intended for us by the Founding Fathers.
We urge a vote for Question 1, to protect our basic liberty and rights to own property and to check the growth and power of government.
We're not alone. The amendment was put on the ballot by a bipartisan vote in the General Assembly. A coalition of organizations, including The Family Foundation, The Virginia Farm Bureau, Americans for Prosperity, The Virginia Agribusiness Council, Virginia Forestry Association, National Federation of Independent Business, and the Virginia Property Rights Coalition all are working hard for its ratification. In addition, two major papers, which typically have different editorial views, recently endorsed Question 1: The Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot.
There has only been one public poll released on Question 1, and it was done by Public Policy Polling, a Democrat polling firm based in North Carolina. While its results were favorable, it is from September and the local government opposition has been working in high gear ever since. (The Castle Coalition, a national property rights group, has a take on the poll here.)
Perhaps the biggest opponent of the amendment is unawareness. With the presidential and senate campaigns sucking up all the political oxygen this fall, most Virginians are not aware the question is on the ballot. When they find out, they are supportive. So the mission is to get the word out! Above is a radio ad released yesterday by The Farm Bureau. Please share it and this link with as many people as you can by e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and other social media. After seven years, this is our one and only chance to protect our property rights in Virginia and to further secure our liberty and restrain government growth and power.