Skip to comments.Artworks Choked by Artichokes: Bureaucrats Condemn Creative Entrepreneurship
Posted on 02/10/2014 5:07:33 AM PST by Kaslin
In 2005, James Dupree bought a dilapidated warehouse and garage. Today, after almost a decade of steady investment and physical labor, the once-blighted space is now a vibrant 8,600-square-foot studio showcasing over 5,000 pieces of art.
In a Philadelphia neighborhood marked by vacant houses and parking lots, Duprees studio is a bright spot of entrepreneurship and esteemed cultural value. His paintings have won numerous awards, are displayed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and sell for upwards of $40,000 each. He has hosted and taught public art classes at his studio, and plans to launch a mentorship program for inner-city youth that focuses on fostering entrepreneurial and aesthetic appreciation skills.
However, I definitely want a grocery store, says Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell. And, decided the city council, a nice location for this grocery store would be on Duprees lot. While the building plan itself is essentially undetermined, with no potential tenant even identified yet, the city sent Dupree a letter to condemn his successful studio.
He has two choices. He can accept the pitiful sum slightly over ¼ of its most recent appraised value the city offered and painfully watch his decade of investment be bulldozed away, or he can fight.
He chose the latter. I built this place up myself, says Dupree. Im not just going to roll over and die.
The letter was sent in December 2012. To this day, he continues to fight, and he recently painted on his studios exterior a mural featuring a grotesque human hand reaching for a building, with a warning below: HANDS OFF My Business. The mural and his story have, rightfully, captured national attention, as well as a renewed interest in the greater issue at stake eminent domain.
Eminent domain is the process through which government is allowed to take private property to benefit the public use after providing just compensation to the original owner. Traditionally, this process would apply to largely undisputed investments such as a much-needed road or a new school. However, increasingly throughout the 20th century and even still today, far too much of this property is taken from individual property owners (often small businesses or homeowners) and being handed to other private entities, primarily corporate developers.
In essence, the government is abusing its eminent domain power by picking and choosing value among true property owners and wishful ones. All too often, bureaucrats decide if your property is worthy to withstand their own plans.
Eminent domain was, fortunately, scaled back a bit in the last few years, in light of the infamous Kelo case in 2005. There, the Supreme Court outrageously held that local officials can subject private property to eminent domain solely because they can imagine some alternate use for it that might possibly generate greater tax revenue. Suddenly, according to that logic, all homeowners were in danger. Legislation immediately reflected this public outcry and disgust, with 45 states quickly rewriting their eminent domain laws to provide more sound protection for property owners. Of course, such property grabbing was also slowed down by a sluggish economy in the past several years.
However, as the economy has begun to pick up, so has eminent domain. Last year alone, a number of new property-grabbing techniques have sprung up from California to New Jersey. Increased administrative capacity and regulation have contributed to this resurgence of eminent domain, and Mr. Duprees property is a perfect example.
Seizing James Duprees art studio is not only unconstitutional and a gross abuse of eminent domain, it is unconscionable, said a letter signed by a diverse group including members of the Philadelphia art community, the ACLU, and the conservative Americans for Prosperity. Its unconstitutional, of course, because the potential grocery store is a private entity, and because the citys compensation is far from just. Its unconscionable because its absurd. Dupree has teamed up with the Institute for Justice to urge the city council to reconsider its plan.
In this highly partisan age, the diversity of Duprees supporters is promising, and truly speaks to the salience of the issue at hand. The resurgence of eminent domain as a modern civil liberties issue presents a new opportunity for millennials to consider the value of personal property and home ownership, as many of us are first entering the job and housing markets ourselves.
Millennials should be concerned.
I belong to this generation, one which has been oft-cited as the most entrepreneurial generation to date. While job prospects are sluggish and many in my generation face staggering student debt, many millennials continue to capitalize on new technologies by creatively juxtaposing this with their own innate talents to create start-ups, small businesses, and independent sources of income. Creative entrepreneurship is, perhaps, the truly 21st-century face of the American dream.
Therefore, Duprees property becomes a celebrated symbol of American success for my generation, and the issue becomes one to be all the more outraged about. This isnt just art its also capital. Not only did Mr. Dupree follow his passionate and talent for art, but he managed to substantially enrich his own property value, generate a high amount of revenue, and culturally enrich his community. Hes a success story. And yet, how is he rewarded?
Arbitrarily condemning creative entrepreneurship sends a message that bureaucracy has little respect for individual entrepreneurs and small business. It seems to contradict any sense of reason that in a blighted neighborhood, the city would want to demolish the block containing one of the most successful and celebrated cultural highlights of the neighborhood.
Not only is private reshuffling of property by government unconstitutional, but its disrespectful to any hardworking individual who falls victim to such poor policy. Its time that bureaucrats stop restricting private entrepreneurs from flourishing by stripping away their fairly earned property rights. Its time to celebrate property investment and entrepreneurship, not condemn it.
All he needs to do is make a few ‘contributions’ to the right people and his problem will go away. /s
Setting aside for the moment the definition of "public use" - which I'm pretty sure does not include "grocery store" - 25% of assessed value is NOT "just compensation".
Darn that "cut and paste" - darn it to heck!!
NOT true. "to benefit the public use", whatever in hell THAT means, is not what the Bill of Rights says.
The 5th Amendment says "...FOR public use".
Given his background, I wonder if Mr. Dupree is usually a supporter of "spreading the wealth around a bit".
That's okay, though, Mr. Dupree, I support your right to private property even if you do not support mine...
Philadelphia morphing into Detroit.
Comments can be sent to Ms Blackwell from the above link.
Jannie Blackwell quits PHA board ‘to be part of the solution
March 3, 2011 | By Jeff Shields and Jennifer Lin, Inquirer Staff Writers
City Councilwoman Jannie L. Blackwell has become the first Philadelphia Housing Authority board member to quit in response to demands from federal housing administrators intent on overhauling an agency that has gained national attention for out-of-control spending. Blackwell, a mayoral appointee who resigned after nine years on the board, told reporters Wednesday that she was stepping aside because she wanted “to be part of the solution, not part of the problem or perceived to be part of the problem.
Now go back and read the entire paragraph
They could contact Aldi’s, which could build a grocery store in a space a fraction of his 8600 square feet.
Or give tax breaks to Walmart to come in and refurbish property.
But someone wants the studio, because someone else made it look nice.
I signed his petition at change.org.
I hope I don’t start getting a bunch of communist junk mail.
Nothing in the rest of the paragraph changes the fact that the writer is incorrect in her definition of eminent domain.
Sure it does. There is a difference if the government takes your property away with just compensation (naturally) because of a new street or a new school being built, and some developer wanting to build a business, that only benefits him and the government.
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