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Eminent Domain: A Blight on Freedom
The property of the Arlington School of Music is not a blight on the neighborhood. It is a benefit. It’s structure is solid; the electrical is upgraded; the heating system, new. Renovation is progressing. The owner, Nico Angel has plans to make the building an historical showcase with beautiful ornamentation and stained glass.
The building is historically significant. It was housed in the 1850s by First Presbyterian Church pastor, Rev. David Kingsley. It very well may have been a stopping place for the underground railroad in the 1850s. And until the First Presbyterian Church was finished in 1860 at its present location, Nico’s school may have been the first First Presbyterian Church in Arlington Heights.
Yet the Arlington Heights Village Trustees have condemned the Arlington School of Music, even though the developer has said that he doesn’t even need the property!
Nico Angel has chosen to fight back. The Village Trustees think Nico is standing in the way of progress. But is forcibly taking away somebody’s property and dream in order to build a private condominium, progress or regress?
The mainspring of human progress is freedom. In the past America has prospered because individuals have had the inalienable right to have a dream and pursue that dream without the intrusion of government. To be able to conceive, plan, develop and bring to fruition that dream in one’s own way as long as doing so does not interfere with everyone else’s equal freedom to do the same, has made America what it was—the land of opportunity, diversity, new ideas, tolerance, spontaneity, invention, innovation, and yes—prosperity.
The Village Board of Arlington Heights thinks that replacing a school of music by force with a nine-story condominium is progress. Yes, the village may collect more taxes from a nine-story condominium than from the school of music (if the venture succeeds—don’t we have enough high-rise condominiums in Arlington Heights?). But if that is the standard that is used to determine whether one has the right to keep his own property without the blunt impersonal force of government taking it away, than most everyone is susceptible to such tyranny.
If tax-revenue maximization were the gauge that our founding fathers used to build our nation, the very ability to build luxury nine-story condominiums never would have been developed. It is the entrepreneurial spirit that has developed our architectural and engineering marvels, not bureaucrats and politicians. Government is merely the necessary evil to maintain a climate in which individual initiative and real progress can be achieved. Governments exist to protect against force, not initiate it.
The Arlington Village Board quite simply doesn’t understand how real progress works. It works from the bottom up not the top down. 50 million people murdered and seventy years later, the people of the former Soviet Union have learned that tragic lesson. A climate of individual opportunity and incentive is necessary for material progress. Everyone is better off when countless individuals determine the wants and needs in the marketplace, instead of bureaucrats or politicians making that decision. Condemnation is a decision of bureaucrats and politicians at the expense of the individual. In this case not only at the expense of Nico Angel, but also at the expense of all the music teachers at the school . . . and their families; and at the expense of all the students, those budding artists . . . and their dreams; and at the expense of every individual who has a dream of his or her own, who wants to bring new ideas, new service— a better mousetrap to the market place. All entrepreneurs, all freedom lovers are hurt by condemnation as one more nail is driven into the coffin of the mainspring of human progress—individual freedom.
The provision of eminent domain allows government to take property with just compensation for public use. Condominium development is private use. The tax-increment-financing law that is used to take away the property of Nico Angel is unconstitutional. And it is wrong. It is the action of the Village Board of Arlington Heights that must be condemned. Save the Arlington School of Music.
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