Tag Archives: eminent domain

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell on a Rampage

Woman Criticizes Honolulu’s Government, Has Her Protest Signs Bulldozed

Nick SibillaNick Sibilla, Contributor   

How people respond to criticism can reveal a lot about their character.  Some might try to debate or reason with those they disagree with.  Others prefer to ignore critics.  City officials in Honolulu take a different approach: They use a bulldozer.

Choon James is a successful real estate broker with over two decades of experience in Hawaii.  But the city of Honolulu is seeking to seize property she’s owned for almost a decade to build what she calls a “super-sized” fire station in rural Hauula.

Since January 2010, she has put up signs to protest Honolulu’s use of eminent domain.  These signs declare “Eminent Domain Abuse: Who’s Next?” and “YouTube Eminent Domain Abuse—Hawaii.”  For more than three years these signs have been up without any incident.

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But now the city is showing a callous disregard for Choon’s freedom of speech.  Back in May, Honolulu seized two of her eminent domain protest signs.  Without her consent, city employees went onto the property and seized and impounded her signs before damaging them. Even worse, the city slapped her with a notice for trespassing, for property she is trying to defend in court.

After these signs were torn down, Choon placed three more signs there.  These lasted just a few months before the city once again seized the signs.  This time, Honolulu was much more dramatic.  On October 18, city workers, backed by police officers, squad cars and a bulldozer, came by and literally bulldozed those protest signs.

The city’s actions show a shameful lack of respect for the First and Fourth Amendments.  Citizens have a right to protest government actions.  The First Amendment was enacted precisely to protect citizens who criticize the government from retaliation.  Lawsuits challenging Honolulu’s unreasonable seizures and chilling attacks on free speech are now pending in federal court.

Unfortunately, Honolulu is not alone in trying to silence critics who question eminent domain.  The Institute for Justice has represented citizens in St. Louis, Mo., Norfolk, Va., Tennessee, and Texas who protested abusive property seizures and faced censorship.  Out of these four cases, IJ successfully defended free speech in three cases, while the fourth is currently in litigation.

After 24 of his buildings were taken by St. Louis, Jim Roos painted a giant mural on a building he owned advocating “End Eminent Domain Abuse.”  But St. Louis labeled the mural an “illegal sign” and wanted to force Jim to remove the sign (and stifle his right to protest) or face code violations.  He teamed up with the Institute for Justice and sued the city.  In a major win for the First Amendment, in July 2011, the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Jim and allowed the mural to stay up.

In a similar vein, IJ has defended grassroots activists from a frivolous defamation lawsuit and protected an investigative journalist’s right to free speech from a vindictive private developer.

More recently, the Institute for Justice is suing the city of Norfolk for trying to squash a small business owner’s eminent domain protest sign.  The Central Radio Company, a repair shop, has been in Norfolk for almost eight decades.  But Norfolk had plans to seize the property with eminent domain for a private redevelopment project.

To protest, owner Bob Wilson displayed a huge banner on-site.  The city responded by telling Bob he had to take down the sign or face fines of up to $1,000 per day.  Fortunately, the Virginia Supreme Court unanimously struck down the city’s attempt to seize Bob’s land; his free speech case is still infederal court.

As the cases make clear, courts routinely respect Americans’ First Amendment rights.  Honolulu should do the same.

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Postscript: Mayor Kirk Caldwell also shut down the owner’s business with Reynolds Recycling on October 21, 2013. Public push back forced the Mayor to cut a deal with Reynolds to return to the adjacent city Lot 64 on December 20, 2013. The Caldwell Administration did not disclose that it is on a month-to-month lease. Should the Mayor gets permission from the courts to condemn, the last two commercial zone lots will be decimated and recycling business  gone.
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The only valid reason for Mayor Kirk Caldwell to shove this extra expensive fire station onto this small rural community is he owes a plum building contract to a donor!  The Mayor  wants to build a huge Kapolei City station in the small rural town of Hauula.
The Mayor can be contacted at mayor@honolulu.gov    808 768-4141
City Council Chair Ernie Martin  at emartin@honolulu.gov   808 768-5002
Choon James at ChoonJamesHawaii@gmail.com   808 293 9111

Hauula Fire Station Relocation Controversy Drives Honolulu Mayor to Illegally Shut Down Reynolds Recycling Center

 

Hawaii Eminent Domain Abuse – Honolulu Mayor Goes Amok on Free Speech and Private Property Rights!

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Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell impounded free speech signs

on private property on October 18, 2013, again!

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Upon taking office, he went on the rampage by implementing

first raid of the signs on May 29, 2013. There is a federal lawsuit  against the city pending.

PRIVATE  fee owners own this commercial lot. The eminent domain

trial is set for March 2014.  Mayor Caldwell’s threats and intimidation are grossly premature and illegal.

On October 21, 2013, the Mayor rampaged further by posting signs on the private property to threaten Reynolds Recycling into closure. The threatening sign was posted in the middle of the entry way to the business. The problem is the city does not own this lot!

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The city owns the adjacent lot below but it has no posted signs of any kind at all. Maybe after the Mayor has been exposed, he’ll post a similar sign on this city-owned lot to appear even-handed. But it’s too late. His browbeating and abusing the office of the Mayor’s office are too evident.

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Does Hau’ula need a recycling center?

What do you think of the Mayor’s illegal activities?

808 768-4141  mayor@honolulu.gov  Honolulu Mayor

808 768-5002 emartin@honolulu.gov  City Councilman

 

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Honolulu Transit Oriented Development (TOD) an Assault on Private Property Rights.

 

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Rail’s Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) An Assault on Private Property Rights
By Choon James 11/03/2012  Published in Civil Beat.

How would you react if a stranger enters your home; goes into your bedroom and sleeps in your bed — without your permission?

The natural reaction would be one of disbelief and outright objection, right?
We would consider this intrusion an invasion of our privacy and space. We would dial 911 to get the intruder off our property.

Yet, we see no similar reactions towards the Honolulu city’s proposed Transit-oriented developments (TOD); we detect no deference to or respect for private property rights. The city’s planners and facilitators have successfully drowned this constitutional right in their public presentations.

On the other hand, the amount of giddy excitement and coveting of private properties (that the government does not own) for this Honolulu Rail’s Transit-oriented development (TOD) is very alarming. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sLSzpi0ytSY

We live in a Democracy; we are not China or Russia.

Private property rights is an integral part of free enterprise. We must not allow crony capitalism to stomp private property owners. Government and its cronies must not be allowed to plan as they unilaterally please. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmM4ZBoppNQ

At each of the proposed 21 rail stations, the city wants TODs “within half a mile radius” vicinity. The proposed rail stations are located at every mile; this means the whole land area along the entire 21-mile rail corridor is up for grabs. “Half a mile radius” sounds so harmless!

To covet and seize an additional 20 square miles area along this rail corridor on our small island pose a huge economical, social and cultural impact!

It’s not as if private owners can easily relocate down the road. Family inheritances, investments, and businesses built with sweat, equity, and sacrifices will be placed under the mercy of absolute powers of eminent domain. Kama’aina owners and businesses will be pushed out to pave the way for national and international investors. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i67hIaAe6hs

Have we forgotten about Kelo vs. New London, the most despised eminent domain case in recent history http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kelo_v._City_of_New_London The Fort Trumbull community had 117 private properties. The City of New London supposedly had carefully crafted a revitalization plan to spur new jobs and increase tax revenue.
To push this “revitalization” plan forward, New London City abused its eminent domain powers to seize private properties to transfer to its private partner. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4N1svadJQ40

As it turned out, the city’s private partner – Pfizer corporation – failed to deliver needed funds and abandoned the much-heralded project. The Pfizer corporation also left town.
The city and state spent $78 Million for the acquisition and bulldozing the Fort Trumbull neighborhood. The promised 3,169 new jobs and $1.2 million a year in tax revenues evaporated.

The municipal experts’ Revitalization Plan, the basis for the ill Supreme Court’s June 23, 2005 decision in deference to legislators, proved to be an elusive concept and not reality.
In early 2012, its newly-elected Mayor of New London extended an apology to the Fort Trumbull victims . . . what good did that do?

The priceless toll on the victims could never be compensated; lives were uprooted and constitution rights subverted while the bureaucratic and political perpetrators walked away scot-free. http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=us&vol=000&invol=04-108

Here in Hawaii, we observe a similar “revitalization” process has been set in motion. City “experts” are holding “Community Visioning” meetings to discuss “Neighborhood TOD Planning”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=sLSzpi0ytSY
The city wants to “take advantage of rail to its optimal level” and to “concentrate population” along this rail corridor.

http://dev.honoluludpp.org/Planning/NeighborhoodTODPlans.aspx
The “experts” presented beautiful artistic renderings at these meetings but we’ve yet to hear the sounds of the Rail along the Honolulu High-Capacity Transit Corridor. Who will live along the noisy railroad tracks? http://youtu.be/abzMGHe3Pc0
(The push to steer the low income population along the noisy rail corridor is “segregation déjà vu” and not social equity.)

The dangerous potential for the city to seize 21 square miles of private properties for transfer to private investors has to be reckoned with, today. The proposed Honolulu Rail is not only ugly, noisy, and a black hole for Oahu’s taxpayers; its accompanied TOD is a direct assault on private property rights. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4ezw1Hbf6Y
No Oahu residents should sit idly by and condone such autocratic land-use plans for our island home. It is wrong. It’s dangerous. It’s unAmerican. It goes against the core tenets of our free society.

City planning and developments must conform within the constitutional parameters of private property rights. This should have been a big part of the public deliberations. Any “exemption” laws to skirt this right must be rejected. Too many big decisions have been manipulated and controlled by raw crony capitalism and special interests. Private property owners continue to trampled on and pushed aside by the big boys.
We must take our government back.

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About the author: Choon James has been a real estate broker for over 20 years. She is a member of the Ko’olauloa Sustainable Communities Planning Committee and hosts “Country Talk Story”, a weekly community television show on Saturdays at 5:00 pm on Channel 55. Continue reading