From Robert Dean, Communications Director of the Tidewater Libertarian Party:
PORTSMOUTH, VA – SEPTEMBER 23, 2008
Tonight the Portsmouth City Council in a 4-3 vote rescinded their previous unanimous vote to use condemnation to take the Johnson’s Crab House property. Tonight’s vote will give reprieve to the Johnson family, their home, and their business and for that decision, we applaud the elected Portsmouth representatives.
There was a time in this nation when the voice of the people was important. Tonight, four members of the Portsmouth City Council continued that belief and we thank them for doing the right thing by voicing their support for private property rights provided in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights.
Voting against using eminent domain to condemn the Johnson property:
Mayor James Holly
Vice Mayor William Moody
Councilwoman Marlene Randall
Councilman Charles Whitehurst
Voting to use eminent domain to condemn the Johnson property were:
Councilwoman Elizabeth Psimas
Councilman Stephen Heretick
Councilman Douglas Smith
– End ++++++++++++
In case you are unfamiliar with the Johnson Family crab house case, the non-elected Portsmouth Housing and Redevelopment Authority targeted a section of Portsmouth for redevelopment. Developers recently constructed many new, large homes in the Park View neighborhood. Located at the end of the neighborhood along the waterfront (Scott’s Creek) is a private fishing business that had operated by local waterman for about 75 years. The Johnson family bought the business about 13 years ago and continued to fish (crab) and sell their crabs at the same location. In time their property became run down and cluttered with junk; especially a large crane and an old boat. Some neighbors complained about the eye sore and for a few years the city and the Johnson family struggled with each other as to need to clean up their property to the satisfaction of some of the neighbors.
Next, an effort was launched to force the Johnson’s off their property by the use on eminent domain. The “public use” was promoted by the Portsmouth Housing and Redevelopment Authority and by the Portsmouth City Council as the “need for a neighborhood park”. Yet, there are other locations available within the neighborhood to construct a park. In fact, the Johnson family offered the Portsmouth Housing and Redevelopment Authority half of their land for use as a park. The Portsmouth Housing and Redevelopment Authority refused their offer, intent on seizing all of the Johnson family property.
The Virginian Pilot wrote a story about the situation and it came to the attention of many people across our region.
The Tidewater Libertarian Party met and discussed this case and decided to help organize a citizen-led fight to stop the use of eminent domain. This is a case that was clearly a need for city code enforcement, not the seizure of a private business that blocked the waterfront view for newly constructed large homes in Park View.
The Johnson family eventually complied with the clean up requests and their property is now tidy and well kept.
A large rally was held on the Johnson property a few weeks ago. The next week after the rally many members of the Tidewater Libertarian Party attended the Portsmouth City Council meeting in a strong show of support and solidarity for the Johnson family’s property rights.
This effort on the part of many good citizens and the Tidewater Libertarian Party stands as an example that people can still make a difference. What appeared to be a “done deal” was suddenly stopped.
It is interesting to note that no other political party attended the rally – especially in light of the political season we are now in.
Why wasn’t Congresswoman Thelma Drake, herself the victim of eminent domain abuse, at the rally? I am not sure, but I will ask her the next time I catch up with her. She missed an excellent opportunity to stand up for property rights – and perhaps pick up a few votes in the process. I do know that she was invited, as were many of the other local political parties and candidates. Robert Dean saw to that.
In my opinion this situation serves to underscore the inexcusable lack of LOCAL action by the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. It highlights their failure to stand up in support of our Constitutional rights to own private property. Our right to simply tell a non-elected housing and redevelopment authority – “No thanks; I’m not interested in selling my property. Now please leave me alone”.
Yet, it was also interesting to note that at the rally in support of the Johnson family, those in attendance wore Obama buttons and McCain T-shirts. The bumper stickers on many cars sported GOP, DNC, Libertarian, and Ron Paul messages. Yet everyone displayed signs or wore stickers declaring their support of the grassroots effort to stop the further abuses of the awesome power of eminent domain.
Clearly standing up for our property rights is an issue that unites citizens of many different political affiliations. It is encouraging to witness the positive power of citizen participation in our government decision-making process.
Tidewater Libertarian Party