The Show-Me Institute today posted an article on its website calling the Hobbs bill "window dressing":
When the law permits eminent domain for private profit, ordinary property owners become subject to the whim of the powerful and well-connected. We recently saw a clear example of the dangers of eminent domain abuse in Clayton, where the Board of Aldermen is in the process of condemning five small downtown retail establishments to make room for the expansion of Centene Corp's corporate headquarters. The city justifies the taking on the basis that the retail establishments are "blighted," despite the fact that downtown Clayton is one of the most prosperous neighborhoods in the St. Louis metro area.
"Blight" has become a catch-all term that allows municipal leaders to condemn anyone's land. It was the pretext under which the city of Sunset Hills condemned properties in its doomed re-development plan, which collapsed last fall when it was discovered the developer couldn't finance the project. And it was the justification given by St. Louis alderman Tom Bauer when he sought to condemn several homes and businesses to make room for a QuikTrip gas station--a plan that led his constituents to recall him.
Yet the legislation being sent to the governor this week wouldn't have done a thing to stop any of those three abuses. "Blight" takings are still permitted, and no change has been made to the current "anything goes" rules for defining blight. Under the current rules, cities commission blight studies by friendly consulting companies that invariably give cities the answers they're looking for. Such studies often cite trivial problems such as broken drain spouts, declining tax revenues, or windows that are too small for the latest fire code. Amazingly, some studies even cite poor upkeep of public streets and sidewalks as evidence of blight, even though those are the responsibility of the city government that sought the blight designation in the first place.