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Eminent Domain Ballot Question To Decide Issue of Taking Land for Economic Development

By Rhonda Miller | Published 24 Oct 2011 11:34pm | comments
Mississippi Farm Bureau President Randy Knight speaks at a press conference in Gulfport.

The debate over Mississippi’s eminent domain law is heating up as the Nov. 8 election nears. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports on the pros and the cons.

"We have a magnolia tree, I have fruit trees galore." Kay Broussard points out the trees in her yard, which was once woods, until the Mississippi Gulf Coast Coliseum was built.

Inside her home on Oakwood Drive in Biloxi, the walls are filled with paintings and family photos. Broussard and her husband have enjoyed this home for 50 years. But she says things changed in August when they got a letter from the Coliseum.   

"The Coliseum had passed a resolution and they were authorizing the acquisition of the homes on Oakwood Drive for expanded parking that they claim is crucial to the Coliseum’s continued operations," Broussard says.

The Commission that runs the Coliseum is a government entity with the power of eminent domain. Broussard says several homeowners on the street have already sold, but she and her husband are happy right where they are.

"We will hire a lawyer and we will take it to trial and we will ask for a jury trial," Broussard says.

Supporters of eminent domain, in its current form in Mississippi, say allowing government to take land for economic development creates a business-friendly environment. They point to Toyota and Nissan as examples of the hundreds of jobs coming into the state when land can be taken for business development.

But in front of the courthouse in Gulfport Monday, Mississippi Farm Bureau President Randy Knight says he thinks there’s a better way.

"You know eminent domain is an issue that we all feel like was originated for true public uses. We have to have roads and bridges and highways and schools. But to take your property and give it to someone else for economic development goes against everything this country was founded on," Knight says. "We believe that   true economic development begins with a willing buyer and a willing seller."

Farm Bureau representatives are reminding voters to read the ballot question carefully. Voting 'Yes' will prohibit government from taking land for private use.  And voting 'No' will keep the current law, allowing land to be taken for economic development.

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Mississippi Farm Bureau President Randy Knight speaks at a press conference in Gulfport.


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