When the Government’s Thugs Want Your Property


From time to time, I’ve pointed out that the state’s economic development efforts resemble cliché villains in a movie when it comes to setting aside certain areas for special “districts” planned out by people who think they have a right to design our entire society.  The difference is that Hollywood tends make business moguls the villains.

Time is running short for Americans to realize who the real bad guys are.  Take, for example, the story of Hinga Mbogo:

… thanks to a little-known zoning tactic known as “amortization,” the Dallas City Council is trying to remove Hinga from his own property. Back in 2005, the council re-zoned Hinga’s neighborhood for a “planned development district.” Any properties that were “nonconforming” with the new zoning designation had a limited amount of time to comply. For Hinga, that would mean closing down his business. …

… Hinga is the only pre-existing property owner left in his neighborhood who continues to operate amid redevelopment. As Hinga put it, the city is “cloaking” its actions. “They’re putting me out of business.”

Instead of sending in gang members to rough Mbogo up and send him a message, the government sends lawyers and, ultimately, police officers because they’re operating within the law, albeit unjust law.

Another item in the news (via Instapundit) shows that it isn’t unfair to think of these development-related government agencies as criminal organizations:

The oversight panel, in 2012, was uncovering the fact that then-Assistant Attorney General Tom Perez made a secret deal to make a potentially damaging lawsuit go away. He reportedly told the litigant that in exchange for dropping the suit, the government would look the other way on fraud the litigant was doing in an unrelated matter, which was being investigated by HUD….

HUD …. refused to allow Congress to speak to the regional director six months later, despite repeated requests, so the committee issued a subpoena.

The non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) has ruled that two officials from Housing and Urban Development (HUD) must return some of their salaries as “improper payments,” a penalty that HUD is so far declining to impose.

From the federal government down, agencies are acting like organized crime syndicates, and at the local level, municipal enforcers are clearing entire neighborhoods of business owners out of their property in the name government-preferred economic development.  The fact that they’ve corrupted our system of government in order to make the theft and thuggery legal doesn’t change its nature.

One suspects “follow the money” still applies, and that there are plenty of special deals to be uncovered, but if not, if the government is acting this way for no other reasons than ideology and petty power fixes, I’m not sure that’s any better.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    I have frequently posted here that zoning is a “taking”, and been scoffed at. I wonder if I would be hard pressed to get agreement from Mr. Mbogo. Here, zoning is taking Mr. Mbogo’s livelihood, but all zoning takes some rights.

    • GaryM

      Part of the zoning concept is to ensure that the value of property can be reliably predicted for the long term by banks, assessors, etc..

      A home sitting in the immediate vicinity of the future site of Acme Recycling due to re-zoning is sure to become an instant financial loss for the homeowner.

      Police powers to take property are limited to payment of the fair value of the property before the zoning change is implemented (Kelo v New London). Thus the argument of a taking is bounded by payment of the fair market value while zoning protections are in force, not after Acme moves in.

      • Rhett Hardwick

        There is absolutely no Constitutional power to protect property values, if there were, why would it not also protect stock market values. You are mistaking a taking under the “Police Powers” with “Eminent Domain”, there is no need for payment under the “Police Powers”, who have you ever heard of being compensated when their property value is diminished by a declaration of “Wetlands”. Granted, there is a possibility of compensation for a “Regulatory Taking”, but is rarely allowed as long as there is some possible use of the land, however slight that use may be. Google the terms used here and you will see what I mean.. The portion of the Dallas Zoning Code above “safeguard the health, safety and welfare of the general public.” is a claim of action under the Police powers, not Eminent Domain. The gravamen of Kelo v. New London is whether property can be taken, using taxpayers money, at the whim of the government and then sold to another private developer. Historically, this has frequently been done. The best “local” example is the 1/2 mile, or so, of brick building observed just before entering Boston’s South Station. That was “taken” by the state and then sold to Gillette Razor Co. for less than the taxpayers had paid. That was in the early 1900’s. “Cronyism”?

  • Rhett Hardwick

    I have always thought that Dallas, like most of Texas, did not have zoning. Is this something new?