Property Rights Aren’t Up for Grabs
The last thing a business owner should have to worry about is having her property seized by her own government. Protecting private property, not immorally seizing it, is what governments are entrusted to do. Well, the city of Dallas thinks otherwise. A car repair shop is under threat of being unconstitutionally seized because it happens to sit on a parcel of land that developers would like to recreate into a hipster’s paradise, much like the Bishop Arts District on the other side of downtown. While this might sound like an attractive place for millennials, the government has no right to violate a business owner’s right to her own property.
Yet this is exactly what’s happening to Hinga Mbogo, owner of Hinga’s Automotive. He has operated an automotive shop just north of Downtown Dallas for over 30 years. Despite the amount of time he has operated and the respect his shop has garnered from the community, Hinga may be forced to close shop so that other developers can have their way. The City of Dallas is attempting to use unconstitutional legal tricks to seize Hinga’s property without just compensation. With the support of IJ, Hinga will petition City Council to reverse their decision and allow him to stay in business for two more years.
The DFW area is no stranger to eminent domain abuse. In Arlington, a dispute over land for the construction of AT&T Stadium started all the way back in 2005 shortly following the Kelo v. City of New London decision in which the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, sided with another city in a similar battle. In addition to showing the importance of Supreme Court nominees in the fight for rights and liberties, it showed that local governments have wide latitude to seize private property for private projects as long as the project is used by the public. As another Supreme Court decision cited by Kelo mentions, “The mere fact that property taken outright by eminent domain is transferred in the first instance to private beneficiaries does not condemn that taking as having only a private purpose. Government does not itself have to use property to legitimate the taking.” This suggests that Hinga will need the support of the public, and not just the courts, to prevail.
The United States was founded upon the principle that people have certain inalienable rights upon which government must not infringe: life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. The identification of these rights is supposed to protect people from government, that they may be free to flourish in a civilized world. Knowing this, Hinga states, “When this zoning thing came about and I found out that I had to lose my livelihood, I couldn’t believe that I was in America. I left a place where that stuff happens, but not here. This is the land of opportunity.”
Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since people have to sustain their lives by their own effort, someone who has no right to the product of their effort has no means to sustain their life. This is the reason why when a person’s rights are violated by a government agency, it sets a dangerous precedent that affects us all. Governments continually get away with land grabs and eminent domain abuses, despite being immoral violations of individual rights. As such, those of us who care about our freedom and rights must continually push back against such violations of power and thereby defend what is just.
That’s why we want to encourage everyone to join the discussion and advocate on Hinga’s behalf in whatever way possible. There are a couple of things coming up that will enable you to do that:
TMI will be co-hosting a happy hour around this very topic on April 12th at 7 PM at TNT Tacos and Tequila in Dallas. Join us to network with other property rights proponents and hear from the lawyers working on Hinga’s behalf. Follow this link to RSVP to this event and get a free drink!
The following morning, Hinga’s hearing will be at 9 AM and the Institute for Justice is coordinating a rally in front of Dallas City Hall that will start at 8 AM.
As we mentioned, it’s important that Hinga has the support of the public in order to keep his shop; not only are his business and livelihood at stake, but the precedent that this case sets is a threat to everyone, so join us at the happy hour and rally to show solidarity! Please help spread the word and invite your friends—together, we can make a serious impact in this case.