They don’t like it when the peons get uppity, Pt. 2

We adjourned last week just as former County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury was trooping into the newspaper’s offices Oct. 13, accompanied by Jacob Snow of the Regional Transportation Monopoly, Susan Martinovich of the Nevada Department of Transportation, et al.

The group sang in harmony a two-part tune which insisted life under PISTOL (The “People’s Initiative to Stop the Taking of Our Lands”) is an abomination, while the changes they want to make in the hard-won Constitutional Amendment are minimal, minimal …

For instance, PISTOL allows land owners to collect attorneys’ fees if they fight a threatened eminent domain taking. Mr. Snow says this provision is already generating many “scurrilous suits,” including one in which the land owner is suing on the contention his property’s value has been decreased because the Regional Transportation planners marked his land as a future bridge site.

Get it? If you can’t sell your land, or have to sell it for less, because it’s identified on an official government map for future seizure to provide a home for a police station or a bridge abutment, and you sue for the amount by which they’ve thus devalued your land, Mr. Snow considers you “scurrilous.”

Meantime, Mr. Woodbury insists they don’t want a very BIG change: Under their plan, the land owner would still be able to “apply to the court” for attorneys fees … and cross their fingers.

At the time the Pappas family decided to fight the seizure of their downtown retail block to build a parking garage (which sat mostly empty for years) for the private Fremont Street Experience and its doomed adjunct, NeoNecropolis, at least a dozen other local property owners gave up, decided “you can’t fight city hall,” and took the city’s lowball offers. (The Pappas family fought for years to win ten times what they’d initially been offered — though a quarter of that went to the lawyers.)

Why did the others — including former U.S. Sen. Chic Hecht — cave? They “could have applied for attorney fees” years later, if they prevailed — precisely the same situation to which Mr. Woodbury would now like to revert. But no attorney will take such a case “on spec” with no more guarantee than “We can get on our knees and beg for your fees later, someday, maybe.”

This change would make all Mr. Snow’s feared “scurrilous suits” go away, wouldn’t it? And that’s “just a small tweak”?

PISTOL calls for separate jury trials to determine “public use” as well as property value. Mr. Woodbury et al. say that will take too long, they’d rather have such decisions made by local judges . . . like the one who made several adverse rulings against the Pappases before acknowledging that maybe his ownership of stock in downtown casino The Four Queens constituted, um, maybe, just a SLIGHT conflict of interest. …

Ms. Martinovich complained what NDOT would like to do is gradually acquire land alongside I-15 between the Spaghetti Bowl and Sahara as the agency can afford to, evicting the small businesses there, throwing their employees on the dole, taking up to 15 years before they’re ready to widen that stretch of the interstate. (Full disclosure: The brunette rents space at the Charleston Antique Mall, which would be affected, though I dare say she’ll be able to relocate when necessary.)

But under PISTOL, the NDOT warrior queen complained, the state agency can’t start buying up land and evicting tenants until they’re within five years of actually building their project!

Oh, the humanity! Let us weep great crocodile tears for the Nevada Department of Transportation. It’s intolerable! Already I can envision her clasping the dreaded asp to her bosom.

Does PISTOL really add costs? Or does it simply transfer those once-hidden costs to the government agencies that ought to factor those real costs into their plans, instead of requiring that the same costs be absorbed by those who always took the loss in the past — the private property owners?

Mr. Woodbury breathes a sigh of relief that at least ALL of PISTOL wasn’t allowed to go on the ballot. Why, that would have required local government to pay the true costs of land devaluation caused by ALL their central planning schemes, including planning, zoning, and restrictive business licensing!

Repeal PISTOL? I’ve got a better idea. Let’s demand a chance to enact the rest of it.

Asked last week “When are the voters going to get to vote on the second half of the PISTOL initiative?” — the half the Supreme Court left lying on the floor when the “bifurcated” the voter-qualified petition back in 2006 — state Supreme Court Chief Justice Jim Hardesty told me, “I can’t comment on that, because it’s a matter that could very well still come before the court.”

Really? Then why doesn’t someone do so?

Meantime, if central planning works so well, let the central planners go back to L.A., Chicago, or whatever self-created, unaffordable regulatory hellhole they fled to come here.

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