Start thinking about where you stand

Jason Arment

People of Ames, please take note.

You have roughly 30 days to formulate an opinion about the proposed renovations to Campustown by LANE4. Sometime at the end of February the city council will meet and hold an open forum to discuss whether eminent domain is on the table when it comes to incentives that can be offered to LANE4. LANE4 is seeking assurances that when it comes time to build, they will not be hindered.

Let me make very clear that I am not trying to vilify LANE4 as a company. My thought process is this: LANE4 provides a service. They are simply trying to do something the city council expressed interest in having done. To me LANE4 is a tool, something that exists only because of its utility. It is up to the community to tell its leaders whether or not LANE4 should be undertaking this project at all.

What project? You might have just asked yourself that. Many of you have never seen the plans before, and that is something that I find very troubling. How can GSB accurately represent your thoughts if you have no idea whats going on? How can Iowa State know what you want?

Before very recently there were no startling developments. I simply thought the free market would either allow or deny LANE4; that is, property owners would either move, or they would not, and LANE4 would have to deal with it if they didn’t.

Now that eminent domain has been put on the table as a possible incentive for LANE4, things change dramatically. If you aren’t familiar with eminent domain, I’m about to break it down to its simplest definition: The government seizing land and paying fair market value for the land to the property owner.

Eminent domain has stipulations, however. For instance, the seizing is supposed to be for the good of the community. An easy example of this is seizing land for roads, but it can be used for other projects.

The Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. City of New London that the city can use eminent domain to seize land for for economic development that is for the good of the community.

Don’t think that this means if a land owner challenged a decision to use eminent domain that they would have no chance in court. I haven’t had the chance to read the case in its entirety just yet, or much of the verbose opinion about it from others.

What I can tell you from my preliminary glances is that the United States Supreme Court looked closely at the plans that were being proposed.

An interesting part of the court’s opinion in Kelo v. City of New London, as written by Justice Stevens, reads, “We emphasize that nothing in our opinion precludes any State from placing further restrictions on its exercise of the takings power. Indeed, many States already impose ‘public use’ requirements that are stricter than federal baseline.”

Maybe at some point in the future Iowa will set a new precedent regarding eminent domain that has the names Ames, LANE4 and Campustown somewhere in the mix.

The paradigm that existed where people could choose to stay where they were changed when I found out “eminent domain” was indeed being discussed as a prospective incentive for LANE4.

The idea of owners not selling is not a hypothetical one. I was told by Rob Josephson, co-owner of Mayhem, that his landlord, Dorus Haynes, would not be selling her property. I have also heard from other businesses that their landlords will not be selling either, but they were not willing or confident enough to go on record saying this.

This means that, barring property owners changing their minds and selling, eminent domain will be necessary for LANE4 to go forward as planned.

You need to start thinking right now. Start thinking about your opinion.

I know, some people seem to just have their opinion. Believe me, though, the best opinions are well examined, and have their metal tested regularly.

I’m not saying that there aren’t arguments for LANE4’s Campustown renovation being a good thing. I will be going over some of these in future columns.

What I’m saying is that you need to become interested right now, this very second.

If you are a freshman and decide not to go to the open forum that will be held by the city council to air your opinion, don’t complain in three years if things aren’t the way you would like them to be.

The governing institutions of Ames want to have an open discourse concerning what the students want. I know this because this was communicated to me when I spoke with Steve Schainker, the city manager.

Things are more complicated, and that is what I am trying to convey. I will be back to examine many aspects of LANE4, believe that.

The utility of this column is to get you to start thinking, to galvanize you, to prepare your thought process to be orated in front of men at the city council meeting at the end of February.

You have roughly 30 days, I suggest you use them wisely. It might behoove you to write a letter in to the opinion desk, so that your peers can hear your voice.