Friday, July 15, 2005

Herenton says recent Supreme Court decision could help Memphis

WMCTV Action News 5
By Darrell Phillips
Link to original

The mayor's words may anger some, especially those who have been fighting to protect a four block swatch of riverfront property from redevelopment.

Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton was straightforward about an issue that is anything but cut and dry.

"I will admit a bias," said Herenton. "I do have a strong bias. I'm very supportive of the Supreme Court decision."

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Kelo vs. New London, Connecticut case found that local governments can condemn private property for commercial use, as long as it benefits the public in some way.

Herenton agrees.

"Cities should not quite frankly be inhibited to grow the economy, to grow its infrastructure and its needs because of existing buildings and structures," he said.

The mayor's position may play into a heated battle over the future of the Memphis riverfront.

"I think it has a brighter future given this Supreme Court decision," he said.

Opponents like Virginia McLean with Friends of Our Riverfront are disappointed. She says Kelo doesn't apply because the riverfront is already public land.

"The Kelo decision is something that I think the country has really felt outrage about, and it's surprising to me that at this time an elected official would want to use eminent domain to take land away from the people of Memphis," she said.

Herenton hinted the debate won't stop at the water's edge.

"There are some other areas within the city of Memphis that we think should provide greater opportunities for growth and development and eminent domain may be the way to make this land available," said Herenton.

He wouldn't elaborate, but says Memphis should be a balance of greenspace and city living.

"The Supreme Court decision will allow cities to get an urban environment that I think will bring about an urban quality of life that a lot of people will enjoy," he said.

The mayor was quick to point out that any new use of eminent domain and the Supreme Court ruling has to be done cautiously and that city planners should be fair reasonable as they move forward.

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