By email@example.com (Gene Marks) Would someone please help James Dupree already?
For weeks I’ve been following this story. Hopefully you know it by now. In case you don’t, he’s the artist who owns a building in West Philly and he’s being forced out, under the city’s “Eminent Domain” rules, in order to make way for a grocery store. Apparently, the neighborhood really needs a grocery store. So much so that the city is compelled to make him an offer he can’t refuse: sell his property at a much-lower-than-market price or watch his building be bulldozed. Nice. Dupree is fighting the city. He’s enlisted some major people in the art world to back him up too.
Eminent Domain? It’s best defined this way: “The power to take private property for public use by a state, municipality, or private person or corporation authorized to exercise functions of public character, following the payment of just compensation to the owner of that property.”
I’ve never met Dupree. I’m not a tea party activist, or an ultra-right wing conservative or a Ron Swanson Libertarian. I don’t even know the first thing about art. But I do know one thing: this is really, really wrong. I could make jokes, but it isn’t funny either. It needs to be fixed. Dupree should be allowed to keep his property. More importantly, we should use this opportunity change the way eminent domain works.
But wait…let’s get back to the grocery store. This is not a vital road or a public service or strategic military operation. It’s making way for an Acme (or some other market like it) for God’s sake. Are the people in the neighborhood starving? Is it really a “food desert” as one city official said? Somalia strikes me as a food desert. West Philly doesn’t. Is there no other grocery store around? When I grew up in Germantown my parents had to drive five miles to the Acme because the pickings were so slim around us. I’m not saying it’s unimportant and an inconvenience for many in the community. I’m sure there are old and sick people that could benefit by having a grocery store nearby too. But is this enough of a reason to kick a guy out of his property? I’m sure Dupree’s as charitable as the next guy but even he’s got a limit. Why does he have to be chosen out to suffer?
Then there’s the price. Which doesn’t matter. It’s his property. If the price offered isn’t high enough, (which according to him it’s far from market value), then he’s got every right to just say no. And even if the price is high enough he still doesn’t have to say yes. That’s what ownership is all about. If he wants to suffer the same fate as these homeowners in China then more power to him. And by the way, he may be a respected artist with works hanging in the Philadelphia Museum of Art but it’s possible that property development may …read more
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