Carla T. Main
Home
About the Author In the News Read an Excerpt Q & A Photo Gallery
 
   
 
  Bulldozed by Carla Main  
     

 

Carla's public speaking and media appearances include: The American Enterprise Institute, Hamilton College (date to be announced), National Public Radio and Radio America.

Contact:
Encounter Books,
1-800-786-3839
or Writers Representatives LLC

 
     

 

 
 

Questions and Answers about Bulldozed

1. What is Bulldozed about?

Bulldozed tells the story of the Gore family, who have owned a shrimp processing plant in Freeport, Texas for three generations. The book chronicles their struggle as they fight, for three years, to stop the town council from taking their land in eminent domain and turning it over to their neighbor to build a riverfront marina. Against that backdrop, Bulldozed also takes a look at American history and addresses the question: how did we get here?

 

2. Why do "economic development takings" cause so much controversy at the community level?

In traditional public project takings, those who lost their property had the sense that they were at least making a sacrifice for a larger public good. But when a municipality takes private property from one owner and turns it over to another private owner for the sole purpose of revenue raising, that action creates enormous feelings of anger, resentment and a sense of "being replaced" on the part of the original home- or business-owner. In addition to the feelings of the owners, people within the community will differ over whether such a taking is justified.

 

3. Can you comment on the political firestorm that followed the Kelo v. New London case?

One of the most striking aspects of the Kelo-backlash was that the uprising against the decision was bipartisan. Both liberals and conservatives, rich and poor alike were offended and troubled that the U.S. Supreme Court, in essence, said that your home can be taken to build a Motel Six or a big box retail simply on the grounds that it will pay more taxes to your community. It is rare to see a case that mobilizes people on so many sides of the political spectrum.

 

4. Why did you decide to write about the Gore family?

There are already a number of theory books out there about eminent domain and I wanted to write a book that tells the story of one family and one town and the impact that ill-conceived laws and judicial decisions have on real lives: the absurdities, the indignities, the heartache, the financial burdens, and the Machiavellian local politics.

 

5. How does a Supreme Court case like Kelo come to have an impact on the life of those in a small town?

The Gores' struggle began before the Kelo case hit the Supreme Court. Naturally, they pinned their hopes on Kelo, and the first part of the story shows their struggles in a pre-Kelo world. When the decision comes down, what follows is a time of very bitter politics in their small town. U.S. Supreme Court cases live on in the political consciousness and become truly significant when people feel either constrained or empowered by whatever the Supreme Court may have said. In this case, the town council in Freeport, like many municipalities across America, felt empowered by Kelo.

 

6. What roles do race and class play in eminent domain in America?

When eminent domain is in the air, issues of race and class are usually not far away. In Freeport, the controversy over building a commercial marina -- and using eminent domain to do it -- brought to the surface many long-simmering issues related to class, and in some ways, ethnic divisions in the town.

 

7. What has been the political fallout of the Kelo case, the so-called "Kelo- Backlash"?

Kelo generated "Kelo-Backlash" laws in 28 states, which prohibit, to lesser and greater degrees, certain kinds of private-to-private transfers, as well as the "Kelo-Plus" movement, a grassroots Libertarian effort to enact laws that would repeal longstanding zoning laws. However, we are beginning to see some retrenchment. For example, Utah has repealed its post-Kelo reform law and there has been political lobbying in other states to do so. In addition, many of the states' reform laws have blight loopholes. So we have taken some steps forward and some steps back.

 

8. How would you describe your book?

Bulldozed is primarily a current events book about a family that fought to save its family business from the eminent domain bulldozers, but it is also gives an historical overview of how we came to this point in America. I take the reader back to the American Revolution to answer such questions as: Why did James Madison include the takings clause in the Fifth Amendment? Just what was his beef? I explore the use of eminent domain in the 19th century and the economic and political forces that held its expansion in check. I also bring the reader up through the explosive expansion of eminent domain in the 20th century: its use in urban renewal after the Federal Housing Act of 1949, the landmark Berman v. Parker case, and of course, Kelo. Bulldozed also includes a detailed discussion of the political intrigue that went on behind the scenes in New London, Connecticut, which in many ways is typical of economic development takings scenarios, when the government goes into the real estate business.

 

9. What direction do you see for eminent domain in the coming years? 

The Kelo-Backlash will have an effect, stronger in some states than in others, but the real test will be whether eminent domain reverts, through blight loopholes, to its "default setting" of targeting the poorest and most vulnerable communities as it did during most of the 20th century.