Eminent domain entered the awareness of many Americans with the recent U.S. Supreme Court case Kelo v. New London. Across the political spectrum, people were outraged when the Court majority said that a local government may transfer property from one private party to another under the “public use” clause of the Constitution, for the sake of “economic development.”
Carla T. Main–who in the past, as a lawyer, has represented the condemning authorities in eminent domain cases–examines how property rights in America have come to be so weak, tracing the history of eminent domain from the Revolutionary War to the Kelo case. But the heart of Bulldozed is a story of how eminent domain has affected an American family and the small-town community where they have lived and worked for decades.
In the 1940s, Pappy and Isabel Gore established a shrimp processing plant in Freeport, Texas. Three generations of Gores built Western Seafood into a thriving business that stood up to fierce competition and market flux. But Freeport was struggling, and city officials decided that a private yacht marina on the Old Brazos River might save it. They would use eminent domain to take the Gores’ waterfront property and hand it over to the developer, an heir of a legendary Texas oil family, in a risky sweetheart deal.
For three years, the Gores resisted the taking with every ounce of strength they had. Around them, the fabric of the community unraveled as friends and neighbors took sides. Bulldozed vividly recounts the Gores’ fight with city hall, and at the same time ponders larger questions of what property rights mean today and who among us is entitled to hold on to the American Dream.