Dixon, MO - September 4, 2008 -- Today, Missouri Citizens for Property Rights (MO-CPR) announced that they were withdrawing their lawsuit challenging the Secretary of State's declaration that their eminent domain petition was insufficient to qualify for the November ballot.
The Secretary of State reported that the group had turned in about 438,000 signatures for the two petitions. Although both petitions had many thousands more valid signatures than the required 147,000, not enough of them were in the 2nd congressional district to meet the constitutional requirement.
"We got so close! It's frustrating to collect tens of thousands more signatures than the total needed, and still fall short.", said Ron Calzone, chairman of MO-CPR. "But the requirement to gather signatures from various parts of the state is a good one. Even though it shot us down this time, I wouldn't have it any other way, since that requirement helps to protect everyone's interest, alike." Calzone said that equal and fair treatment under the law for everyone is at the core of the group's desire to reform the use of eminent domain in Missouri.
Bevis Schock, MO-CPR board member and attorney, said that the law required a legal challenge within 10 days in order to give the MO-CPR legal team time to fully review the work of the Secretary of State and county officials. "For the last few weeks we have had a good team working to "clawback" signatures, that is to find signatures which were improperly invalidated. Yesterday the team concluded that we could not clawback enough to make it. We forthwith dismissed the challenge."
The grassroots organization mustered scores of volunteers and also raised money - almost entirely from Missouri property owners -- to hire a petition management firm to gather signatures. In Cole County Circuit court, they faced off against powerful, well-funded opponents like the Missouri Municipal League, the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association (RCGA), Missouri Chamber of Commerce, and lawyers from a Canadian pipeline company. MO-CPR has raised concerns about the Missouri Municipal League's use of taxpayer's money to keep the people from voting on a public policy change.
Calzone is looking at the positive side of the loss, though. "We failed this time, and like the captain of any ship, I must take full responsibility, but we also learned a lot from this time around. We know better who are the enemies of property rights and free market capitalism, and we know how far they'll go to keep us from securing property rights for Missourians."
Calzone likened this to the War for American Independence, in which the colonists struggled almost 8 years against the well-armed King of England before they won the freedom Americans have enjoyed since. "The parallels are uncanny. Then you had the king's sword being abused to provide favored treatment for the well-connected and powerful at the expense of the people - the tea tax and navigation acts come to mind. Today, government's power of eminent domain, used with Tax Increment Financing (TIFs), punish the people for the private profit of a few."
Calzone continued, "We've been asked if we will try again. How can we stop now? We've been working on this for three long years, but I've met folks around the state, like Homer and Julie Tourkakis, who have been struggling for much longer to keep their home or business from being taken -- not for a road or school, but for the private profit of a developer. We can not stop! Watch for us next summer."
Go to http://www.mo-cpr.org for this release and other information about the project.
Ron Calzone, chairman
Missouri Citizens for Property Rights
33867 Highway E
Dixon, MO 65459