More than 7-1/2 years after Flight 93 crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing 33 passengers and seven crew members on September 11, 2001, the tragedy is claiming more victims — this time, at the hands of the U.S. government. Because a number of landowners who own land at or near the crash site have not caved into government demands that they sell their land and the businesses located thereon to the government so the National Park Service can build a $58 million, 2,200-acre monument, the Justice Department is preparing to condemn the land and take it forcefully from the owners.
Leaving aside questions about why on earth the government (or anyone, for that matter) would need over two thousand acres and nearly $60 million for a simple monument — forcing landowners to sell their property to Uncle Sam for such a project is outrageous. Yet, thanks to the Congress two years ago enacting legislation authorizing such a condemnation, this is precisely what is about to happen. So much for property rights. So much for basic fairness. And so much for fiscal responsibility in lean economic times.
A National Park Service spokesman, Phil Sheridan, was quoted in newspapers over the weekend as spouting the typical government double speak, in claiming that the government certainly would “prefer to work with sellers” but that they had not been able to come to an agreement in time for the government to begin construction and have the memorial ready for the tenth anniversary of the hijacking, on September 11, 2011. In effect, what Mr. Sheridan and his fellow federal employees are saying is, “if a few stubborn, unpatriotic, money-grubbing property owners won’t agree to our terms, we’ll just force them to sell their land to us whether they like it or not; it’s the American Way.”
Unfortunately, forcing property owners to sell their land and businesses to local, state and federal government agencies for all manner of projects that have nothing whatsover to do with essential, legitimate government purposes, has become the American Way. Bulding an outrageously expensive and disproportionately huge memorial is but the latest example of the government’s abuse of its power of eminent domain.