While everyone debates the merits of the Downtown Hospital, the bigger story has gone unnoticed: Mohawk Valley EDGE's role in the decision to locate the hospital downtown and the threat presented by EDGE to local residents' and businesses' private property rights.
EDGE's operation may be legal in light of the Supreme Court's recent Kelo vs New London decision which broadened the scope of what could be taken for "public" purposes -- but it is bad public policy because it discourages private entrepreneurship. The hospital illustrates how this happens. From its website:
The footprint for the hospital would be located on 17 acres. There are an additional 17 acres surrounding the hospital which could potentially be used for parking garages, medical office buildings or other complementary facilities. Development of the 34 acres may not happen at one time but it is important to be future-focused on the expansion needs of the organization.So while 17 acres will be immediately developed, a surrounding 17 acres will be in limbo until the "organization" determines what its "future-focused" expansion needs will be. What is the likelihood that anyone will want to invest near the hospital while the "organization" makes up its mind? What is the likelihood that anyone will even maintain the surrounding properties? Those who think the hospital will "spur" more development downtown need to think again.
EDGE did not have to market this site to the hospital -- the hospital is not going to leave the area. There are other sites that would not involve taking private property, including the hospital's own St. Luke's campus. So why was this site chosen by EDGE? We can only speculate because we still do not know who originated the idea of a Downtown hospital. Was it a politician? Was it someone on the EDGE board? Someone with connections to the EDGE Board? Was it one of the hospital officials? Was it an owner of a business -- or a property -- that might want it to be taken? Who knows who? or Why.
As Justice O'Connor wrote in her powerful dissent in Kelo:
Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random. The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms. As for the victims, the government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more. The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result.EDGE's practices place us all at the mercy of those "with disproportionate influence and power in the political process." In the end, this discourages private investment in Oneida County.