News
Billions Wasted Annually on Unused Property
Thursday, May 5, 2011 5:15 pm | By Katerina Bricker

Each year, billions of taxpayer dollars are being wasted due to property the federal government owns, but does not use. The U.S. government is currently the nation’s largest property owner, with assets estimated at more than 900,000 buildings and structures. There are approximately 14,000 buildings and structures that are designated as excess and thousands more that are underutilized.

In order to streamline the sale or demolition of excess property, President Obama has submitted a plan to Congress that would create an independently commissioned Civilian Property Realignment Board. It is estimated that the plan would save taxpayers $15 billion over the first three years after the Board is fully up and operational.
 
The White house has created an interactive map that highlights over 7,000 of the underused properties the U.S. government owns. You can view it by state and see how many properties the government owns along with the type of structure it is, the name of the structure, the use of the building, and the size of it. In the District of Columbia, it lists 5 properties as being unused and in the state of California a staggering 1,151 properties are listed.
 
The White House defines excess properties to be an assortment of things, ranging from office buildings to labs to storage sheds and warehouses. It is basically what is deemed by an agency as no longer needed for mission or program performance. Once they are categorized as “excess,” these buildings can be offered up to other federal agencies or just abandoned.
 
The federal government owns about 30 percent of all U.S. land, which accounts for more than 650,000,000 acres. Most of this land is deteriorating or in complete disarray due to lack of maintenance. The land needs to be sold off as quickly as possible because when it is owned by the government it limits the access for recreation, mineral exploration, farming, and a lot more traditional uses.
 
The Property Rights Alliance recently wrote a letter to the members of the House in support of Obama’s plan and to urge members of congress to take Obama’s plan a step further and include land that is no longer in use or needed by the government. To read the letter in its entirety click HERE.

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USTR Releases 2011 Special 301 Report
Tuesday, May 3, 2011 3:48 pm | By Kelsey Zahourek

 

This week, USTR released it annual Special 301 Report, reviewing trading partners’ protection of intellectual property rights. Not much has changed since last year’s Special 301. The report places 28 countries on the Watch List and 12 countries on the Priority Watch List including: China, Russia, Algeria, Argentina, Canada, Chile, India, Indonesia, Israel, Pakistan, Thailand and Venezuela. However, this year, USTR has invited countries to work with them to develop action plans to address IP concerns. Whether or not there will be repercussions (and in what form) if a country doesn’t follow through on promises to better their IP protection remains to be seen.
 
Highlighting areas of concern for intellectual property protection comes at an important time in U.S. trade relations, as the U.S. continues negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. Of the 9 countries currently part of the TPP negotiations, 5 have been placed on the Watch List or the Priority Watch List. As trade negotiators move forward, a high standard for protection should be included in the intellectual property chapter.
 
Intellectual property rights can boost trade and foreign investment dramatically, but first, global piracy and counterfeiting must be stopped or significantly reduced for the economies of developed and developing nations to thrive.
 
Click here to read the entire report.

 

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Winning in California
Tuesday, April 26, 2011 12:26 pm | By Katerina Bricker

Last Thursday April 21, 2011, Steven Denton, San Diego Superior Court Judge, overthrew National City’s 2007 renewal of its redevelopment plan. This plan had given the city eminent domain power over an area that encompassed 692 properties. This is a big win!

The ruling came about because of a suit filed by the Community Youth Athletic Center (CYAC), which runs a youth boxing gym. The gym’s attorney is from the Institute for Justice based in Arlington Virginia, which is a nonprofit group that disputes eminent domain powers. The main argument the gym’s attorneys had with the 2007 plan was that the city abused its powers of eminent domain by designating the area as blighted without giving proper documentation and not allowing sufficient time for them to object.
 
In Denton’s fifty page ruling he stated, “Because most or all of the conditions cited as showing dilapidation or deterioration are minor maintenance issues, the court cannot determine with reasonable certainty the existence or extent of buildings rendered unsafe due to dilapidation or deterioration.” The City responded with the argument that they “tried” to find the gym a new location and they believe they gave them ample amount of time to respond.
 
National City wanted to make way for a 24-story, mixed-use condominium project. The CYAC was built for keeping local at-risk kids out of gangs. Clemente Casillas, the CYAC President, said, “I hope National City does the right thing now and throws in the towel so we can get back to focusing all our attention on helping to grow the kids in our community.  The city can have redevelopment, but that has to be done through private negotiation, not by government force.”
 
This is great news for people in California. This is the very first case interpreting the changes to the law since the 2007 response ruling to the Kelo decision. Dana Berliner, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, said, “This decision will go a long way in protecting Californians throughout the state against eminent domain abuse.”

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