Check this out: according to a story in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle ("Pricey homes in Richmond's eminent domain plan"), someone has figured out exactly which properties in Richmond, California are going to get "helped" by Mortgage Resolution Partners and the city in their plan to take underwater mortgages by eminent domain.
Seems like some of these properties are not exactly blighted (remember, the public use hook being used by MRP/Richmond is that the underwater properties create blight and are the source of the ills the city suffers). According to the story, included within the targeted properties are "at least two homes purchased for over $1 million as well as other high-end properties - a revelation that appears to undermine the city's argument that the plan would combat blight."
MRP's response? "We don't discriminate against anyone in this program" said Steven Gluckstern, chairman. Seems like both the rich and the poor are forbidden from sleeping under the bridges of Richmond, or owning homes subject to underwater mortgages.
What to make of this? To us, this seems like just one more sign that not all is right with this plan, despite the assurances of MRP and the plan's proponents that it's all just routine. Or is this evidence that there's more to this scheme that MRP and the city are letting on? The plan appears to be built on a foundation of open and notorious rent-seeking, and one look at the MRP players and the now-disavowed touting of the "secret formula" (their political connections) certainly leaves the impression that they're just leveraging this muscle to turn a profit, and if the plan happens to benefit any distressed homeowners who remain after the fleecing, well that's just gravy. But not necessary. It sounds to us like a lot of other infamous save-the-city-by-eminent-domain plans. But it's as if no one paid any attention to the outcomes in Berman, Poletown, and Kelo. And you get the impression that the guys at MRP don't really care, and really don't care that you know they don't, because they've somehow convinced the only people that matter, the leaders of Richmond.
So as you are reading along with the Chronicle story, hit "play" on the video above (there's no picture, just music) for an appropriate soundtrack.
Each new revelation gives us the impression that, like other such plans, the long run will not be a happy one, and the only people left holding the bag after the politicians have moved on to higher office or a nice commission post, and MRP's partners have beat feet back to Sacramento, San Francisco, and New York City, will be the taxpayers of Richmond, if there are any left after this.