The U.S. Constitution And You


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The U.S. Constitution And You

  1. 1. The U.S. Constitution and You Rodney C. Nanney, AICP Building Place
  2. 2. Warning <ul><li>This class is not intended to provide a comprehensive legal education on the U.S. Constitution </li></ul><ul><li>Rather, it is intended to be a fly-by survey of a few selected portions of the document </li></ul><ul><li>Focused on a few points of intersection with individuals “on the ground” </li></ul>
  3. 3. Agenda <ul><li>Introduction and Welcome </li></ul><ul><li>1st Amendment (religion, speech, press, petition, assembly) </li></ul><ul><li>5th Amendment (taking of property) </li></ul><ul><li>Examples of One Person’s Impact on the Constitution </li></ul><ul><li>What can I do right now? </li></ul><ul><li>Questions and Wrap up </li></ul>
  4. 4. Thank You! <ul><li>Thank you to Rebecca Dunkle, Monica Prince and everyone associated with the Ypsilanti Senior Center for inviting us to be here tonight! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Please consider a donation to the Ypsilanti Senior Center, 1015 Congress, Ypsilanti, MI 48197 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Some information for this presentation has been adapted from “ The Citizen’s Constitution ” by Seth Lipsky </li></ul>
  5. 5. About Rodney C. Nanney <ul><li>Professional community planning, zoning, and local economic development consultant </li></ul><ul><li>Author/editor of multiple zoning ordinances and ordinance updates </li></ul><ul><li>Author of the “Building Place Notebook” online newsletter </li></ul><ul><li>American history aficionado </li></ul><ul><li>NOT an Attorney or a Judge </li></ul>
  6. 6. About Handouts and More <ul><li>View Presentation Online at: </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><ul><li>On Thursday (4/8), there will be a link to the presentation materials on the homepage and in the “Building Place Notebook” online newsletter </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Also - download the slideshow handout </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. George Washington said… <ul><li>“ A primary object… should be the education of our youth in the science of government. </li></ul><ul><li>In a republic , what species of knowledge can be more equally important? </li></ul><ul><li>And what duty more pressing…than communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country? ” </li></ul>
  8. 8. 1st Amendment <ul><li>Congress shall make no law respecting: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>an establishment of religion , or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>or abridging the freedom of speech , or of the press ; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>or the right of the people peaceably to assemble , and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Religious Freedom <ul><li>(M)ake no law respecting an establishment of religion , or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Separation of Church and State? <ul><li>This concept originated : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Not in the plain wording of the U.S. Constitution </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Not in the Bill of Rights </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Not in the Federalist Papers or other writings of the Constitutional Convention delegates </li></ul></ul><ul><li>It was taken out of an 1802 letter written by Thomas Jefferson, who did not take part in the writing of the Constitution! </li></ul>
  11. 11. 1802 Letter to the Danbury Baptist Assn. <ul><li>“ Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, </li></ul><ul><ul><li>that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions , </li></ul></ul><ul><li>I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘ make no law respecting an establishment of religion , or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” </li></ul>
  12. 12. Separation of Church and State? <ul><li>One reading of Jefferson’s letter suggests that the “wall of separation” was </li></ul><ul><ul><li>not to expunge religion from the public square; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>but rather to restrict the potentially oppressive reach (or influence) of the federal government into the area best kept “solely between Man & his God.” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Freedom of religion, not from religion </li></ul>
  13. 13. Separation of Church and State? <ul><li>“ What a strange notion that a Constitution which itself gives ‘religion in general’ preferential treatment (would also) forbid endorsement of religion in general.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ That was not the view of those who adopted our Constitution , who believed that the public virtues inculcated by religion are a public good .” ( Justice Scalia ) </li></ul>
  14. 14. Freedom of Speech <ul><li>(M)ake no law abridging the freedom of speech …. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Freedom of Speech <ul><li>An example closer to home…. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Freedom of Speech <ul><li>Yard Signs </li></ul>
  17. 17. City of Ypsilanti Sign Standards <ul><li>No permit is required for “signs advocating or opposing a candidate for public office or a position on an issue to be determined at an election” as follows: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>At polling places, on election day only, erected no less than 100 feet from the entrance of the polling place. Such signs may be located on the city right-of-way…. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Such signs shall not be located on any right-of-way except as permitted (above-only on election day) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>That the signs be removed within seven days following the final election regarding the candidate or position </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Ypsilanti Twp. Sign Standards <ul><li>Political campaign signs : Signs announcing the candidacy of persons running for public office or issues to be voted upon at an election and other information pertinent thereto may be erected: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>not more than 30 days prior to an election </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>and shall be removed within ten days after the election to which they pertain. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Such signs shall not exceed 16 square feet in area. </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. Superior Twp. Temp. Sign Stds. <ul><li>Such signs shall be removed…within seven (7) calendar days following completion or discontinuation of the event, action or activity to which the sign pertains. </li></ul>
  20. 20. Sign Rules & the 1st Amendment <ul><li>[Fehribach v. City of Troy, MI (2004)] </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Government regulation of expressive activity is content neutral so long as it is justified without reference to the content of the regulated speech.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ (The 1st) Amendment affords special protection to speech in the home , the Supreme Court has accorded special “reverence” to yard signs , holding that the available alternatives to yard signs are not ‘adequate alternatives.’” </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. Sign Rules & the 1st Amendment <ul><li>[Fehribach v. City of Troy, MI (2004)] </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ (Restrictions on) the number of political signs and…the time election signs could be displayed, were clearly content-based because they only applied to signs containing content which was political .” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Notably, the City’s housing inspector first had to determine what (the) sign referred to before he could (determine) that the sign was in violation….” </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Sign Rules & the 1st Amendment <ul><li>[Fehribach v. City of Troy, MI (2004)] </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A content-based speech restriction is constitutional if the “regulation is necessary to serve a compelling state interest and… is narrowly drawn to achieve that end.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>City said : A proliferation of signs: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>unduly distracts motorists and pedestrians, </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>mars the appearance of the community, restricts light and air, and </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>negatively affects property values. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  23. 23. Sign Rules & the 1st Amendment <ul><li>[Fehribach v. City of Troy, MI (2004)] </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Court ruled in favor of the resident : </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ Although ‘safety’ and ‘aesthetics’ are substantial government interests, (but) are not compelling enough to justify content-based restriction on fully-protected, noncommercial speech.” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ (R)esidents have the same strong incentive to keep their property values up (without regulation) and to prevent visual clutter in their yards and neighborhoods as does the city.” </li></ul></ul></ul>
  24. 24. What Does This All Mean? <ul><li>No permit or fee should be necessary to put up any political, opinion, or election-oriented sign in your yard </li></ul><ul><li>Time limits (“30 days before an election”) cannot be enforced . </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Such signs can be displayed for any length of time, as long as they are kept in good repair and taken down immediately after the event </li></ul></ul><ul><li>You must respect maximum sign area, height, and location requirements </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Keep your sign out of the road right-of-way! </li></ul></ul>
  25. 25. Freedom of Speech <ul><li>Respect your neighbor’s constitutional right to display yard signs </li></ul><ul><li>Ask those you know to do the same </li></ul><ul><li>There is no excuse for kidnapping yard signs! </li></ul>
  26. 26. Freedom of the Press <ul><li>(M)ake no law abridging the freedom…of the press …. </li></ul>
  27. 27. Freedom of the Press Where is the line between a “ blog ” and “ the press ”?
  28. 28. Freedom to Assemble <ul><li>(M)ake no law respecting the right of the people peaceably to assemble …. </li></ul>
  29. 29. Freedom to Petition the Gov’t <ul><li>(M)ake no law respecting the right of the people…to petition the Government for a redress of grievances . </li></ul>
  30. 30. Freedom to Petition the Gov’t <ul><li>Write a letter; </li></ul><ul><li>Send a fax or email; </li></ul><ul><li>Speak at a meeting or public hearing; </li></ul><ul><li>Make an appointment and meet with an elected official; </li></ul><ul><li>Create and circulate a petition on an issue you’re concerned about; or </li></ul><ul><li>Sign a petition someone else has created </li></ul>
  31. 31. Eminent Domain <ul><li>Eminent domain is: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The power to take land for a public use in exchange for reasonable compensation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Typically defined as fair market value </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Using &quot;condemnation&quot; process in court </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Part of the 5th Amendment : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“… nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation .” </li></ul></ul>
  32. 32. What is a “Public Use?” <ul><li>Classic Definition : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>New roads and freeways, and road widening projects; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>New public parks, public utility transmission lines or pipelines, bicycle paths, county drain improvements; and </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Other projects planned and constructed by government or public utilities. </li></ul></ul>
  33. 33. Susette Kelo’s House
  34. 34. Supreme Court Redefines <ul><li>“ Kelo v. City of New London, CT” (2005) </li></ul><ul><li>At issue : Whether the the City of New London’s intention: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>to take privately owned residences and businesses, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>to clear and re-sell the land to a private developer; and </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>to redevelop the land for the benefit of other private businesses, including PFIZER </li></ul></ul><ul><li>actually constitutes a “ public use .” </li></ul>
  35. 35. Supreme Court Decision <ul><li>“ Kelo v. City of New London, CT” (2005) </li></ul><ul><li>OK to condemn and take Susette Kelo’s home solely for economic development/redevelopment </li></ul><ul><li>“ The Court will not substitute its judgment for (local plans) as to what constitutes ‘public use’ unless the use is palpably without reasonable foundation .” </li></ul>
  36. 36. The Result?
  37. 37. Kelo II: The States Strike Back <ul><li>When the federal government goes too far: </li></ul><ul><li>“ The Founders cannot have intended this perverse result.” (Justice O’Connor) </li></ul><ul><li>Within days of the decision, 43 states, including Connecticut, began moving to nullify the decision through state reforms </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Michigan had already dealt with this issue in a previous state Supreme Court decision </li></ul></ul><ul><li>It is now harder to redevelop urban land after “Kelo” despite the Court’s intention </li></ul>
  38. 38. One Person’s Impact <ul><li>John Adams wrote or served as a “consultant” for the creation of many state constitutions for the original 13 states after the Declaration of Independence </li></ul><ul><li>The position of “President” was established by delegates who fully expected George Washington to be the first to hold the office </li></ul><ul><li>Ratification of the 19th Amendment (women’s suffrage) in 1920 rested on the decision of one representative in the Tennessee state house… </li></ul>
  39. 39. One Vote - 19th Amendment <ul><li>By July 1920, it appeared that the amendment might fail by one vote in Tennessee, but… </li></ul><ul><li>Twenty-four-year-old Harry Burns surprised observers by casting the deciding vote for ratification. </li></ul><ul><li>At the time of his vote, Burns had in his pocket a letter he had received from his mother urging him, “Don't forget to be a good boy” and “vote for suffrage.” </li></ul>
  40. 40. One Person’s Impact <ul><li>27th Amendment </li></ul><ul><li>“ No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.” </li></ul>
  41. 41. One Person - 27th Amendment <ul><li>Originally proposed in 1789 as part of the Bill of Rights, but not ratified </li></ul><ul><li>Ignored/forgotten for more than 200 years </li></ul><ul><li>In 1982, U of Texas college student Gregory Watson was doing research… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Found that the amendment had no expiration - it could still be ratified </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Wrote to state legislators across the U.S. - the result was a new amendment! </li></ul></ul>
  42. 42. You Can Make a Difference <ul><li>Speak out (respectfully) at public meetings </li></ul><ul><li>“ Petition” government officials via letter, email, or fax about an issue or bill </li></ul><ul><li>Join a political party or attend a peaceful political gathering or event </li></ul><ul><li>Become a precinct delegate or serve as an local election worker </li></ul><ul><li>Volunteer to serve on a board or commission </li></ul><ul><li>Help out or donate to a political campaign </li></ul>
  43. 43. You Can Make a Difference <ul><li>Run for office! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Township board or “parks commission” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>District library board </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>City council </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>County commission </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>State legislature </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>____________________________ </li></ul></ul>
  44. 44. You Can Make a Difference <ul><li> </li></ul>
  45. 45. Questions? <ul><li>Rodney C. Nanney </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>(734) 985-0540 </li></ul><ul><li>View Presentation Online at: </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><ul><li>On Thursday (4/8), there will be a link to the presentation materials on the homepage and in the “Building Place Notebook” online newsletter </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Also - download the slideshow handout </li></ul></ul>