I applaud your interest in property rights in the April 2001 issue, “Your Land Is Their Land.” I was especially interested in the article “For Keeps! A Christian Defense of Property” by Scott P. Richert (Views), since I have come to know and work with two of the four families who are used as examples of the expanding misuse of eminent domain and “Quick Take.”

The plight of the Torres and Ditzler families came to my attention more than a )ear ago when a concerned citizen contacted the Illinois Conservation Voters, of which I am a founding member. The Torreses believed that the threat by the city of Rockford to take the property on which their grocery store sits and give it to another grocer is un-American. As Lupe Torres, son of the owner, asked me, “Can this happen in America?” ApparentK the answer is yes, as the Illinois Supreme Court’s April 19 decision in Southwestern Illinois Development Authority v. National City Environmental, L.L.C. indicates. In that case, private property was taken from one owner and given to another because “the legislature has vested in the [Southwestern Illinois Development] Authority the power of eminent domain to assist in the development of commercial projects including racetracks and parking facilities. The acquisition of the Property being in furtherance of the public purpose, the Authority did not abuse its discretion by the use of its eminent domain powers.” The Torres case is still in local court.

The Ditzler case, where half of a legally blind veteran’s family homesite was seized for a road project, remains unresolved as well. Now, Tom and Jan Ditzler are waiting for a court date to be set to determine the value of the property that was seized last summer. The four-lane road is being built directly adjacent to their home. Large portions of their remaining property have flooded as a direct result of the road building. Should water damage to the rest of their property’ be considered in the final settlement? And why is Winnebago County insisting that the Ditzlers take payment for the property before the jury trial that will determine the settlement?

How has this happened in America? Surely there are groups or people who, upon learning the compelling facts and circumstances of these cases, would come to their aid?

Over the last year, Illinois Conservation Voters contacted (among others) all of the following organizations and individuals: Pacific Legal Foundation; Common Cause; Defenders of Property Rights; the Rutherford Institute; American Veterans organizations; Lighthouse for the Blind; Oprah Winfrey; Geraldo Rivera; Rush Limbaugh; IJ.S. Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-IL); U.S. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-IL); and Secretary of the Army Joseph Westphal.

In all of our communications, we offered to provide additional information and assistance to facilitate their actions to aid these families in defense of their property rights. Still, none of these organizations or individuals came to the aid of the Torreses or Ditzlers. The Chicago Tribune eventually ran a front-page story on the Ditzler issue, and Illinois Gov. George Ryan vetoed “Quick Take” legislation that included language related to the Ditzler property. Both of these cases are still in court.

Both families need your help in defending their property rights.

        —Renee A McNitt
Illinois Conservation Voters
Fox River Grove, IL