Jim Roos has lost — for now. A federal judge says St. Louis may force him to whitewash a sign he painted on a south-side apartment building. The sign says END EMINENT DOMAIN ABUSE.
Roos is president of the housing organization that manages the apartment building. He is also president of the Missouri Eminent Domain Abuse Coalition. He painted the mural after he and other property owners began receiving letters advising them that the city was thinking of using eminent domain to grab their property and turn it over to commercial developers.
The city refused to grant a permit for the sign, claiming it clashes with zoning requirements. Perhaps the City of St. Louis just doesn’t appreciate fine art. John Randall, an attorney representing Roos, observed that if the sign had “said something like ‘Go Cardinals’ or ‘We support our troops,’ I doubt that we would be in federal court with this.”
The case is about free speech, but it’s also about property rights. The mural is not vandalism, after all. Why shouldn’t Roos be able not only to keep but also to paint his very own property? Governments would often have you believe that your property belongs to you only contingently and provisionally, not as a matter of right.
Roos says he will appeal, and keep fighting. “If we eventually lose and there are no more appeals we’ll remove the sign. Until that time, however, I think the sign is going to remain.”
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.