US 280 and College Avenue: 20 years of devastation…
June 1, 2019 | View PDF
Another horrific crash at this infamous “T” of US 280 & AL 147 has many decent folks angry again and our corrupt county commissioners running for cover. It broke my heart to once again see a medical helicopter taking off from the intersection to rush another terribly injured member of the Auburn Family to the trauma centers in Columbus. The course of this deadly result was set over two decades ago. Long before land (used as a rest area until widening) was wisely acquired by more economically efficient, honest ALDoT employees who understood this would be a costly future input. Instead of completing the planned lower cost, safer route to Columbus, the new 280 was placed for political purposes of enriching landowners who wanted it to go to “Tiger Town” and suck even more revenue into city limits versus a more market driven mix between rural and urban commerce. The overcrowded/overburdened segment of I-85 grows increasingly more unsafe with added traffic it wouldn’t share if 280 was constructed as planned to protect the safety of our travelling public. If correct estimates for acquiring right of ways, traffic devices, etc. had been properly assigned to place 280 on the observed dangerous path, it would’ve been extremely difficult to justify.
I was among the few who complained before construction about the Veterans Parkway result. An intersection clearly requiring a traffic device. How many died/injured before anyone would listen? Finally, the corrupt mayor of Opelika pressed for something to be done after the desired revenue stream was set in cement, more important than deaths and quality of life of the general public. ALDoT explained the moratorium policy of getting funds for traffic devices on newly constructed roads to discourage the exact type of death traps observed. Some say our mayors these past decades don’t have the ability to understand what will unfold - does it really matter if they are feeble minded or evil? -- the result is the same. When I came to Auburn in 1991 looking for a home well outside any city limits, the rational, safe plan told was for drivers to either take what would become ‘old’ US 280 (in front of where our home was located) and there was plenty of existing land already acquired to make for safe entrance right to go US 280 to Opelika/Columbus or safe median/sight distances to go left to Waverly/Alex City. How many have been victims of George Wallace type politicians (who stand for nothing but staying in power) because they didn’t vote ‘correctly’ or buckle to pressures of the day’s corruption.
Congressman Riley, in power when this corruption and violations occurred lectured us, “you know the road is coming - get out of the way.” Much like Congressmen of today - why would he show concern about citizens dying, injured and being made homeless who get in the way of wealth transfers to bankers, contractors, developers, corrupt politburo members, et al. Not to be bested as the ‘top dog’ extremist in Alabama, Gov. Siegelman, who was in power as we drove by our home we were kicked out of to see OTHERS LIVING in it (yet held legal title to, paying taxes on, etc.) said, “We’d like to give property owners their rights, but it would take too much time.” I find it difficult to feel one scintilla of sorrow about individuals in prison like Don Seigleman and Jimmy Butts, who harmed so many. The list of others - Dial, Hubbard (at the state level) to corrupt federal politburo members like Sessions who was too feckless to even take the file or Shelby too interested in campaign contributions to return calls are great. No other elected politician showed more vulgar disregard for citizens’ civil rights than Sewell.
Over time, I’ve come to understand I can make little if any difference (unwilling to sell my soul at any price) at the federal level. It seems similarly unlikely at the State level as voters either do not participate (as the politburo desires) or continue to waste their votes on duopoly candidates who care little about their lives, liberty and property. I’ve almost completely directed my attention to the local level where I’ve enjoyed some success at attenuating the cancerous growth again coming my way where the harm more directly attacks us. I’ve spent the last four years attending Lee County Commission Meetings with my eldest Godson Peter. It is chilling to watch the malfeasance in action. The corruption which generates this sort of devastation begins with the chair of the Commission/Probate Judge English. This ‘public servant’ (dare I type public master?) works in symphony with the County Engineer who brokers most of these corrupt wealth transfers. Perhaps our biggest victory is finally getting this deadly probate judge to follow the law and bond this engineer the entire cabal of corruption commissioners stand behind. I pray a wise attorney sues for all the poor discretion (I’ve had to get signs moved because of discretion on how long this engineers thinks a foot is or perhaps more importantly a sign in front of a commissioner’s home who doesn’t care about safety) and construction which occurred under this period of a unlawful/unbonded engineer in our corrupt county.
This is the 20th anniversary of wrongful eviction from our home by federal and state bureaucrats for US Highway 280 at the end of College Avenue in Auburn. Our corrupt politicians decided against following the Uniform Eminent Domain Code (UEDC) since 1995, which doesn’t matter if you’re blessed to be in a locale who knows right from wrong and respects civil rights. This is NOT so for Lee County and the death and devastation continues. When in Judge Nix’s court, there was a ‘hostile’ witness, who appeared to be one of the highway workers who relished coming at owners with his bulldozers, crushing our sewer line, burning fires over occupants, bitter anyone had the AUdacity to defending their home and fight for our civil rights. It was clear corrupt bureaucrats and contractors were spiteful owners were still in their home during the holidays after delivering the illegal eviction notice two weeks before Christmas. Our actions kept them out of the nice home and shop they wanted to live in and use while the owner still had legal title to and paying taxes on their property.
Little surprise these bureaucrats refused Judge Nix’s last noble effort to stop the fraud they were orchestrating. Bureaucrats willing to abuse eminent domain understand they’re no longer obliged by the UEDC to provide victims a ‘decent, safe and sanitary’ place to live. I can still remember when Judge Nix turned to us (me and my bride) as we were in the middle of the seats of his courtroom to pose his half statement/half query, “Y’all live in the nice brick house at the end of College Avenue - don’t you?” We nodded affirmatively. Then he again asserted/queried, “Well with all the trucks, earth moving, fires burning and dust being kicked up out there (I don’t know if he was aware of them cutting our sewer line) it must not be as pleasant to live in that nice home - would $300/month be OK as you appeal?” We were relieved by this sage district Judge’s decision, which made it easy to stay in our home awaiting our day in circuit court to determine what we’d be paid for our home.
The facades of the so-called ‘public servants’ absolutely incredulous with this just, wise Judge’s decision were indescribable for this poor wordsmith. Simply put, they threatened us with a $10,000/day fine if we stayed in our home under Judge Nix’s decision, knowing we only had 24 hours to turn in our paperwork to the court. Our attorney at the time, claiming fear of this threat, said she “refused to do that with our money,” seeming most certain we couldn’t get another officer of the court to do so on such short notice, nor would she consider asking for an extension so we may obtain one.
The real issue was lying about the public purpose/use in this case, and Judge Nix knew one can NOT prove someone is lying about what they WILL do until they do NOT do it. After being made homeless for almost a year, we now know as fact they were lying. Owners weren’t being put out of their home for it to be razed immediately as stated in Judge Nix’s court, instead they were made homeless so others could live in the home/use their shop while owners held title to it, paying taxes on it, etc… Obviously this tactic is to ‘fatigue citizens into submission’ as the Declaration of Independence penned. Most do not have the resources to fight for their civil rights.
Shortly after lying in Judge Nix’s Court complaining we were holding up ‘progress’ putting them behind schedule - these same bureaucrats boasted to the Auburn-Opelika News they were ahead of schedule. Words cannot convey what it was like to read the article, drive by our home to see others living in it and using my shop while we were homeless and living off the kindness of a friend. I’ve always hoped Judge Nix didn’t think poorly of me and my bride - we wanted to stay in our home we paid off in 1995 as he allowed until we were compensated in circuit court. We didn’t want to be so great a burden upon so many of our church fellows, friends, etc. as was the result of this wrongful
Most don’t understand the bigger ‘macro’ harm in play when our civil rights are violated generating this devastating result for many. It was nothing short of a miracle we unanimously won in the US Supreme Court making it all the way through the procedural minefields set up against a lowly civilian. Judge Thompson understood all he must do is keep delaying justice long enough to effectively remove our civil rights until people die, are ignored, miss one deadline etc… it took 13 years from when the first federal bureaucrat knocked on our door. Nothing in this world can compensate one for the many lies and vulgar things done to us during this episode which include 11 months homeless. Nonetheless there were some satisfying moments in the dozen years of depositions and filings which followed as we fought for others’ civil rights. One specific example comes from Judge Nix’s courtroom. When asked what I wanted as compensation, I said $10,000/day for each day we were made homeless. The contractor’s attorney quipped back in a snotty tone that was an absurdly large number, asking where I came up with it. My unequivocal reply was I didn’t come up with this number, the highway bureaucrats did after Judge Nix allowed us to stay in our home! Little wonder why such a retort ended that line of questioning rather quickly. We never could get the bureaucrats or their attorneys to show where they were authorized to make such a threat.
The politburo said our property on US Hwy 280 at the end of College Ave. (AL 147) was worth $59,800 - determined by our corrupt county commission chair/probate judge. Our reply was simple - find us another 3 bedroom 2 bath home a mile or so outside the Auburn City limits with a 30x30 200amp workshop where I could pull engines, frames and paint cars, and we’d move in a.s.a.p. -- doesn’t matter to us if they pay a $1 for it. Otherwise, it appeared to a then young economist it would take about $167,000 to replace/reproduce for us to remain in the same/similar area. A comparable property directly across from us on US 280 - i.e., on the side not taken from -- the year prior sold for about ¼ million dollars, so we were clearly being reasonable. Later, professional appraisers put it at $175,000 so once again my $167,000 seemed on target.
After making us homeless for about seven months, bureaucrats offered $145,000 the day before they’d have to face a Lee County jury. They again lied on the date we’d finally be paid, making us homeless for over 11 months. Some expressed disappointment at our not going to court for the remaining $30,000 to get to the $175,000. My defense is simple - that would have just been over money (not our objective) and the ONLY thing [according to 18-1A- et. seq. of the Alabama code] Judge Jacob Walker’s court could decide was just compensation - by law he couldn’t have addressed the civil rights violations even if he wanted to. DoT bureaucrats and lawyers made it very clear they wouldn’t let the jury hear any civil rights violations and tactics used and if so, they’d carry it on even longer declaring a mistrial. They do not want a jury seeing the vulgar/unlawful tactics they systematically use - most victims settle because the small strip of land taken doesn’t include their home so it isn’t worth the effort. It would be more important to later show in the civil rights case, under their own accord, bureaucrats said our home was worth $59,800 when making us homeless, yet $145,000 the day before they’d face a jury. They CAN’T say it was a jury which ‘went wild’ feeling sorry for us - the DoT bureaucrats/lawyers did this on their own. It’s a compelling question: when were they lying? At $59,800 or $145,000? I think the arithmetic under the circumstances speaks for itself. The lie was to justify putting 280 on the killer path for political purposes/revenue - NOT the safety of the traveling public.
This gets to the heart of understanding tactics used by lawless attorneys, bureaucrats, and the jurists who aid and abet them. I want to again stress we’ve also had attorneys, bureaucrats and judges of great integrity and character as well - if not, our unanimous SCotUS victory in 2005 would’ve been impossible. Lawless agencies and their bureaucrats usually get away with policies of systematically violating citizens’ civil rights because most victims can not endure being made homeless, having to continue to pay mortgages, pay attorneys, find some other place to stay, etc… We were blessed with having our home paid off since 1995, above average ability to defend ourselves, support of church, family and friends. These are the sort of people who refuse to idly sit on the sidelines and watch victims like me and my wife suffer, because they understand it is the path to Auschwitz.
To once again recount the specifics of how we were harassed and humiliated, which include burning fires over us, peeping into windows at all hours, crushing our sewer line and coming at our home with huge earthmoving equipment would take too much text and are still painful. The most horrific events include coming at our home with a huge backhoe where I felt compelled to bear arms. Obviously something a lowly teacher wanting to live in peace and mind their own business had not planned to endure. Those who’d like to know more may want to go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVtMW07XI1w.
The heroes of our case are the ones who came to our rescue, Judges Nix, Jacob Walker and Susan Walker, the eight Supreme Court Justices, my attorneys not letting it fail all those years, ones who suffered and where threatened for writing letters about this and esp. a score of witness like Professors Anderson, Beil, Blackstock, Laband, Stenriech, Tittle, et al who are still living and Chris Taylor, Professors Byrd and Kaserman (to name a few) who’ve died over those many years of delaying justice.
Again, this is what happens when roads are placed for political/redistributive purposes instead of following the law to properly acquire right of ways, install traffic devices to ensure the safety of travelling public, etc. This is specifically stated as one of the few things our county commission is authorized to address. The number of people’s lives lost and damaged at this intersection (and Veteran's Pkwy) are more profound because if proper estimates were used for acquiring of land, traffic signals, etc. the road would've be placed more safely as originally planned. In closing, let us pray for those who've been so greatly harmed and those who've been so corrupt in creating these death traps in pursuit of their own enrichment.