Monday, February 23, 2009

The Well-Read Commuter reviews Little Pink House: A True Story of Defiance and Courage By: Jeff Bendict

Little Pink House: A True Story of Defiance and Courage
By: Jeff Bendict

What was this book about?

You can’t fight city hall, or can you? Susette Kelo is about to find out. In 1997 the hard working forty-something Susette is looking to leave her country home and loveless marriage behind and lose herself in the quiet solitude of the Connecticut Coast. In the economically depressed city of New London she purchases a “handyman’s special” cottage with a breathtaking view, paints it Odessa Rose and goes about starting a new chapter in her life. However, just as Susette was busy striping wood floors and customizing granite flower boxes in her front yard, next to her property Pfizer was announcing plans to build its new global research and development center next door in an abandoned linoleum factory.

Hot on the heels of the success of Viagra, the world’s largest Pharmaceutical company is poised to give a major lift to the state’s second poorest city. The state immediately seeks to pave the way for the 300 million dollar facility by offering up 100 million to purchase and develop the properties in Susette’s neighborhood to make way for a five-star hotel and shopping complexes next to the Pfizer campus. Those who don’t sell and leave will be subject to Eminent Domain. Susette finds herself and her pink cottage in the way of progress and jobs and at the center of a perfect storm of the political and business powers of the day. It’s the story of a homegrown fight about individual rights, property rights and state’s rights that ends up in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

What did you think about the book?

I thought this was a good book. What I liked about this book is the author was not satisfied with just Susette Kelo’s view on the chain of events. Rather the author chooses to deliver a 360 degree view of the situation drawing multiple interviews, court transcripts and media interviews to tell the entire story. Unfortunately, developing a story involving so many characters makes it a bit dry in the first two chapters, but it is well worth getting up to speed on all the political and corporate forces that combine.

Refusing to leave her sanctuary by the sea so a parking lot and hotel can be built she challenges the state’s interpretation of the fifth amendment which allows the taking of private property with due process and just compensation for public use. Public policy geeks, such as myself, will love the real life application and debate about the Bill of Rights Fifth Amendment and state’s rights. You certainly don’t have to be a student of public policy to appreciate this story involving scheming, planning, late-night dumpster diving for documents or the depth of the political and corporate careers at stake. This interesting story told in a way that includes multiple perspectives will have you wildly flipping to change your opinion of who is right and who is wrong in this saga as you progress through the chapters. A thoroughly modern tale whose court implications will be felt for perhaps generations to come in the realm of urban development and personal property rights. The reason I often prefer non-fiction is because the truth is often stranger than fiction and this is no exception.

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