What do the border wall, the bullet train between Houston and Dallas and the Grand Parkway all have in common?
They are all projects that involve the government taking private property and converting it into public use, what is technically known as eminent domain.
Five Kingwood High students debated the issue of eminent domain at the Rotary Club of Lake Houston’s Nov. 17 meeting at the Lake Houston Family YMCA.
One student was particularly effective as she discussed the effects of eminent domain on her own family. Speaking at the end of the debate after the students had described the pros and cons, she vividly detailed her own family’s dilemma when they lost 150 acres of their 900-acre land in the Huffman-Dayton area to the building of the Grand Parkway.
The 150 acres needed to continue building the parkway were in the middle of their land, the student said, pointing out that many families affected by the parkway would be forced to move and start over.
The lively debate was a “practice session” for the students who are members of the school’s FFA agricultural issues team and would be competing the next day in a regional agricultural issues contest.
Two “pro” students explained how eminent domain has helped Lake Houston’s residents as the population continues to grow and the region continues to face flooding, allowing for the building and improvement of roads and flood detention areas.
Two “con” students, on the other side, criticized the taking of private land pointing out that compensation isn’t always fair and often forces residents to leave their homes or businesses. Farms and food supply, especially, can be affected when land is acquired for other purposes.
“This is a heated and emotional issue,” the student moderator concluded. “The best way to settle it is through compromise.”
In a second presentation, Rotarians saw their donation at work through a video detailing firefighting training in Columbia.
One hundred firefighters, including 27 females, from 32 small towns in Colombia learned the basics of fighting fires and saving victims, according to Rotarian Felipe La Rotta.
“We selected small towns because they don’t have the money or the expertise to provide this kind of training and often their firefighters are volunteers,” said La Rotta.
The first class was held in September and a second class is scheduled for 40 additional firefighters in March.
The first class was so successful that the Rotarians have received requests from groups in Mexico who would like training for their firefighters.
The $30,000 grant was funded by multiple donors include the Lake Houston club, a Rotary club in San Francisco and the district as well as donors who are not Rotarians.
The Nov. 17 meeting ended with Rotarian Valerie Copley named as a Paul Harris Fellow Plus 3 for more than $4,000 in contributions to various Rotary projects.