Individual choice at root of resistance to relocate from flood-prone area

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: April 8, 2012

AT the heart of contention over Obamacare is a mandate to buy something. At issue in disaster mitigation efforts is a resistance to sell something.

This was true of the Tar Creek Superfund site in northeastern Oklahoma and in the Crutcho Creek area of eastern Oklahoma County. Even when government agents show up with checks, some folks don't want to sell their homes.

Obamacare's individual mandate — requiring the purchase of health insurance — may not withstand a legal challenge. If it doesn't, then the premise of the entire plan is threatened. With disaster mitigation, individual choice remains. It may center more on the selling price of property than a reluctance to move.

Governments take land all the time for schools, lakes, parks, freeways, etc. In those cases, though, homeowners are offered a price but given the option of contesting a condemnation procedure in court. The U.S. Supreme Court, the same body deciding the fate of Obamacare, issued a ruling in the 2005 Kelo v. City of New London case that allowed the use of eminent domain to take property from one owner and sell it to another for redevelopment. The outcry over that case, decided on a 5-4 vote (a likely tally for the Obamacare ruling) is still being heard.

What flows through all the conflicts we've cited is a perceived heavy-handedness.

Crutcho Creek is a low-lying unincorporated area east of Oklahoma City with a history of flooding. Similar conditions prevailed for years in Tulsa's Mingo Creek watershed and in the Deer Creek area of northwestern Oklahoma County. Crutcho Creek and Deer Creek are targets of a county-federal buyout of properties, but some Crutcho Creek residents say they don't want to leave.

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