"We need to put the power not in the hands of the influential, not in the hands of the Chamber of Commerce, not in the hands of the city officials, but back where the power over property belongs, and that's with the property owner."
-- Heidi Heitkamp, Oct. 18, 2006, quoted by Associated Press.
In 2005, Heidi read the news about a Supreme Court ruling that sounded alarm bells about the rights of property owners. She was outraged.
The case involved several homeowners in a working-class neighborhood in New London, Conn. The city announced plans to tear down their homes and take their property to make way for a riverfront hotel, luxury housing and new offices!
The city argued it could take the property because the development plans served a "public purpose" -- economic growth -- as if that outweighed the property rights of the homeowners. The residents refused to move, arguing nobody had the right to take their property and give it to a private developer, just to raise more taxes for the city.
In a ruling issued in June of 2005, the U.S. Supreme court sided with New London.
Heidi realized that the Supreme Court decision meant that officials at any level of government -- local, state or federal -- could take property away from one private citizen and then turn around and sell that property to another citizen. She knew the same thing could happen in North Dakota.
"I just don't believe the government has the right to take away a citizen's private property, for the benefit of another private individual or company," she says. "That's just not right."
So, Heidi stepped in to make sure it couldn't happen here. She partnered up with one of North Dakota's top Republicans, Curly Haugland, to draft an amendment to the state Constitution to make sure it couldn't happen here. They got petitions ready, and hit the road to gather enough signatures to put the measure to a statewide vote. It passed with an overwhelming margin of nearly 70 percent.
This partnership led the Bismarck Tribune to write: "If people as diverse as Democratic former attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Heidi Heitkamp and businessman "Curly" Haugland, former chair of the state Republican party, can work in tandem to come up with and craft the measure, it definitely has true believers."