How we make the call
Truth Squad assigns five ratings to the political statements we review, in descending levels of accuracy:
|Who:||Peters for Michigan|
|What:||"Evicted," 50-second video|
Relevant text of the ad:
“She grew up in a trailer park and motel owned by her grandparents. Terri Lynn Land worked her way up. But that's not the whole story. Years ago Terri Lynn Land bought that property and evicted the 170 families living there - 170 families told to get out all so Terri Lynn Land could flip the property and make a profit. That didn't work out. Ms. Land bulldozed her childhood home and it sits vacant to this day, a community destroyed for nothing. That's what she calls a success story. The families she grew up with, the ones she evicted, probably call it something else.”
The 50-second video continues a spirited U.S. Senate contest between former GOP Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land and Democratic U.S. Rep. Gary Peters. The two have traded blows over the Affordable Care Act – Land opposes the health care reform measure, while Peters voted for it - and about which candidate best represents women. This entry by the Peters campaign makes it personal.
Statements under review:
“She grew up in a trailer park and motel owned by her grandparents...Years ago Terri Lynn Land bought that property and evicted the 170 families living there.”
The Land campaign website notes that Land was born in Grand Rapids and spent her early years “living at the family’s LaGrande Grandville Motel and Trailer Park, which was started by her grandfather and grandmother.” In 1995, that property was sold to LaGrande LLC. State of Michigan records list Daniel Hibma, Land's husband, as its registered agent. It was described in the Grand Rapids Press “as a company owned by the family of Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land.”
In 2004, according to extensive Press reporting, LaGrande LLC issued notice to 171 families living in the park they had a year to relocate. The park population, according to one resident, included the recently unemployed and those on fixed income or disability payments. The company said eviction proceedings would begin June 30, 2005 for those who had not moved out. It offered to pay moving expenses - estimated at $5,000 - for those who moved within six months. One resident – who was raising her 7-year-old grandson – told The Press: “When you're my age they say you're in the golden years, but they're looking pretty rusty to me.”
“...all so Terri Lynn Land could flip the property and make a profit. That didn't work out. Ms. Land bulldozed her childhood home and it sits vacant to this day, a community destroyed for nothing.”
In March 2005, Land and Company – also operated by the Land family – sought to rezone the Grandville property for development. It lists Daniel Hibma as its resident agent. A month later, Hibma told members of the Grandville Planning Commission he was “anxious to market” the property. But it was never sold or developed and sits empty today. It is listed for sale at $1.6 million.
Heather Swift, spokesperson for Land, called the ad “a false and a scurrilous mischaracterization of the facts.” She did not dispute any specific content in the ad.
The broad outline of what the ad alleges is true. The trailer park where Land grew up was sold to a family interest that included Land's husband, Daniel Hibma. The company later gave residents of the park a year to leave or face eviction, notice that left some scrambling to find housing they could afford. In a strict legal sense, the company did not evict all 170 families. Many left within six months and received financial help to move. But using “evict” in its more colloquial sense, the company’s announcement did force families to find another place to live. The parcel remains empty today and is up for sale.