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Escondido Ballpark Proposal At Risk

Audio

Aired 2/4/11

How could Governor Jerry Brown's proposal to eliminate redevelopment agencies affect Escondido's efforts to build a minor league ballpark? City leaders are concerned the redevelopment proposal could disrupt plans to sell $50 million in ballpark bonds. If redevelopment agencies are eliminated, what will happen to Escondido's ballpark?

How could Governor Jerry Brown's proposal to eliminate redevelopment agencies affect Escondido's efforts to build a minor league ballpark? City leaders are concerned the redevelopment proposal could disrupt plans to sell $50 million in ballpark bonds. If redevelopment agencies are eliminated, what will happen to Escondido's ballpark?

Guests

Kent Davy, editor of the North County Times

JW August, managing editor for 10 News

David Rolland, editor of San Diego CityBeat

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

PENNER: City leaders throughout San Diego County are worried about the governor's push to cancel out redevelopment agencies and distribute redevelopment funds to counties and to schools. And nowhere is this of more immediate concern than in Escondido where construction of a $50 million minor league ballpark is being considered. So Kent, let's start with Escondido. This ballpark was on the fast track. Why is it stalling now?

DAVY: It was an effort inside the Escondido redevelopment agency to build a ballpark on behalf of Jeff Murad's, the Padre's owner, to house their or his triple A minor league team. It would have been built with redevelopment agency money. The ground budget in trying to find ways to trim its costs and so on, proposes to take -- eliminate all redevelopment agencies basically from hence forward, that would allow it to take about $1.9 billion off the table. That is money -- very briefly, a redevelopment agency is funded by the tax increment that is generated from the beginning of the redevelopment agency, and then whatever new taxes come in on top of it, those get to go to the agency to use to address blight, allegedly. Brown is saying we don't -- I don't want redevelopment agencies, it's not efficient, it's not fair. Of let's take the money back off. People like Escondido redevelopment are saying if you do that then we don't have a way to finance these kinds of projects for good or ill.

PENNER: So let's think about that $2 billion for a second, David. I want to get that figure in our heads. That's about ten percent of the deficit. Right? Deficit's somewhere around $25 billion.

ROLLAND: $25.4 billion have been the legislative analysts had the number at 1.7. I'm not sure -- we can quibble over a couple million dollars. Buff 1.7 billion is how much the legislative analyst's office says, and I think they're going from the governor's proposal, could be saved and channeled into what Jerry Brown says are more core government functions instead of using it to revitalize neighborhoods across the state.

PENNER: Okay. So is that a compelling argument to you? That, you know, let's say 8 to 10 percent of the deficit actually could be wiped out if redevelopment agencies redevelopment agencies are abolished?

ROLLAND: Sure, it's a compelling argument that it could be done. I just don't think it's -- I don't think it's worth it. Because, first of all, whether the number is 1.7, $1.9 billion, and I'm not sure, but it's also -- the legislative analysts also made the comment that it might not actually even be that high. It could be a lot less than that, because that number is ever changing as redevelopment agencies across the state scramble to sell bonds for projects that they have in the pipeline. You don't know how small that number is gonna get. Also, this has to go through legislative hurdles, it has to pass legal muster, and as you're saying, it's a small part of the whole deficit. So when you want to get bogged down over trying to get that one point whatever billion dollars out of the $25 billion that you need, I'm just not sure it's worth it in the end.

PENNER: Okay, so I want to ask our listeners about that, do you agree with David Rolland of San Diego City beat that 1.7 billion or 1.9 or 2, whatever it happens to be, somewhere in that ballpark figure, it's not worth taking that money out of refurbishing, restoring, refurbishing blighted areas in and some people wonder if those areas really are blighted. And shipping that money over to counties and schools? Where are you on this? Do you agree with Jerry Brown or don't you? We'll get back to the Escondido ballpark in a second. But I'd like to get your sense. 1-888-895-5727. 895 KPBS. We'll start with JW.

AUGUST: I do think it's worth the hassle. Redevelopment agencies are nothing but subsidies for the private sector. I do think they're inefficient. There's other ways to -- there's other ways to fund projects. It's amazing what Encinitas does. They don't have any redevelopment projects. They saved their money until they got enough money to build something. Oh, my God. That is so un-American of them. But it's possible to find other ways to fund projects. I do think redevelopment agencies are very efficient, they're fat cats, it's time -- they're an old model, and I say good for you, Jerry Brown, you did something bold and something that requires some action, it's about time, we had some leadership that did that. And I think it's something we should embrace. Even though occasionally the constitutional right will screw us. [CHECK AUDIO] [CHECK AUDIO].

PENNER: Go ahead, Kent Davy.

DAVY: I think the philosophical rebuttal to that is when or if brown has his way and are redevelopment agencies are pulled out and taken away, it represents a -- yet again another transfer of power from local government to the state. And with the state controlling the purse strings. That money now currently stays inside the local redevelopment agency, which are municipal agencies, there's 400 of them in this state. Of some of them engage in excesses. However, many of them in fact do work in blighted areas, do build affordable housing, and do create jobs, 25000 estimated here in the county.

AUGUST: We're not saying get rid of them, we're just saying this model does not work.

DAVY: Yes, you are.

AUGUST: It's unfortunate.

PENNER: Isn't it a 4 or 5-year period? Is that what we're talking about?

DAVY: No, it's eliminating.

PENNER: Gone. Okay, I'm glad you clarified that. And before we go back to the editors, let's bring Simon from Rancho Bernardo into the discussion. He has an interesting question. Go ahead, Simon.

NEW SPEAKER: Yes, I'd like to know, because the local government's so corrupt, [CHECK AUDIO] the standards went behind so they could talk, but Fletcher, [CHECK AUDIO] the counsel knowing, and the believe knowing, the loophole to build the so called stadium for Chargers. [CHECK AUDIO] I want to know what percentage of this money, the local government is going for building homeless shelters, every time this situation comes up, it's redevelopment and homeless shelters, and they'll build housing. [CHECK AUDIO] most of the majority is for private institutes and for corporations.

PENNER: Thank you very much, Simon. JW.

AUGUST: Yeah, and he's talking about the midnight deal that the mayor did on trying -- the redevelopment and the Chargers stadium. And I think these right on. It's subsidies for the private sector. That's what the money's for.

PENNER: Are you saying the public is not getting any --

AUGUST: Oh, they absolutely get a benefit. But the fat cats is always -- they scrape the scream off the top, and they always scrape the scream off the top. And every once in a while, you gotta say to them, hey guys, let's take care of the business, 'cause we got a lot of problems at the state level. Where are we supposed to cut the state budget? Are we supposed to reduce education? Where are they gonna get the money from? We're not -- we're San Diegans but we're also Californians.

PENNER: David?

ROLLAND: Yeah, I think we're getting a little bit into hyperbole here. Sometimes redevelopment works really well, sometimes it's abused. But what bugs me about the way this conversation plays out is people like local politicians and Kent, you kind of sort of just said it yourself, you know, oh, this is an abuse of power by the state, they're taking our money. It was actually by a legislative action that created redevelopment agencies in the first place. So if there was a shift in power that was done, it was done decades ago, and it was done the other direction. It was giving power to local governments to -- they were given a mechanism to raise money to fix up blighted neighborhoods.

PENNER: Rebuttal?

ROLLAND: And hold on 1 second, but and now the state -- economic circumstances have changed and the state is deciding that out of that big pot of tax money that we have, and in this case we're talking about property tax money, out of that big pot of taxpayer money, we've decided that and we meaning the state, has decided that there are better, more crucial uses for that money, so by the same legislative fiat the that we did it in the first place, we're deciding to take it back because there's better use for that money.

PENNER: Go ahead Kent.

DAVY: Don't put words in my mouth. I didn't say it was an abuse for the state to take it back, what I said was it represents a transfer of power back to the state away from local governments.

ROLLAND: I guess I was putting a value judgment on it that you did not assign to it.

DAVY: I suppose you were.

ROLLAND: I apologize, Kent.

DAVY: [CHECK AUDIO] good and bad redevelopment areas, and another discussion altogether would be if you were gonna leave redevelopment, would you change them, and how would you change the operating? My understanding is cor -- the entire city of Coronado is inside a redevelopment area.

AUGUST: Really?

DAVY: Okay.

PENNER: Coronado? All television?

DAVY: That's what I've been told.

PENNER: Okay, well, we'll have to check on that one. And we're gonna check on a lot more when we come back. We're gonna continue this discussion and take your calls right after the break. This is the Editors Roundtable, I'm Gloria Penner. [CHECK AUDIO] [CHECK AUDIO].

PENNER: And David Rolland from San Diego City beat, JW August from ten news, and joining us now is Bruce Mira Mesa. Bruce, you're on with the Editors.

NEW SPEAKER: Hi, I've got a couple of comments, the first was the editor who said I don't think he said it's not worth it, why should we worry about [CHECK AUDIO] and when we have a 20 plus billion dollar hole? It seems to me that there's no way we're gonna solve a $20 billion problem in chunks of $10 billion at a time, it is gonna be all nibbling at small edges, and a piece at 1.8 billion is probably one of the bigger opportunities that one has.

PENNER: Okay, thanks Bruce.

ROLLAND: Actually, the bigger, [CHECK AUDIO] and that is $12 billion so that flies right in the face of what the caller says, that is a gigantic chunk of money, and I said --

PENNER: Excuse me, let's clarify that, David. That 12 billion was come from continuing the --

ROLLAND: Extension of four different tax hikes that happened two years ago. They would be extended for a period of time, I think five years. And so that -- when I say it's not worth it, it's sort of a relative comment. Of course, $1.7 billion is a lot of money, and if we don't save that money, it will come out of higher education, it will come out of social services but I guess what I was talking about is, more important is the $12 billion special election that we might be voting on, if the Republicans allow it to get to the ballot.

PENNER: Okay. Thank you, and Bruce change fist are why are call, and let's hear from Charles in La Mesa. Charles you're on with the editors.

NEW SPEAKER: Good morning.

PENNER: Good morning.

NEW SPEAKER: My comment is, I think the redevelopment process that I've been involved with in 30 years, started out to be a great program. Of it defined blight. But through the years, as most governmental programs, has become confused. And now blight can be applied to almost anything. And isn't there a middle ground? Shouldn't we go back and keep the program, roll it back to what the original intent was, and let's don't throw the baby out with the wash water here.

PENNER: Okay. Thank you.

NEW SPEAKER: I believe there is a middle ground.

PENNER: Thanks Charles. All right, for final comments I'm just gonna throw out a question or two, and then you can add anything you want to on this, Kent. The call for government is to become more streamlined, costs less money. Would abolishing redevelopment agency make for a most cost efficient government in this more austere economy, cutting out layers of people, a lot of people would lose their jobs if redevelopment agencies go. Big salary savings.

DAVY: I hadn't thought about how much streamlining there would be because you'd have to think about what's gonna be replaced. H. D Palmer earlier this week, he's govern spokesman, said that with the proposed redevelopment cuts there still would be $500 million made available for economic development in some other fashion. Details of that are nonexistent.

PENNER: Is that the middle ground Charles is talking about?

DAVY: No, he's talking about reform of the redevelopment process, which I think is an absolutely legitimate topic.

PENNER: A what?

DAVY: Legitimate topic.

PENNER: Legitimate. Okay. And final comment from you, JW.

AUGUST: I agree with what Charles said, personally I'd throw the baby out with the bath water, but maybe that's a [CHECK AUDIO] had we gun, and you know what? They did do a good job. But there is a lot of strange business going on now, in a number of these agencies across the state.

PENNER: And David?

ROLLAND: No, I'd rather reserve my time for the next topic.

PENNER: Okay. But I did want to come back to Escondido ballpark. I read an article by David Garrick in your newspaper that says Escondido can't sell redevelopment bonds for another 6 or 7 years because the city still owes money on the city's art center. So is this just a non sequitur in this case?

DAVY: No, what would happen is they could go ahead and issue bond anticipation notes, that is, saying we've got revenue path to do this, we will have the art center paid off by, I think it's 2019, something lick that. There would be a tax scream that would support the bonds. But there is a question, I think among city officials about whether they can legally do that if the redevelopment agency is approximately pulled.

PENNER: Okay. Well, thank you very much, and let's move on.

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