Friday, February 25, 2011
There’s been a lot of talk about the possible elimination of redevelopment agencies, but not a lot of specifics. Now both sides have finally revealed their blueprints.
SAN DIEGO The weeks of speculation about what the governor might propose and how California cities might respond have culminated in two very different plans.
The governor proposes to eliminate redevelopment agencies, and ban them from taking on any new projects. Anything hurried through by agencies after the first of this year will receive intense scrutiny and could be canceled.
Evan Westrup is a spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown. He said redevelopment should not be a priority when the state is facing a $26 billion budget deficit.
“The governor believes it’s a shame that local officials are rushing to shift billions of local taxpayers dollars into redevelopment projects while simultaneously proposing major cuts to education and public safety and other core services,” he said.
The governor has said he is open to negotiating with local officials. But Brown does not appear receptive to a plan being floated by the mayors of several California cities, including San Diego’s Jerry Sanders.
It calls for the state to take out $1.7 billion in bonds, money California would otherwise get from the elimination of redevelopment. The agencies would make payments each year to pay off the bond.
Rachel Laing is with the San Diego mayor’s office. She said the plan is a good compromise.
“It’s an alternative that addresses all the governor’s concerns about redevelopment,” she said. “It gives the state a way to address the near term budget shortfall without the devastating long term economic consequences of ending redevelopment.”
And some are questioning whether the governor’s proposal is even legal. Chris McKenzie is the Executive Director of the League of California Cities. He said the governor’s proposal violates Proposition 22, which was passed last fall.
“The voters, by a margin on 61 to 39 percent, said that redevelopment funds can’t be taken either directly or indirectly as the governor has proposed,” he said. “So it’s a blatant violation of the Constitution.”
But that may be open for debate. Jessica Levinson is the director for political reform at the Center for Governmental Studies in Los Angeles. She said Proposition 22 is one of the most complicated ballot measures she’s ever seen. And she said it hasn’t been tested in court.
“I do think it’s likely that, if local mayors think there is a chance, then they’ll spend the money to wage that battle,” she said.
Levinson said the non-partisan Legislative Analysts Office believes Brown’s proposal is sound and that redevelopment agencies are not always as profitable for cities as they claim to be. But the San Diego Mayor’s office said redevelopment has worked here and that the city is used as a model for others. And they want to keep it that way. San Diego has put together a list of projects worth $4 billion it wants to launch in case redevelopment agencies are abolished. The city council considers the projects on Monday.