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L.A. CRA Scandal Outdoes Itself: City Council Calls Special Meeting to Steal $1 Billion From State on Election Day, After Weeks of Stalling

LA Weekly, By Simone Wilson, Tue., Mar. 8 2011

Update: The City Council votes to shield about $1 billion from Governor Jerry Brown after Councilman Paul Krekorian begs them not to, revealing the City Council only got their huge, complex reports yesterday. See jump. The Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) knew just the moment when the precious few political watchdogs in Los Angeles would have their backs turned: the 48-hour frenzy before Election Day. A time when campaign contributors are machine-gunning journalists’ inboxes with last-minute smears and unverified scandals, and said journalists are busy focusing on the future for once, instead of wading through day-old muck.

In other words, the perfect time to pounce.

The CRA posted notice for today’s “special meeting” a mere 24 hours before it began, and is now planning a followup with the L.A. City Council for tomorrow — serious deja vous of the “special meeting” that kicked this whole thing off.

What special, special things could CRA commissioners and L.A. politicians need to accomplish so quickly, you ask?

Oh, just a $930 million transfer of building projects overseen by the CRA, spread throughout areas of Los Angeles it has determined “blighted,” to the city coffers, where it’ll be protected from Governor Jerry Brown. Coincidentally, tomorrow is the last day to make the transfer, before it’s Brown’s for good.

See, Brown has the evil idea of injecting all California’s redevelopment funds straight into the communities they’re supposed to helping — through schools, welfare, emergency services, etc. — instead of letting it continue to bulge in the agencies’ pockets and feed their billionaire friends.

A growing number of critics feel that instead of going toward true community improvement, the money is often used in politically motivated deals with skyscraper-eyed poverty pimps. The bigger, the better seems to be the trend in CRA project approvals. See “Wealthy Eli Broad Gets $52 Million for a Garage; the Entirety of South L.A. Gets $32 Million” and many more in “L.A. ‘Community Redevelopment Agency’ Reminds Us Why It Should Be Toppled.”

Which brings us to today’s out-of-nowhere CRA huddle, attended by the only two people to somehow catch wind of its existence.

Apparently, $105 million of the agency’s $930 million total was stuck in pending projects — desperately needing last-minute approval before tomorrow’s joint meeting with the L.A. City Council sugar daddies.

In the hastiness of that sign-off, Hollywood activist Bob Blue notes in an e-mail that “Argyle Apartments has an approved [Environmental Impact Report] for a totally different address” and “1601 N Vine will be heard.” Cool! A couple of side-casualties to further delegitimize the big steal.

“This is as grandiose an abuse of power as I’ve seen in my life, anywhere,” says the CRA’s No. 1 enemy, Ron Kaye — and that means a lot, coming from a guy who used to run the LA Daily News.

From Kaye’s own blog today:

The LA CRA has long been the target of controversy with most of its tax increment revenue going to downtown and Hollywood and very little going to redevelop the city’s vast expanse of poor and blighted areas.Luxury hotels, luxury entertainments, luxury apartments and condominiums and high-rise office towers have gotten the bulk of the money with only the state-mandated 20 percent going to low and moderate income housing.

Tomorrow, on freaking Election Day, the L.A. City Councilmembers will ironically be faced with a decision that could be the dirtiest of their lives, if their answer is “Yes.” First, they’ll be voting on the last-minute $105 million, then the entire $930 million transfer — the same one they’ve put off three times already, successfully letting the outrage fizzle before pulling this sneak 24-hour move.

And if that’s not enough to make you angry, consider that Brown will (without doubt) sue the city for its ridiculous smuggle, costing taxpayers a million more in legal fees.

So we’ll see you there, right? The joint CRA-City Council special meeting begins at 10:15 a.m. tomorrow, “or as soon thereafter as the Council Recesses its Regular Meeting.”

Translation, courtesy of Kaye: “Or whenever they feel like it.”

Like in West Hollywood, the L.A. City Council is practically handing us a reason not to vote in the same old incumbents for another healthy round of cheatin’ the taxpayers.

Keep this in mind at the voting booth tomorrow — and as soon as you make your picks, get your ass down to City Hall and let current councilmembers know how you feel about this billion-dollar bologna. If only because John Walsh is looking so damn lonely at public comment:

P.S. Remember the redevelopment-agency audit that California Controller John Chiang promised back in January? Well, it happened. And it’s not pretty.

March 8 UPDATE, by Jill Stewart:

The City Maven and RonKayeLA report that a packed City Council chambers watched as open confusion reigned today over what would happen if the city moved about $1 billion into from the CRA to city control.

City officials apparently believe they will prevail in court if the governor and legislature insist on getting the $1 billion from the city. The City Council has been pretty bad at guessing what it can get away with in the courts (Good examples of the City Council losing in court are Senate Bill 1818 — the density bonus law — and the city’s pot moratorium).

Anyway, The City Maven quotes City Councilman Paul Krekorian, who nobody really listens to because the 15 council members have been heavily socialized by increasingly strange City Council President Eric Garcetti to vote unanimously (they do so, we are not kidding you, 99.993% of the time).

Krekorian spoke but nobody heard. City Maven’s Laura Bertocci writes:

On the other side of the horseshoe, Councilman Paul Krekorian expressed frustration over the short notice of the meeting, holding up a thick binder that had been delivered to him late last night.

“There is no excuse for making this kind of complicated difficult policy with a vast number of questions still at hand. There is no way we can do our best work in dealing with over $1 billion in funds on 24 hours notice,” he said.

Ron Kaye put it another way:

They disgraced themselves and they didn’t care. All they cared about what is good for the unions and the rich.

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