Op-Ed: Redevelopment ‘compromise’ is just a smoke screen
The California Redevelopment Association calls its alternative to the governor’s plan to eliminate redevelopment agencies a “reasonable compromise.”
It is neither reasonable nor a compromise.
Because no bill has been formally introduced, there is no language to evaluate and no way to fully vet the CRA’s alternative. Nonetheless, as laid out in various press releases and in an Op-Ed piece by CRA executive director John Shirey in The Sacramento Bee (http://tinyurl.com/6ded2f3), the alternative doesn’t just maintain the status quo, it extends it into perpetuity.
Under the plan, billions of dollars in property tax would continue to be siphoned away from school districts and counties every year for dubious blight-eradication projects.
The crux of the CRA alternative is a “voluntary” shift of tax-increment funds from redevelopment agencies to local school districts. That money could be counted as part of the state’s school-funding guarantee and thus would provide budget relief for the state.
In exchange for that voluntary tax shift, the redevelopment agencies could be allowed to continue to operate for another 12 years beyond their existing expiration dates. Thus, an agency set to expire in 2020, for example, would be allowed to continue operations until 2032 and one set to expire in 2040 would operate until 2052.
And what happens if a redevelopment agency decides not to volunteer a portion of its property tax to local schools? According to Shirey, “nothing happens,” the redevelopment agency merely expires when it was originally intended to expire.
The so-called compromise gets worse. Nothing in the CRA proposal prevents cities from declaring new areas blighted and forming new redevelopment zones or expanding the boundaries of existing ones. What the state gets in exchange for this compromise is an agreement that redevelopment agencies won’t sue when the state seeks to close them down under the governor’s proposal.
And there’s more. Redevelopment agencies promise (cross their hearts) to end years of abuses. They would increase accountability, expand audits, toughen the definition of blight and reposition redevelopment activities to focus on things like infill development and energy efficiency.
None of these proposals has been finalized. Redevelopment officials want to give the Legislature a year to study them before actually putting them in place.
Of course, none of what the CRA proposes is serious reform. These are ploys concocted by some of the savviest special interests in the state to delay and distract.
Unable so far to persuade lawmakers to eliminate redevelopment agencies and free up $1.7 billion or more annually of desperately needed revenue, Gov. Jerry Brown is considering other alternatives, including deeper cuts to schools and the social safety net.
As a result, thousands of teachers, police officers, librarians and social workers could lose their jobs; students, the poor, frail, elderly and disabled will be hurt further.
Meanwhile, California will continue to subsidize golf courses, high-end hotels, sport stadiums and other redevelopment projects of questionable value.
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