Now the Pasadena Star News, which can occasionally get off message and publish something potentially displeasing to Bob the Builder and Randi the Realtor (though they certainly don't make a habit of it), ran an editorial on May 11 that gets downright radical on us. They use the predicament of the City of Montebello as an example of just how unfair city government life can be. Apparently Montebello had been using their redevelopment funds for the disreputable practice of paying city bills and not firing employees. And that is against California law which states that you can only spend this particular flavor of money on public buildings, exciting new retail locations, and low cost housing. Which is why it is so beloved to the BIA, CAR, and other shenanigan interests.
But after some obligatory tut-tutting about ends not justifying the means, the unnamed PSN editorial writers go deep with this following observation:
But what makes this even more maddening for cities is the State Legislature's hypocrisy. State law restricts the use of redevelopment funds, but apparently allows the taking of redevelopment funds to balance the state budget. La Mirada just announced it was forced to fork over $4,839,372 to the state as part of a $2.05 billion 'take' from redevelopment agencies across the state. Yes, for paying those inflated state salaries and pension costs. So is it OK for the state to do it, but not for the cities? Welcome to the rabbit hole that is our state government.
And then they go so far as to actually say this:
The Legislature should revisit the laws on restrictions of redevelopment funds. If it isn't OK for cities to spend them on general expenses, then it shouldn't be OK for the state.
Now technically the Starboys are not accurate on where the $2.05 billion is being spent. In this case it isn't going for pensions or bureaucrats' handsome salaries, it is being allocated for use by the state's starving public schools. But why quibble? I think they're really on to something here. Why should cities be squirreling away billions of dollars statewide just for redevelopment? Why should cities be involved in real estate and construction? Particularly when so many of them can't pay their bills or keep their schools operating properly? I mean, don't we already have enough stripmalls? Aren't there enough Starbucks and Sit 'n Sleeps and unwanted condo complexes in California now? Aren't kids more important than helping to fund even more convenient places to get grande triple lattes? We here at The Tattler believe it is time to set priorities straight.
There is no bigger waste of the taxpayers money than redevelopment. Particularly in times like these when there is just so little of the stuff to go around. Sacramento is going to be about $18 billion dollars in the red this year, and their tax revenue projections turned out to be 30% overstated. The City of Los Angeles is running a half a billion dollar deficit, and Pasadena is looking at a sea of red ink totaling nearly $100 million dollars. Obviously things are not going very well.
So here's the deal. If Sacramento can take city redevelopment funds for purposes other than those intended, cities should be allowed to do the same. After all, it is our money. It's time to break down the artificial wall between redevelopment and general funds and let that money be put to some better use than serving as a temptation to developers and duplicitous city officials to initiate even more unneeded condo complexes and car dealerships. Let's do like Sacramento and put that money into more important things. Like schools.
Besides, if cities don't find a way to change state law and get redevelopment money transferred over into their general fund accounts, Sacramento is eventually going to take it all anyway. Either way, redevelopment as a revenue allocation concept is pretty much a dead issue. Why should the state be the only one allowed to feed off the corpse?
Who owns City Hall? Turns out it was the CRA after all.
Once again it turns out the citizens were right. Or at least some of them. Funny how that happens. Our City Hall doesn't belong to the City of Sierra Madre. Rather it belongs to the Community Redevelopment Agency, who then leases it back to the city. This from Elaine Aguilar's agenda report on the matter:
A question was asked at a previous Council meeting regarding the property title to the City Hall and Public Safety facilities. According to LA County Assessors information, the City Hall and Public Safety facilities are owned by the Community Redevelopment Agency.
And apparently there are 7 downtown city government entities owned by the CRA. Which I guess could very well make our CRA the biggest property holder in town. So maybe when we drain the CRA's bank account and put all of that money to good use, we can also spring for the $5,000 it would take to get the City Hall (etc) ownership situation rectified and put the titles back into the hands of the people who pay the taxes here? I know that the general vibe at Tuesday's City Council meeting was that this is a technicality and our elected officials still call the shots on this matter. But still, given the now tenuous existence of the whole CRA shell game, it is time to put things right.
During our recent election Joe Mosca, in a debate setting, proclaimed that CRA ownership of city properties was basically a myth. Something he should now admit he was wrong about. Of course, maybe we should watch out for what we wish for. It would probably take an entire City Council meeting for Joe to cover all the things he was wrong about. Deliberately or otherwise.