So what is this document? Well, it comes from the League Of California Cities. You know, that confab of towns and cities from across the length and breadth of this our Golden State, all a-working together to make things better for the likes of us. Which we all know usually turns out to be about as bad an idea as can be imagined. Functional special interest lobbyist bait is what these kinds of things become, with our interests at just about the murky bottom of what is an immense mountain of chicken manure.
Or so I've thought. Now what could be more embarrassing to the hardened skeptic than to discover that something good could be happening at "The League." An effort that might actually be an answer to our prayers as we fight to save our city from falling into the hands of a grotesque regionalism? Here is how the document I've been talking up for three paragraphs is headed:
To: League Policy Committees Considering Motion to Suspend AB 32 and SB 375 until Sufficient Implementation Resources are Available.
From: League Staff
Date: March 25, 2010
Re: Background Information Related to Policy Committee Recommendation to Draft Letters Asking the Governor to Suspend AB 32 and the Legislature to Suspend SB 375
Now THAT is some exciting news, and from what I would consider to be a most unlikely source. I'm not sure Mayor Mosca will be very happy to hear about this one. You know that once he gets his mind set on something, he really doesn't like it very much when people are not in complete accord. And for The League to be considering something this subversive and contrary to what the sensible folks in Sacramento and SCAG are saying these days? Well, it just isn't supposed to be like that. As the current thinking here in Sierra Madre has it, how can we be happy when everybody doesn't agree? On everything?
So what is the League's beef with AB 32 and SB 375? It does seem surprising given that when these two now widely disparaged laws were first being cooked up, the League of California Cities was quite supportive. And here even claim to continue to still be just that. But now it appears that they've figured out that the congenitally impoverished Sacramento is going to try and get it done on the backs of California's cities. Their concern here is just as it was when Sacramento was confiscating city property taxes and redevelopment money. The League has gotten their game on once again and is telling Sacramento that if they can't pay for AB 32 and SB 375, then they have no other choice but to suspend them, at least for a while. Because their member cities sure can't be expected to pick up the tab.
Here is how The League, in a letter to State Senator Darrell "Father of SB 375" Steinberg, lays it all out:
1) Sufficient Funding for MPOs: First, we believe that the regional metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) should have adequate funding to address their new duties under SB 375. Although MPOs have access to federal planning funds that are not available to local governments, it is likely that the new planning, modeling, and environmental review requirements will exceed those resources - particularly in those regions where SB 375 will apply first.
2) Sufficient Local Planning Dollars: Second, local governments will need additional planning dollars to help reduce GhG emissions. Even if all of the $90 million of Proposition 84's sustainable planning funds were allotted to local government planning, it would be a small fraction of the ongoing cost that California's 480 cities and 58 counties will need to update their general plans (including public outreach and environmental review) to develop plans that will reduce emission targets. We are somewhat heartened by the potential availability of funds from the federal energy efficiency and conservation block grant program for planning, but also note that these funds are also intended for a variety of energy saving strategies that will have a greater immediate impact on reducing GhG emissions than planning.
3) The Infill Infrastructure Challenge: Third, we also look forward to working with you on finding new ways to fund the infill infrastructure needed to serve the type of infill communities that we all agree will help create more livable communities for California. As we have discussed on several occasions, our state's fiscal structure favors greenfield developments where local agencies can most easily establish capital facilities funding plans and Mello Roos financing districts. Finding adequate infrastructure dollars for the new water and sewer pipes, walkable pathways, safe streets, adequate fire and police protection, and parks needed for infill areas is much more difficult.
4) Current Budget Process Must Protect Local Revenues to Make Progress on SB 375 and AB 32: Finally, we wanted to address a real concern we have with the state's budget situation. We know the state faces daunting deficits. However, the state must lead by example. The Scoping Plan refers to cities and counties as essential partners in achieving AB 32's goal. But the partnership has already been put to the test by budget decisions that took money from two key pots that will be necessary to build the communities envisioned by SB 375: redevelopment for infill development and Spillover Funds for transportation.
Sounds like yet another good reason for spending city redevelopment funds on public education rather than Arnold and Darrell's Jetsons visions for the future. Then there is this:
We support the stated goals of AB 32 and SB 375, but local budgets are already under extraordinary stress and can not withstand any more state takeaways or "loans" of property tax, redevelopment, transit and street maintenance funds. It is essential that thee state keep its part of the bargain. Asking local agencies to shoulder any more of the burden of AB 32 and SB 375 implementation or using local funds to finance the state budget will essentially slow or block our progress toward achieving the goal.
What The League of California Cities seems to be saying to Sacramento here is that if you want this stuff, you are the ones who will have to pay for it. Because we sure aren't.
But then there is this ominous scenario. What if the state calls The League's bluff and goes forward with AB 32 and SB 375 anyway? And does it with billions upon billions of seized city property and redevelopment tax dollars? Wouldn't this be the wholesale confiscation of traditional city powers over their own financial destinies, centralizing them in Sacramento in order to enforce what is a state scheme for a massive reorganization of the way people in California live their lives? Didn't some similarly misguided folks attempt this sort of thing in Eastern Europe during the 1950s?
Just about as big an issue as you will find anywhere these days if you ask me.
Bonus Coverage: The Measure CC election is going to set back the PUSD $530,000 in County of Los Angeles costs. PSN story available here.