Being the fiscal conservative I am, if it's really true, I am absolutely ecstatic about Gov. Brown's move to take away the developers' welfare apparatus. Having done a few years of planning myself, I discovered first hand how easy the corruption can occur, particularly when officially sanctioned as a joint government - private sector enterprise. I have always felt government should regulate zoning as part of its responsibility. We don't want hog farms in our neighborhoods. However, if private interests want to develop it should be on their own nickel, where the residents should NOT be paying for any part of it. If the people want to fund infrastructure, or public buildings, they should be proposed as a ballot issue, and not as some grand ego boost to the custom haircut crowd in power. Maybe Governor Moonbeam has finally grown some ____s, and has pre-empted the developer crowd before they got to him. You know they will be knocking on his door very shortly to co-opt him.
I will finally find some respect for him if he follows through. John, keep banging on your keyboard. Yours, Don Watts
"... some grand ego boost to the custom haircut crowd in power." Damn that is good. Don, you can write for this blog anytime you want.
There is this guy named Chris Norby. A staunchly conservative Republican, he was for the longest time an Orange County Supervisor. He then ran for the California Assembly and won. And he was a kind of hero to preservationist and go slow on development folks like myself because he was without a doubt the most effective voice against redevelopment and Eminent Domain in the State of California. His remarkable treatise, Redevelopment: The Unknown Government (access by clicking here) ignited a furor throughout the state in the late 1990s. It was about the use of Eminent Domain to build such typical redevelopment boondoggles as shopping malls, mixed use condo projects and car lots.
And outside of an unfortunate effort in support of a highly misguided sales and property tax redistribution scheme (his work at SCAG for this odd notion was particularly dismaying), Chris has pretty much stayed down with his original vision of putting the rights of the individual property owners ahead of - let's say - something like John Buchanan and Joe Mosca's Downtown Specific Plan here in Sierra Madre. Something that, had it succeeded, would have turned our downtown area into something approximating Glendale by now. And yes, Eminent Domain was a part of the DSP mix. Don't ever let them tell you it wasn't.
Chris Norby is the sponsor of a bill in Sacramento called AB 1859. Corporatists within the Democratic Party (unfortunately the dominant faction within the state party I am very tenuously still a member of) are doing all they can to kill 1859 because it threatens the interests of some of their favorite lobbies. It is still under consideration. Here is how Greg Sebourn describes it on his blog out of Chris's hometown of Fullerton:
Redevelopment Accountability - This bill would require all new, expansions or extensions of redevelopment areas to be subject to review by county LAFCOs (Local Agency Formation Commissions). Currently, redevelopment agencies can be created and expanded without oversight, negatively impacting county revenue, with lawsuits as the only recourse. LAFCO oversight will better mediate revenue disputes between counties and cities resulting from redevelopment diversions and avoid costly litigation.
Now with our decidedly uncorporatist (at least so far) new Democratic Governor Jerry Brown coming out with a plan to put a stake (in the vampire sense) to the hearts of Community Redevelopment Agencies (CRAs) everywhere in California (even Sierra Madre), we can see some of Norby's work hitting the big time. And the thing is Norby recognizes this and has now actually come out in support of Jerry Brown's bold initiative.
Can it be we are starting to see a conservative-liberal coalition to save California in the works? Certainly that would be a miracle that no one could have even dreamed of last October.
From the always excellent Flash Report news site, here is Norby's take on Jerry Brown and his courageous stand on redevelopment agencies:
Jerry Brown is a liberal democrat who's top priority will be to increase state revenues to save as many state programs as he can. But he's smart enough to realize that tough choices must be made. He cannot repeal facts, cannot print or borrow money endlessly -- only the president and Congress can do that. Brown's announced goal of abolishing redevelopment agencies shows that he is willing to make major cuts. He knows that higher taxes aren't enough. Real shifts must be made internally.
Redevelopment agencies divert over $6 billion annually from public services such as schools, police and fire protection. That's 12% of all property taxes statewide. Though created originally as a temporary fix to clean up urban blight, they have become a permanent drain on public funds and a playground for bureaucrats, planners and politically-connected developers who prefer profits from the public trough rather than the free market.
Again, the kind of redevelopment money-fueled development Norby is describing here is exactly what we in Sierra Madre saw with John and Joe's Downtown Specific Plan. Which is something that, had Measure V not stopped them dead in their tracks, would have used your hard earned property tax money to help destroy your town.
California is littered with half-empty malls, vacant auto dealerships and closed theaters that were overbuilt by public subsidies. Study after study has shown that agencies are not net job creators and make construction more costly in prevailing wage (union) requirements. Agencies not only have the power of the public purse, but also expanded powers of eminent domain. Small merchants and homeowners have no property rights in the face of politically-connected developers using the cudgel of condemnation. The Supreme Court's infamous Kelo decision reaffirmed the politicians' power to take your property and give it someone else.
If the Jerry Browns and the Chris Norbys of this flawed old world can work together on something as important as this, there might be hope for California after all. Stand up and be counted on this one. Don Watts and I say so.
Yesterday's post on the EVG press conference was our most highly rated ever
The hits kept coming all through the night and we know stand at well over 4,500 for that one. Which for a "hyperlocal" (to use the current annoying jargon) blog in a town of around 10,000 souls is a helluva lot. Certainly not all of this traffic was from Sierra Madre. Our EVG piece yesterday has been linked to some fairly large sites, and a decent portion of the traffic we're getting is being driven from there. CBS News Los Angeles being one of those sites. Plus the recent kind exposure we've received in the Pasadena Star News has helped as well.
Now I have no idea where any individual post comes from. The system I use doesn't allow for it. Which is fine with me. I fully support the right to post anonymously. I would much prefer to hear your opinions than track your identity. We'll leave that kind of thing to the Facebooks of this world.
However, I can track what systems posts are coming from. The vast majority emerge from Google, with Bing!, Roadrunner, Yahoo, AOL, Earthlink and various ISPs of that ilk being where most stuff comes from. But would you believe that 17 posts were actually generated yesterday from a site called getdentalimplantsinfo.com? You just know you've hit the big time when even dental services sites get in on the action.
There was something else that I found interesting about yesterday's events, and that was the press coverage it generated. It is pretty astonishing just how cookie cutter the reporting was. There were notable exceptions of course (well, one anyway), but by and large what the press had to say was very close to the stuff in the City of Sierra Madre press release. If these were college essay tests rather than so-called news articles the authors could have been expelled for cribbing.
We'll have to get into that one tomorrow.