"Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!" - Gomer Pyle
Yes, it really is quite a mouthful. "The Oversight Board For The Successor Agency Of The City Of Sierra Madre." It isn't the kind of Committee, Commission or Board that you see meeting everyday in the City Council Chambers down City Hall way. But whoot! There it is! Complete with none other than Bart Doyle himself. And tonight's the night they'll be kicking it all off. Doors open at 7 p.m. If you are prone to anxiety attacks, be sure and bring a paper bag. You just might need to watch yourself breathe.
Now you may recall that at the almost last meeting of the previous City Council it was decided that John Buchanan, the outgoing Mayor at the time, would continue on with his storied service to the City of Sierra Madre by running something called the Successor Agency to the CRA. But beyond bringing Karin Schnaider along because she is proficient at math and can do complex spreadsheets in various modern accounting forms on her computer, that was about it.
This was deemed necessary because our Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), along with every other CRA in the State of California, had its plug pulled by Jerry Brown. The purpose being to rake back the billions of dollars in otherwise obligated property tax money these CRAs controlled. Plus the state requires it in a legal sort of way.
CRAs, as you know, were purportedly designed to fight blight and build low income housing using property tax money that would otherwise go to Sacramento. More often than not, however, this money was frittered away by corrupt and dumb City Councils who used it to do favors for supporters and reward amenable developers.
To see what kinds of things our CRA (or RDA if you prefer) money was spent on, including a $3.5 million dollar bond from the 1990s, look for the meeting notice on the City of Sierra Madre site and follow the instructions. The Agenda Report for tonight's CRA Successor Agency Oversight Board fandango can be found there, along with many of the details on actual redevelopment spends.
And what this Oversight Board is supposed to do is not only monitor the money that the state is raking back, but to negotiate our fate favorably with the powers that be so that we can possibly even keep some of it. And we're talking millions of dollars, some of it spent in the 2011 "City Councilmembers Gone Wild" episode.
But here is the catch. Suddenly it isn't just Johnny B and Karin who are working things out with Uncle Jerry, now it is a whole Committee. Who picked these people? Who authorized all of this? It certainly wasn't done in public at a City Council meeting, and no elected official I know voted for them. Was it some outside governmental dude that picked them? Michael Antonovich maybe?
In addition to the Johnster and Karin, we now also get:
Richard Van Pelt
I am sure some of these folks are fine and upstanding citizens and certainly weren't picked just because they happened to be politically aligned with John Buchanan. But here is my question, don't City Councils appoint members to such bodies as this Oversight Board? Since when does the City of Sierra Madre allow a Committee Chairman to pick his entire committee? Particularly one that is overseeing the fate of millions of dollars in our tax money? Was there some kind of a coup d'etat, and City Hall forgot to issue a Press Release about it?
And then there is Bart Doyle, a guy who hasn't won anything for anyone in years. In the mid-2000s he was the moving force behind the Downtown Specific Plan, which was ignominiously sent down in flames by the voters with Measure V. Then he moved on to manage some billion dollar bus station redevelopment project in El Monte as CEO of a company called Titan Development. Which then went belly up with some of its executives being either arrested, sued by the City of El Monte, or investigated by the FBI and HUD. Or all three. And then most recently Bart was sent to represent us at the PUSD Districting Task Force, with the result being Sierra Madre will not have a seat on the Board of Education until 2 years later than much of Pasadena and Altadena, potentially harming our ability to obtain adequate Measure TT funds for our schools.
The way things are going for Bart Doyle, we'll be lucky to even be allowed to use our City Hall after this is all over. After all, it too is CRA property, along with quite a lot of other things in town. And if you think Sacramento can't take such things away from us, consider this article from the Daily Sound (click here):
Santa Barbara's Big Parking Problem: State may force city to sell all of its downtown parking lots, killing free 75 minute parking.
In a move that could dramatically change the future of downtown parking and spell doom for free 75-minute parking, the city might have to sell all of its downtown lots, the latest fallout from the loss of its redevelopment agency.
A trailer bill released as part of the governor's May revise states that parking garages or lots owned by RDAs (CRAs) must be disposed of, as part of the dissolution of statewide redevelopment agencies. Money from the sale must then be turned over to the state.
You can see the kinds of issues that are involved here, and understand just how important to the City of Sierra Madre the work of this Oversight Board really is. After all, Sierra Madre's CRA/RDA once owned our City parking lots, and I am sure we'd love to keep them. Apparently they can now be sold and the money sent to Sacramento.
Like I said, this is important work. When applicable, it should be done by a Committee with the members appointed by all of our elected City Councilmembers. Not just a former one.