Last night's Oversight Board/CRA Successor Agency chin wag was basically designed to lay out rules and procedures, plus picking figureheads that will get to occupy the more desirable seats at the dais. And if you don't think that is a big deal, then ask Joe Mosca why he was so upset at being passed over twice for Mayor. The center of attention is where anyone of consequence would want to be. The Chair was chosen, which is to be Marilyn Diaz, our former Chief of Police. The Vice Chair was picked, and that is to be a Mister Tom "Real" Love.
Bart Doyle wasn't there last evening, which kind of indicates he believed that nothing really all that important was going to happen. He may be saving his star power for far more dramatic future proceedings, and will then be an integral part of the action.
Some things were explained, though I am not certain that much comfort was extended to the concerned as was hoped by those conducting this affair. The choosing of the CRA Oversight Board is dictated by the law AB1X2, which means this is a Sacramento run operation. In case you have never had the pleasure, here is a passage from that law describing its mission. You can access the rich prose of the whole thing by clicking here.
The bill would suspend various agency activities and prohibit agencies from incurring indebtedness commencing on the effective date of this act. Effective October 1, 2011, the bill would dissolve all redevelopment agencies and community development agencies in existence and designate successor agencies, as defined, as successor entities. The bill would impose various requirements on the successor agency action to review of oversight boards, which the bill would establish.
To me the most important part of that passage is the bit about who is going to get to wear the pants here in Sierra Madre when it comes to the state clawback of what once was considered to be "our" CRA money. It will not be the CRA Successor Agency, also known as the Sierra Madre City Council. No, backed by the full power of the state, the "Oversight Board," in this case chaired by Marilyn Diaz and powered by Johnny B 'n Bart, outranks our locally elected officials. Who in this matter will be required to knuckle under. Think of it as an occupation government. Or at least a partial one. The City Council will still have dog ordinances and fee increases to ponder.
To use one of those always popular cosmic metaphors, the vast debt generation going on in Sacramento has become like a black whole in space, and is currently sucking everything of value into it. The need for more and more money has become so desperate for the one party apparatus governing California that they are now looking for anything that isn't permanently cemented to the planet's iron core to consume. That includes CRA funded City properties, and we do have some of those. And the Oversight Board is here to help Sacramento to decide which of those we can hope to keep, and which are to go spinning off into the maw of a state government that can never seem to get enough of the good stuff.
So who are these people that are to be our overlords in these sobering matters? They come from many walks of life. And only two of them were appointed by we the Citizens of Sierra Madre through the auspices of our elected officials on the City Council. That would be Johnny B Buchanan, and Karin Schnaider. Two other former Sierra Madre officials also serve on the Oversight Board, those being Bart Doyle and Former Police Chief and now Board Chair Marilyn Diaz. They were appointed by the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors, whose members for life include Michael Antonovich. Which is whom we suspect of being responsible for Bart. Michael also played a rockin' role in the creation of Measure A, and Bart's oddly destructive role there may have pleased Antonovich.
The other folks might be more obscure to many residents here, but are in their own special ways big machers in the misty world of San Gabriel Valley quasi-governmental entities. Oversight Board Vice Chair Tom Love rocks the world from his seat on the San Gabriel Valley Water District. If you have ever watched a City Council meeting where some dude has come up to the podium with one of our favorite examples of very strange government marketing, Water Wise Owl, that's Tom. Tom was a big supporter of Joe Mosca. I think they still exchange messages on their facebook pages.
Richard Van Pelt comes to us via Pasadena Community College where he serves as the VP of Administrative Services. He also teaches courses in business education, which really isn't education at all. Or at least it isn't from the perspective of my liberal arts background. According to Rate My Professors.com, Richard has a high "Hotness Factor" as his profile features the picture of a red chili. To put this into perspective, Professor Eugene Goss, former City Council candidate and now Radio Fishbowl talk show host, has no red chili on his Rate My Professors.com page.
Our last contestant is David Jaynes, who comes to us from the shadowy world of the Pasadena Unified School District. The PUSD, which is about as popular as a skunk in a trash can here in Sierra Madre, being the current source of a lot of woe locally. Reneging on previous promises made regarding Measure TT bond funding for school construction, along with the anti-Sierra Madre restrictions contained in Measure A, have not pleased very many here. David was also absent last night. Maybe the thought of being here made him uncomfortable.
The big concern is how this Oversight Board will dispose of City properties. The apparent State policy regarding this is if a City can prove legitimate and ongoing governmental use of its CRA controlled properties, then the State will allow those properties to remain under local control. Our City Hall, along with the combined Police and Fire Department structure, being examples of CRA funded buildings that might otherwise have been sucked into the Death Star.
However, there are CRA controlled Sierra Madre properties that might not qualify for the designation of "legitimate governmental use." And at the top of that list are our once upon a time CRA-owned City parking lots. Recently Santa Barbara received significant ink (or digital impressions, which are all just lights on a screen, you know), about their consternation over the very possible loss of their parking lots to the state. This from KEYT.com (click here):
Will Santa Barbara Have to Sell its Downtown Parking Lots? The future of downtown businesses is at stake. The city of Santa Barbara may have to sell it's public parking lots in downtown, in an effort to generate funding for the state. The state's department of finance has released a trailer bill stating hat all parking lots and structures owned by the former redevelopment agency is to be considered surplus property, and sold off rather than transferred to the city. It's the latest fallout from the loss of the city's CRA.
Heavy. This loss here in Sierra Madre, should it occur, can be seen as a consequence of the unfortunate governmental practices during what have become known as the "shenanigan years." Which should not be confused in any way with the "wonder years." And one of these practices was putting City-owned properties under the control of the CRA in order to free up some of the millions in property tax cash there for other purposes. Such as funding much of the planning for the Downtown Specific Plan, partially financing a wine tasting room, or paying $30,000 for a "market demand" study. That many of these things happened when Bart Doyle and John Buchanan were serving as our elected officials does add a rich patina of irony to these proceedings.
One more thing that needs to be cleared up before I stop typing. It might be seen as something of a relief that this Oversight Board is at least partially made up of local worthies who will show us mercy when decisions on things like those parking lots are made. However, we should not take too much comfort in that, I'm afraid.
You see, anything that they might do is subject to the review of the State Department of Finance. The same dudes who are currently liberating Santa Barbara's beloved parking lots and structures. Basically all that our Oversight Board and its eclectic mix of local solons are going to do is put together reports that will detail exactly what is available to Sacramento for their dining pleasure. With the State Finance boys deciding what they will and will not take, no matter what our Oversight Board might say about it.
Here are the results of my gaze into the crystal ball. Should Jerry Brown's tax increase measure not pass this November, the state's ferocious cash jones will need to be satisfied elsewhere. And one of the places that they will look at very hard are City controlled former CRA properties. And it might not just be parking lots that they will take.