As you may have heard, out here in California, our new and fashionably recycled governor, Jerry Brown, faces a huge deficit in state finances. So to help plug this multi-billion dollar hole he has called for putting an end to redevelopment and for redirecting some $5 billion in local property tax dollars now being skimmed by redevelopment agencies (with much of it wasted according to a recent Los Angeles Times expose), to legitimate state and local uses. Predictably, this has caused screams of anguish from California municipalitires and redevelopment agencies who have been enjoying a free-spending life, wasting kings’ ransoms on all sorts of dubious projects that, if you disregard the mumbo-jumbo of eminent domain law about “public purpose,” often fail to accomplish much good. At least that’s what the Los Angeles Times told us in a recent series of reports that we blogged about earlier.
Now, the State Controller, John Chiang, has chimed in by issuing a report to the effect that “City redevelopment agencies improperly shortchanged schools by more that $40 million last year while allocating millions of dollars in public money for such things as a luxury golf course and a lobbyist,. . . ” Jessica Garrison, Controller Reports Redevelopment Agency Failings, March 8, 2011. Surprize, surprize!
Apart from disclosing that 18 cities had been using their redevelopment funds for “questionable” expenditures, “The city of San Jose charged one-fourth of the salaries of the mayor, 12 council members and 40 council staff members to the redevelopment agency. When Chiang’s office asked why, it could not get an explanation, the report said.”
But since this blog is primarily about eminent domain we have saved the best for last: The L.A. Times reports that Chiang’s office found that “cities can call virtually any area ‘blighted’ and turn it into a redevelopment area. The reports notes that Coronado, in San Diego County, includes all privately owned property in its ‘blighted’ area — including miltimillion-dollar ocean-front homes. In Palm Desert, officials allocated $16.7 million to clean up ‘blight’ at a luxury public golf course that has been listed as a ‘Best Place to Play’ by Golf Digest magazine.” Surprize, surprize!
What we find amazing is that the Times reports all this as an expose, with an air of astonishment, as if it never heard of such stuff even though it has been going on right under its nose for decades.
For the entire Los Angeles Times article go to: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-redevelopment-20110308,0,7682705.story
For coverage of these events by the Sacramento Bee, go to http://www.sacbee.com/2011/03/08/3457163/controller-issues-sharp-critique.html