We haven’t seen the opinion yet, being that it was filed a couple hours ago, but this morning the California Supreme Court upheld last year’s legislative enactment abolishing redevelopment agencies in California. It held that the legislature, as the government body that created redevelopment agencies, also had the power to abolish them.
The decision also has a special wrinkle to it. The California legislature had also adopted a statute that would permit redevelopment agencies to stay alive, provided they shared a large part of their revenues with the state. That part of the law was stricken down. In 2010 California redevelopment agencies successfully promoted a statewide proposition that would prohibit transfer of redevelopment funds to the state for other uses. Therefore, such a fund transfer would be unconstitutional under the state constitution, and was therefore invalid.
We find it of particular interest that the State’s argument included the point that over time redevelopment agencies got to abuse the redevelopment laws to take tax money that by rights should have gone to schools and local services and devote it to other purposes. Hah! So where were these hypocrites all these years while these abuses were going on and copious amounts of public money were wasted on “redevelopment projects” many of which failed and never got off the ground, while the people whose land was taken for them went undercompensated? The author of the majority opinion is Justice Katherine Werdegar, with a one-justice dissent by Chef Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.
We expect we will have more to say after reading the opinion, so stay tuned.
Follow up. To see the opinion go to http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/S194861.PDF. This is a whopper of an opinion that runs to 83 pages with a 27-page dissent.
Also, a noteworthy feature of this opinion is that it cites a number of law review articles, mostly in support of the court’s recitation of pertinent history of California government organization and financing.
Check out today’s Los Angeles Times which covers the aftermath of the court’s ruling – Maura Dolan, Jessica Garrison and Anthony York, California High Court Puts Redevelopment Agencies Out of Business, December 29, 2011. Click http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-redevelopment-20111230,0,7617164.story.
The bottom line: Over the years, California Redevelopment Agencies grew so powerful, so rich and so arrogant that they lost their ability to perceive reality and to make sensible judgments. When they arrogantly took the position that their funds were sacrosanct even in times of great state financial distress, when every other government entity had to tighten its belt, they asked for it by de facto challenging Governor Jerry Brown to do anything about it. He did. The legislature agreed. End of story.