Today’s Editorial in the L.A. Times (Beyond the CRAs, Sep. 22, 2013, at p. A25 is a gem. It tells us in hyperventilated prose just how bad California Community Redevelopment Agencies were. Ready? Here it comes.
“CRAs pumped public money into private development plans to build car dealerships, entertainment complexes, and other projects that demonstrated little public value beyond the increased property tax revenues — which didn’t even help pay for schools or police but stayed with the [redevelopment] agencies for the next project and the one after that.
“Throw in the occasional forced sale to an agency under eminent domain powers, and CRAs became government overreach at its worst. Taking into account increasingly goofy definitions of blight, it’s fair to say that some redevelopment projects caused more blight than erased.”
So we ask: Where the hell was the L.A. Times indignant editorial page when all that was going on?
Oh sure, we recall one Times front-page expose of the North Hollywood redevelopment project that, after blowing some $117 million produced nothing and had to begin all over again. Adjacent areas that were not the “beneficiaries” of that redevelopment project were no worse off that the affected North Hollywood area. Oh but what they accomplished was to engender such fury on the part of local residents that the CRA had to move its local office to a more secure building for fear of violence. Your tax dollars at work.
So what does the Times propose now? Pretty much the same ol’ thing, only under a different name: Instead of Community Redevelopment Agencies, the new outfits would be called Sustainable Community Investment Authorities — “which would foster a new kind of redevelopment based on cooperation, rather than competition, among governments trying to share tax dollars to spark economic development.” In other words, a cartel of local agencies working together.
There is more that we could say, but it isn’t necessary, except to note that this wonderful new proposal is silent as to how these wonderful new agencies would acquire the land necessary their wonders to perform. Eminent domain anyone? It would so appear, unless the Times knows of some other miraculous way that those new, new, tax-increment-generating properties would transfer themselves into government ownership and then into redeveloper ownership, so their newly-generated incremental tax revenue streams could flow to — ta, da! — the state, rather than “to old style diversion” into local redevelopment agencies. But either way, these funds would eventually have to find its way into redevelopers’ pockets or those new projects would not be built. How else would anybody have an incentive to get involved in this caper if not to make a buck? After all, to paraphrase the immortal line of Willie Sutton, you go where the bucks are.