Those Screams You Hear From [Former] California Redevelopment Agencies Is the Sound of Justice

It didn’t take a rocket scientist — though at the risk of appearing immodest, your faithful servant notes for the record that he is one — to predict that in the wake of the California Supreme Court’s decision upholding the legislation abolishing redevelopment agencies, redevelopment types, confronted as they are with the prospect of having their paws removed from the public cookie jar, would scream bloody murder. Sure enough, they are doing just that. Don’t miss today’s Los Angeles Times article by Anthony York, California Cities Seek Restoration of Some Redevelopment Spending, L.A. Times, January 1, 2012 — click on http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-redevelopment-20120101,0,5207472,print.story.

From this dispatch we learn that the screaming has begun and the city folks who over the years grew accustomed to speding mucho dinero on all sorts of stupid or frivolous stuff under the banner of redevelopment, as noted in a Los Angeles Times expose last year, are aghast at having to pay for their own municipal goodies. “A Times investigation in 2010 found that dozens of cities spent hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked for affordable housing without building a single unit.” To say nothing of “corruption, questionable spending and poor accountablity.” We wrote about some of that stuff too. But we weren’t aware until today of what appears to be the two all-time championship capers of the redevelopment folks. The Times reminds us that “State Controller John Chiang last spring found that Coronado in San Diego County had multimillion-dollar oceanfront homes in its “blighted” redevelopment area. In Palm Desert, officials allocated $16.7 million to clean up blight at a luxury public golf course listed as a ‘best place to play’ by Golf Digest magazine.” Have any of you folks ever been to Coronado? No? In that case let us inform you that in the olden days, when the San Diego area was synonymous with the U.S. Navy, Coronado was sometimes referred to as “Admirals’ Row.”

And to show you how perverted are the values of the redeveloper folks, get this. Among the laments over the demise of redevelopment in California, we find another one from San Diego, where it is said that “the court decision ends any thought of using redevelopment funds to build a downtown football stadium for the San Diego Chargers to replace aging Qualcomm Stadium.” Think about. Professional football is a business in which the owners’ wealth is measured in the billions, and the players’ pay in the tens of millions, yet these are the people who plead for government subsidies at the expense of fically strapped schools, police and fire protection, and all the other essential municipal services. Sheesh!

We could go on like this, but all good things (bad things too — like redevelopment) must come to an end, so we conclude with the sage words of Governor Jerry Brown’s spokesman, Gil Duran, who is quoted as saying that the cities have brought doom upon themselves by suing the state, challenging the compromise agreement the Legislature struck during last spring’s budget negotiations. That deal, which would have allowed agencies to survive under a revenue-sharing agreement with the state was the one struck down in Thursday’s ruling. ” ‘The redevelopment people are screaming from the mountaintops and calling for a compromise,’ Duran said. ‘They had a compromise, but they rushed to court and they blew themselves up.’ ”

So it looks like a case of justice.

Still, since we need to retain our status as a curmudgeon, we fear that some sort of snaky deal will be worked out. After all, folks, this is California, a state that has elevated government profligacy to an art form. But if such a compromise comes to pass, here is our suggestion for salvaging something out of this civic, moral and fiscal disaster: how about making redevelopment agencies repay to the counties all the money they wasted on their profligate and corrupt projects, before they get another nickel?

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