Controller Critiques Redevelopment

John Seiler:

State Controller John Chiang Monday entered the fray over redevelopment agencies with a new report labeling them not accountable. It looked at only 18 agencies, but their experience is typical of that of agencies across the state.

The report comes as Gov. Jerry Brown has called for the agencies’ elimination, which would save $1.7 billion of a $25 billion budget deficit. But the period examined actually was a previous fiscal year, July 2009 to June 2010.

The report begins with a useful history of redevelopment agencies that will come in handy as the debate unfolds. Redevelopment first was authorized by state law in 1945 with the California Community Redevelopment Act.

Historically, that coincides with the rise “urban renewal” schemes across America. Instead of improving cities, these commonly turned perfectly livable but run-down areas into abstract schemes imposed by government to help private interests, such as developers. The worst example is Detroit, where “urban renewal,” including vast clearances of slums and the construction of expressways that divided and destroyed once-vibrant communities, has combined with other maladies to effectively destroy the city.

Some findings from Chiang’s report:

* All of the 18 redevelopment agencies reviewed had reporting deficiencies.

* All of the 18 redevelopment agencies’ independent auditors failed to identify major audit violations and did not include all required information in the audit reports.

* Under current legal standards, virtually any condition could be construed to be blight.

That means they can condemn your home, your business, your neighborhood, even your whole city as “blight” — seize it using eminent domain — for any reason or no reason.

* The redevelopment agencies do not have a consistent methodology to capture accurate and reliable data regarding the number of jobs created or retained as a result of redevelopment activities.

That means anything they say about how great a redevelopment project supposedly will be never can be verified.

* Significant differences exist among redevelopment agencies for accounting for planning and general administrative costs.

Why isn’t it standardized?

All these reasons show why redevelopment in California should be ended. Zero it out of the state budget. The real blight isn’t “slums” that serve people’s needs, but redevelopment itself. It’s an assault on property rights, a destroyer of communities and an attack on the American way of life.

March 8, 2011

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