Redevelopment Partners In Slime

Redevelopment Partners In Slime

Katy Grimes: Trying to fill the thrice-vacant City Manager position, Sacramento’s City Council made a job offer to a candidate yesterday. But the politically incestuous connection local politicians have with John Shirey, the candidate and current head of the California Redevelopment Association, reeks like stinky fish.

“Council members voted 8-1 in a closed session to approve John Shirey to the high profile, volatile job…” CBS news reported.

Shirey currently works in Sacramento as top dog of an agency looking deep into the abyss, after passage of Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget bill to kill redevelopment agencies in the state.

But Shirey fought back after Brown first proposed the agency elimination, albeit using a weak argument. At a committee hearing last Spring, Shirey claimed that the governor’s proposal was unconstitutional — even after State Finance Director Anna Matosantos said there was no unconstitutionality at all with the proposal, and guaranteed that it was “within the legal limits to eliminate an agency.”

And after it appeared that Brown’s budget cutting measure was growing legs, Shirey was at the helm watching as redevelopment agencies throughout the state began approving projects at record speed, increasing bond indebtedness and state obligation.

Fortunately, Sacramento’s Mayor Kevin Johnson,was not enamored of Shirey’s candidacy, as his was the only “no” vote in yesterday’s closed council session.

Sacramento has a long history of questionable publicly funded redevelopment projects, as well as preferential treatment for a few local developers. And the Sacramento Housing and Redevelopment Agency is not one of the redevelopment agencies working on altruistic cleanup projects, as many proponents try to claim.

Most recently completed redevelopment projects in Sacramento include the controversial “Dive Bar,” also known as the Mermaid Bar on the blighted and crime laden K Street Mall. The owners of the Mermaid Bar received more than $6 million in total redevelopment subsidies, which they used to build the bar on the downtown mall.

And as head of California’s redevelopment agency, Shirey has had a key role in the fight against eminent domain reform –  practices which use extortion tactics to often intimidate and eventually grab privately-owned properties more cheaply.

Even State Treasurer Bill Lockyer said at a Spring hearing that he supported Brown’s proposal, and called redevelopment agencies “vampire agencies sucking blood from everyone around them.”

After Brown’s proposal, the Legislative Analyst’s Office reported, “Redevelopment agencies lack some of the key accountability and transparency elements common to other local agencies. Specifically, unlike other local agencies, redevelopment agencies can incur debt without voter approval.”

So while the Brown most definitely did the right thing eliminating the “vampire agencies,” Sacramento City Council members showed their lack of leadership and weaknesses, while hiring a time-tested bureaucrat for the important job.

An interesting aside was the absence of reporting on this big Sacramento news. The local CBS television news channel reported the story last evening on the 10:00 p.m. news. But there was no mention of candidate Shirey or the city council vote in today’s print version of the Sacramento Bee.  The Bee story went online today at 11:15 a.m, nearly 12 hours later.

JULY 21, 2011

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