Who’s to blame for the abolition of California’s redevelopment agencies?
January 23, 2012
OPINION By MIKE BRENNLER
Lately we have heard a great deal of grumbling concerning Governor Brown’s decision to abolish Community Redevelopment Agencies (CRDA).
Much of the grumbling comes directly from city officials who complain that the Governor’s actions are akin to larceny. These officials use rhetoric such as, “we were robbed by Sacramento” and “the State is stealing our money.”
Rarely will you hear municipal officials acknowledge that abuses exist within their own CRDA and when abuses in the system are acknowledged, the officials normally point to examples in other cities, with the caveat that their own city should not be punished for the actions of others.
Such blame games have not created an environment whereby the abuses can be dissected and rectified.
In concept, the formation of CRDA was sound. Created in 1945, the idea was to allow cities and counties to address urban blight which was defined as substantial, prevalent adverse physical and economic conditions that inhibited community development and growth. It was not created for some of the uses we see employed today, including ongoing maintenance and marketing strategies.
Like many good ideas, over time the CRDA rules were exploited, often for political purposes.
An excellent educational video entitled “Billions In Fraud & Waste, Who Will Stop it” can be accessed through the website www.fulldisclosure.net. It is a resource for those wishing to learn more about the abuses in CRDA system.
As a past member of the Atascadero CRDA I came to view the agency as the political tool it was. In contemplating and voting on agenda items I relied on the representation of both the city manager and city attorney as to the legitimacy of the actions we were taking. After educating myself I became uncomfortable with some of the actions and expenditures that have occurred.
After analysis of the laws it became apparent that expenditures of CRDA dollars for certain maintenance functions were in direct conflict with RDA law specifically, 33445 (a) (3) which states in part, “A redevelopment agency shall not pay for the normal maintenance or operations of buildings, facilities, structures, or other improvements that are publicly owned.”
There were also expenditures for projects outside the established CRDA zone and I have knowledge that a principled city employee had conversations with the city manager expressing concerns about to the propriety of such expenditures.
One such expenditure was for the Alvord Field project, where the concession stand was remodeled. This expenditure approximated $200,000.00 which some may argue is excessive government spending.
Although I am a strong supporter of youth sports this particular expenditure should not have come through the CRDA, in part because the field is outside the CRDA zone. It should have been funded through the General Fund.
One additional matter of impropriety deals with the proposed downtown pedestrian bridge. Although I support the concept, I have voiced opposition to Council Member O’Malley’s participation and voting on the project because a member of his immediate family owns property within 25 feet of the proposed bridge and stands to benefit greatly. When confronted publically on the appropriateness of his actions, O’Malley obfuscated.
Thus far O’Malley has participated in and voted on the expenditure of over $1 million which is on face value, unethical and dishonest.
In my opinion the state abolished the CRDA system in accordance with the old adage “you abuse it and you lose it.”
My hope is that the state will reinstate the CRDA system by restructuring it, reforming CRDA law and establishing the necessary auditing mechanisms to bring about accountability in the people who govern the CRDA.
Mike Brennler 30 year resident of Atascadero, former mayor and member of the Atascadero Redevelopment Agency.