Ceremoniously gathered at the heart of an urban core built on redevelopment funds, city leaders from across Southern California -- including Cerritos Mayor Carol Chen and Artesia Mayor Victor Manalo -- stood on the steps of the Long Beach Police Headquarters last Thursday to oppose the state in its effort to divert money from city redevelopment programs.
Representatives from several cities including, Cerritos, Artesia, Long Beach and Pasadena, which have hundreds of millions at stake, announced plans to support a lawsuit seeking to overturn two state laws that will dissolve city redevelopment agencies or require the agencies to pay a combined $1.7 billion to the state to continue operating. Calling the new laws, which were passed with the state budget a “ransom,” the officials said the bills would hurt job creation and the local economy.
“This is an attempt to take our destiny out of our hands. The bills are unconstitutional--it’s plain and simple,” said Long Beach Vice Mayor, Suja Lowenthal. Passed as part of the state budget last month, the two bills would eliminate dozens of redevelopment agencies or require them to pay a combined fee of $1.7 billion the first year and $400 million each subsequent year. Should the City of Long Beach choose to accept the “ransom,” it would have to pay $34 million.
Filed by the California League of Cities, the California Redevelopment Association and the cities of San Jose and Union City on July 18, the suit charges that the legislation violates Proposition 22, the constitutional amendment that “prohibits the state from borrowing or taking funds used for...redevelopment, or local government projects and services.”
During the gathering, Lowenthal delved into how redevelopment agencies helped Long Beach secure the new courthouse, which is one-of-a-kind in the state of California. A redevelopment agency owned the land and it partnered with the City of Long Beach to bring this project to fruition. The $490 million courthouse created 400 construction jobs and will employ 800 people once it is completed in 2013. Projects like these create jobs and boost the economy, but with the passage of the legislation, “thousands of projects are on the chopping block,” Lowenthal said.
Designed to combat blight, redevelopment agencies designate swathes of the city as redevelopment areas, and any tax growth in those areas each year goes to the city’s redevelopment agency for local improvement projects instead of to the state. Opponents of redevelopment agencies, including Gov. Brown, say the agencies siphon property tax dollars away from schools and public safety.
Besides Vice Mayor Lowenthal, dozens of mayors and city leaders arrived at the steps of the Long Beach Police Headquarters to show the public that they fully back the lawsuit, including the Cerritos and Artesia mayors, and Cerritos Councilman Bruce Barrows.
Impact on Cerritos
In an email to city residents last month, Mayor Chen stated, "The City of Cerritos will be negatively impacted if Redevelopment is eliminated as proposed by the State Legislature."
Cerritos stands to lose $30 million in redevelopment funds, which is 25% of the city's total budget.
"By taking this funding away, the services that we provide to our citizens and businesses and the city staffing will mostly be cut," Chen said. Redevelopment funds have been used for building projects for the , , and the .
Impact on Artesia
Artesia Mayor Victor Manalo has openly expressed his concern that shutting down the redevelopment program would have "dire consequences" on the community.
Some of the projects supported by the Artesia's Redevelopment funds include: the Downtown revitalization, the redevelopment of city parks, street reconstruction, improvements in the Historical District, and the city's new Public Works yard.
Jobs that would be at risk with the removal of redevelopment funds in Artesia include: Finance Aide, Redevelopment and Planning Director, and Administrative Analyst.
Other notable representatives from nearby Long Beach that attended last week's rally were: Signal Hill Mayor, Larry Forester; Long Beach Redevelopment Agency Board Member, John Thomas; Long Beach Area Chamber of Commerce Chair, Joanne Davis; and AFSCME Local 1890 President, Michelle Banks-Ordone.
Forester moved the crowd by showing his passion for this subject. “What part of ‘no’ do politicians not understand?” he asked the audience. “They are destroying our communities--eliminating the best tool we have,” he added.
Banks-Ordone provided statistics on how redevelopment agencies create jobs. “The agencies support 304,000 jobs statewide and over 70,000 of those jobs are in construction,” she said.
In terms of how the League is going to respond to politicians in Sacramento who support the bills, League officials said its members will discuss whom to support in Sacramento. But, overall, efforts are focused on the elimination of both bills.
Third District City Council Member, Gary DeLong could not attend but commented that the city of Long Beach fully supports the suit. “It is unfortunate that our state representatives once again are taking funding away from local government rather than manage their budget properly,” DeLong said.