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Another View: Redevelopment agencies to blame for own demise

Rachel Smith swims as a mermaid in the aquarium above the Dive Bar in Sacramento in 2011. A redevelopment grant to the bar became an issue in the debate that led to the end of redevelopment agencies.
Rachel Smith swims as a mermaid in the aquarium above the Dive Bar in Sacramento in 2011. A redevelopment grant to the bar became an issue in the debate that led to the end of redevelopment agencies. Sacramento Bee file

Redevelopment may be finished in California, but it lives on as a political football in the Sacramento mayor’s race (“Steinberg’s role in agencies’ end becomes campaign issue,” The Public Eye, April 17).

City Councilwoman Angelique Ashby claims that redevelopment’s demise was the handiwork of Darrell Steinberg, president pro tem of the state Senate during the critical period in 2011 when Gov. Jerry Brown, the Legislature and the state Supreme Court grappled with a serious budget crisis and the future of redevelopment.

Steinberg tried to save redevelopment only to have the agencies not only spurn his effort, but bring about their own demise through a scorched-earth lawsuit.

When Brown took office in early 2011, he faced a $25.5 billion budget deficit. He proposed a mix of new taxes and spending cuts, including a proposal to eliminate the state’s 450 redevelopment agencies to reduce the deficit by $1.7 billion.

Steinberg did play a pivotal role in the debate over redevelopment. A two-bill package developed under his direction would have eliminated the agencies, but then allowed them to be reconstituted, while still generating the $1.7 billion in budget savings. The voluntary program would have maintained the basic structure of redevelopment, including the 20 percent set aside for affordable housing, and allowed the full restoration of funding as the state’s economy recovered.

Redevelopment agencies, not happy with their half a loaf, challenged the constitutionality of the two bills. The state Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature had the power to abolish the agencies, but it found that the voluntary redevelopment program violated Proposition 22, a 2010 initiative sponsored by cities intended to prevent the state from diverting redevelopment revenues.

To somehow imply that the state had reasonable alternatives to closing its budget deficit that would not have impacted redevelopment is to peddle a fantasy. In the real world, tough decisions have to be made and the mermaids have to come up for air.

Dave Jones, a former Sacramento City Council member and state Assemblyman, is the state insurance commissioner and has endorsed Darrell Steinberg for Sacramento mayor. He can be contacted at insurancecommissionerdavejones@gmail.com.

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