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Unclassified Info: Agency's demise is an interesting development

Well, now that the floats are dismantled, the decorations are stored and we are beyond the gluttony of the holidays, it’s time to turn our attention back to matters of civic interest. Let’s start with Assembly Bill 1x 26, better known as the demise of local redevelopment agencies.

In theory, getting rid of redevelopment agencies is supposed to save the state nearly $2 billion in the next fiscal year. And if Gov. Jerry Brown is true to his word, some of that money will go to schools, law enforcement and fire departments around the state. Again, in theory this sounds like good news.

Of much interest to me is how little public outcry there has been on the matter. Admittedly, I’ve spent vast amounts of recent column space waxing nostalgic about papier-mâché elephants and Christmas decorations while paying little attention to the slow, lingering death of our redevelopment agency. But my excuse has its roots in disdain with a subtle hint of “It’s about time!”

Sure, objections have trickled in from people whose livelihood depends on the existence of the Glendale Redevelopment Agency. I would expect nothing less. When General Motors shut down its Saturn division in 2009, I was laid off because I happened to be working on the advertising account. Needless to say, I was probably more vociferous about the state of GM than most people in Southern California.

So I can empathize with redevelopment employees who are worried about possible pink slips and the obligatory cake-and-punch farewell party. It probably wasn’t a very happy holidays knowing what is coming in the next few months.

For the rest of us with no real investment in redevelopment agencies, there seems to be real apathy associated with whether this particular bureaucratic limb gets saved or amputated. Well, that might not be entirely true.

Super developers like Eli Broad and our own dear leader, Rick Caruso, are probably bummed out on a large scale. Land barons like the aforementioned have had a pretty good time at the expense of redevelopment agencies around the state.

Broad has had a field day in Los Angeles getting the city to pony up big money to help get his museum and the surrounding area fixed up. And as for Caruso? Well let’s just say he’s done all right suckling off our city coffers.

Redevelopment agencies look less like civic serving entities and more like self-serve troughs where the rich get fat and their projects find subsidies, often with little public oversight or accountability.

Only time will tell if the wrecking ball Brown is swinging at redevelopment agencies will benefit our schools, fire and police departments. As we’ve seen countless times, a lot can happen to money while on its way into the hand of the needy. And counting chickens before they hatch is a fool’s game.

But I’d much rather our property taxes have a slim chance at reaching our vastly underfunded educational system than for those dollars to continue to flood into the pockets of real estate developers with vast art collections or visions of owning the Dodgers.

In truth, Glendale no longer needs a redevelopment agency. We’ve got a new tagline that ought to bring in an abundance of visitors, businesses and tax revenues to our fair city. Expect the return on that investment to occur just as soon as we dedicate the hundreds of thousands of dollars in media money necessary to reinforce the brand.

So don’t lament the end of the days for the redevelopment agency. Instead, celebrate the beginning of our new “Animated” era.
 
 

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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