More than a dozen East Bay politicians and affordable housing advocates rallied in Downtown Oakland Wednesday to protest Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to shutter the state's redevelopment agencies.
Protesters joined the pols in Henry J. Kaiser Memorial Park to condemn the governor's proposed cuts, saying the proposal would put more than 300,000 jobs at risk and kill $40 billion in economic activity statewide.
“This proposal represents more of the same misguided and illegal state budget raids of local government funds that voters have repeatedly sought to end,” said Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. “It is penny-wise and pound-foolish to take away one of the state's most effective economic development tools.”
Quan gestured to the historic Fox Oakland Theatre and the 1,000 affordable housing units surrounding the square, the results of $67 million in redevelopment funds invested in the area which in turn spurred an additional $450 million in private investment.
Union City Mayor Mark Green called Brown's budget “one of the worst proposals that has come out of Sacramento [in] 40 years.” (Click on the video to the right to hear Green's speech.)
He listed his redevelopment agency's , which included cleaning up a site contaminated with PCBs and replacing it with affordable housing.
Twenty percent of the property tax revenue used to fund redevelopment agencies is required by law to be spent on low-income housing.
“Thats a lot of money lost for affordable housing,” said Linda Mandolini, the Executive Director for Eden Housing, an affordable housing organization based in Alameda County.
The effects will probably be most intensely felt in unincorporated areas, “because they don't have any other resources aside from the state," Mandolini said.
Speaking for the Building Industry Association of the Bay Area, Executive Director Bob Glover pointed out that aside from hurting an already ailing construction industry thirsty for jobs, cutting redevelopment funds would make it “virtually impossible” to meet the state's with smart development.
However, lingering in the back of the conference and waiting for their chance in front of the cameras, two public figures from Contra Costa County held a different view.
Contra Costa County District 1 Supervisor John Gioia, along with Jim Bickert, president of the Deputy Sheriff's Association, attended the event to voice their support for Brown's proposal.
The money that goes to redevelopment agencies is property tax that is diverted from other local agencies like schools, police departments and firehouses. In light of the large deficit, the two argued that politicians have to reexamine their priorities and take care of core services first.
“Before we start building nicer buildings, we need to take care of some of government's core responsibilities,” Bickert said.
The two were backed by an independent report released that day by the Legislative Analyst Office, which issues an annual assessment of the governor’s budget proposal intended to inform lawmakers before their vote.
According to the report, Brown's proposal would sure up $1.7 billion in the budget by offsetting state general fund costs for Medi-Cal and trial courts.
Redevelopment programs, the report found, divert revenue from local governments and increase state education costs, the programs have limited transparency and accountability and “no evidence” was found that redevelopment increases regional economic development.
“Given the significant policy shortcomings of California’s redevelopment program, we agree with the Governor’s proposal to end it and to offer local governments alternative tools to finance economic development,” the report concluded.
Mayor Quan said she was hopeful that legislators would side with she and her colleagues when it comes to a vote, but Union City Mayor Green seemed more discouraged, saying all he's gotten from lawmakers so far was sympathy.
It comes down to an age old political trade-off, Green said: Politicians want to know how much their support is worth to him and whether he'll give them his support on the next issue.
Green said his answer is: if this passes don't come to him for support for anything.
“Somewhere down the line there has to be some calling out of the cards on this one,” he said.
Though legislators have till the end of the spring to decide on the budget, Governor Brown is pushing for a decision by March.