That’s why it was a slap in the face to the public when legislators approved new laws last year that aim to make up the state’s deficit by forcing cities and counties to pay a ransom to keep their redevelopment agencies.
Redevelopment agency funds have become a vital source of revenue for cities and counties throughout the state, allowing them to revitalize dilapidated downtown areas and complete other much-needed projects. Locally, RDA money has been used to build a new roof at Patterson Fire Station 1, replacing a perennially leaky one, and to revamp the Center Building, which houses the city’s historical museum.
It also could be used to give new life to the city’s downtown parks off of Plaza Circle and could someday be used for a downtown streetscape project, similar to those implemented in nearby cities, such as Newman, Turlock and Modesto.
The state Supreme Court rightly rejected the Legislature’s attempt to require annual payments from cities that wanted to retain their redevelopment agencies. While adhering to the letter of the law, however, justices ignored the spirit of Proposition 22 by allowing the state to eliminate redevelopment agencies, as they argued that the state brought those agencies into existence and therefore could take them away.
Even many of the legislators who approved of the RDA ransom plan have lamented that they never intended for redevelopment agencies to disappear entirely. As lawmakers appear likely to go back to the drawing board regarding RDA legislation this week, we hope they will reconsider their past actions and resolve the state’s budget problems without burdening municipalities, which already have made their fair share of cuts.
Our own state representatives, Sen. Anthony Cannella and Assemblyman Bill Berryhill, hopefully will be able to work with fellow legislators together to come up with a more adequate plan. The two Ceres Republicans already have done an admirable job standing up for local governments in their opposition to the RDA ransom plan.
Cannella, who previously served as mayor of Ceres, remarked this week that he had learned the importance of redevelopment agencies through his mayoral experience. If more state leaders had that kind of perspective, perhaps we could have avoided this mess.
State lawmakers need to do a better job communicating with their constituents, including city and county leaders, to get a better grasp of the struggles they face. They can send a strong message of support this week by coming up with a plan to reinstate redevelopment agencies.