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Ron Kaye: A legislative system gone awry

June 17, 2011|By Ron Kaye

I don’t know how to break this bad news to you, but for all the fun and games our legislators are having in Sacramento these days, the joke is on us — the taxpayers, the residents, workers and students.

They may turn to fisticuffs at the least slight and shout denunciations at each other over ideological postures that are totally illogical, but it’s the voters who get the bills, who see our kids short-changed in their educations, who see dangerous criminals dumped on our streets without parole supervision, who see our once great state becoming a national joke.

We voted to require them to fulfill the constitutional mandate by adopting a budget by June 15 or forfeit $400 a day in pay. So they pass the budget at the last minute, but it’s so phony and unbalanced, the governor vetoes it — yet they still hope to be laughing all the way to the bank without losing a cent.

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They abolish community redevelopment agencies and seize their $1.7 billion in tax increments with one measure and then pass another bill giving cities the choice of keeping their agencies alive but with only a trickle of dollars.

For city officials in Burbank and Glendale, this poses big problems coming on top of their own budget problems.

The twin redevelopment measures have passed both houses — with local Democratic legislators Sen. Carol Liu and Assemblyman Mike Gatto listed as supporters — but have not been sent to the governor for his signature or veto. They are hostages in the political fun and games of both parties.

“They are jeopardizing our plans for street projects, park improvements, a community center,” said Burbank Deputy City Manager Joy Forbes, who estimates the community redevelopment agency legislation could cost the city $16 million in the next year and make it impossible to recoup the $50-million loan granted to get the agency going originally.

On a disaster scale of 10, she rates the loss of tax increments the city keeps from its redevelopment investments at 8.5 and, like Glendale City Manager Jim Starbird, questions why the abuses of redevelopment powers — including the ability to seize private property under eminent domain and give it to other private interests — weren’t cleaned up rather than getting rid of, or gutting, a program that has worked so well to keep their cities healthy.

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