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Board guiding redevelopment agency transition gets off to a rocky start

'We're confused,' says member of redevelopment dissolution committee.

May 04, 2012|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com

Tensions were high Thursday at the first meeting of the committee charged with guiding the dissolution of Glendale's redevelopment agency.

Board members were befuddled by their role and were unsure if they had the expertise to make decisions about the nearly $113 million Glendale wants to cover contracts through the end of the year.

“We're confused,” said Carl Raggio, former Glendale mayor and chairman of the so-called Oversight Board.

Added to the mix was some head-butting between the city and Los Angeles County appointees. City officials said the county's motives were to shift as much money as possible to its trust fund. A consultant hired by the county countered that their goal is to make sure the law is followed.

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“There are different interests in place,” said Libby Seifel, president of Seifel Consulting, which was hired by the county to guide its oversight board members.

In February, a state mandate shut down nearly 400 redevelopment agencies throughout California and created multiple dissolution agencies and schedules.

An Oversight Board — consisting of representatives for the city, county, school district and others — is the second round of review before the $113 million in obligations goes to the state Department of Finance for final approval. A group called the Successor Agency, comprised of City Council members, has already approved two payment schedules.

On an ongoing basis, the city will be asking the state to approve the money it needs to dissolve redevelopment.

The obligations include bonds, contracts with Walt Disney Co., renovations to the Central Library and police building, improvements to Central Avenue and other items that had been under the purview of the Redevelopment Agency.

After almost three hours of fiery discussions between Seifel and city officials, the Oversight Board approved the first year of payments. They also approved a request for $1.7 million to cover administrative costs associated with dissolving the agency.

Officials blamed most of the headaches on a poorly written law that maps out the draw-down of local redevelopment.

“The schedule is really crazy,” Seifel said.

One prickly item was the city's request for millions in pension benefits for employees.

“I just don't know if it's appropriate to be on here,” said Ron Nakasone, a representative for Glendale Community College.

In the end, though, the request was approved.

“If that money got kicked off … then that basically just goes into the [county] trust fund to get reallocated somewhere else throughout the county,” said City Manager Scott Ochoa, a representative on the board. “Local dollars need to stay in the local community.”

What they did delete, however, was money that traditionally goes to other entities, such as schools. That payment will be covered by the county.

The board is expected to meet on a monthly basis.

“I think there are more unknowns coming than knowns,” Raggio said.

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