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Ron Kaye: Will this election bring change, or status quo?

June 03, 2012

Before you mark your ballot in Tuesday's election, think about what the governor and Legislature have wrought by killing redevelopment agencies without a clear plan on how the $5 billion a year in taxes flowing to them will be split, or how and when the billions in their debts will be paid off.

The result has been months of chaotic and costly wrangling over the complexities of contracts, bonds and property that has left city officials across California, already grappling with their own budget deficits, bewildered and frustrated by the uncertainty of how much money they will have left after redevelopment funds are distributed to schools, colleges, counties and the state.

On Friday, the state's financial sledgehammer fell with the “recognized obligation payment” schedules taking effect for the July 1 to Dec. 31 period, even though billions of dollars are still in dispute.

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Glendale, Pasadena and other cities went to court to delay enforcement, but the judge refused when L.A. County officials promised to pay them their share of redevelopment money, payments that will come in the form of warrants — IOUs — redeemable at some undetermined later date.

None of this sits well with local officials like Glendale City Manager Scott Ochoa, who sees what the state is doing as a direct assault on cities, stripping them of much of their ability to make the critical decisions about how your local tax dollars are spent for the benefit of your community, your economy, your quality of life, your hopes for the future.

“It is total chaos. This started out as a money grab and somehow morphed into something else that nobody knows what it is or where it leads,” he said after being rebuffed in court.

“Cities are the last independent bastion of local control. The beauty of cities is they can actually get things done. We're closer to the people and, generally speaking, are much better run than any other level of government. If all the purse strings go back to the state of California, are we better off? Counties, just like the schools, are not better off being beholden to the state for their funding and policies.”

Back in January of last year when I was offered the chance to write this column, my first stops were to the offices of the Burbank and Glendale city managers, where I had conversations that led me to write the column headlined, “Trouble in Paradise.”

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