By Ted AYALA
Under the burden of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the state of California has been hit particularly hard by a decrease in tax revenue and overspending. Looking to take action to help shore up the hole in the state budget, Governor Jerry Brown has proposed to dissolve all redevelopment agencies throughout the state and seize their monies for use by the state.
In response, the city of Glendale convened an emergency joint meeting of the City Council, Redevelopment Agency and Housing Authority. Councilman Dave Weaver was absent.
Holding the potential to further cripple already cash-strapped California cities, Mayor Ara Najarian made it clear that Glendale needed to react quickly to the governor’s proposals.
“We are meeting on an urgent basis because several reports indicate that these actions may take place very quickly,” Najarian said opening the meeting. “These are […] resolutions that [the city council, redevelopment agency, and housing authority] are essentially going to consider and attempt to safeguard the redevelopment agency funds from being raided by the state.”
Having just returned from a trip to Sacramento, Councilwoman Laura Friedman informed the audience that she had spoken to state representative Mike Gatto.
“[Mike Gatto] didn’t know about this meeting as it was called in such an emergency fashion,” she said. “But he wanted me to let all of you know that he is very concerned about this issue, if he had a longer lag-time he would have [liked] to [have been] here to address this issue, he is willing to come and speak to the city council about the redevelopment issue, and will be advocating on our behalf.”
Assistant City Manager Yasmin Beers explained the situation to the council and the audience. “If [Governor Brown’s] plans are approved it will destroy local economic growth, quality of life improvements, and [creation of new jobs], funding of affordable housing, building public infrastructure improvements, and creating commercial opportunities,” explained Beers. “It is important that the governor’s plans circumvents Proposition 22, [which] stops the state from raiding local funds, in particular redevelopment funds.”
Following Yasmin Beers, Philip Lanzafame, the city’s Chief Director of Community Development, stepped up to the dais to address the council. In his PowerPoint presentation, Lanzafame again affirmed the crucial need that the redevelopment agency and housing authority fulfills.
“Redevelopment is a local tool. [It assists] in the elimination of blight, the achievement of certain goals, and specifically in the creation of new jobs,” Lanzafame said. “It is a tremendous economic engine. It has resulted in the revival of the Downtown area, the creation of jobs, affordable housing, parks and libraries, public improvements, green and sustainable development, and clean-up of contaminated sites. We’re here to protect the local revenue that was directed to Glendale and is being proposed to be diverted elsewhere. We want to protect the engine of the local economy in Glendale.”
Members of the public were heard by the council voicing their approval or disapproval of the actions being contemplated by the city. David Silverstein, a lawyer representing Glendale’s The Golden Key Hotel in a lawsuit against the city, said, “[There are] serious concerns of unconstitutional gift of funds and waste or misuse of taxpayer funds,” in his view of the city’s desire to protect their redevelopment funds.
Judee Kendall, executive vice-president of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce, rose in support of the redevelopment agency protections.
“[The Glendale Chamber of Commerce] supports you in whatever you can legally do to help extend the
life of the Glendale Redevelopment Agency,” stated Kendall.
Addressing the attacks against the city’s Redevelopment Agency and Housing Authority as “straw men issues,” Councilman John Drayman said that, “Residents in cities across the state
expect that local dollars are going to be local dollars. As an elected official in this city, I’m going to keep true to that desire.”
After all members were given a chance to speak, assembled members of the City Council, Housing Authority, and Redevelopment Agency voted unanimously to protect redevelopment monies from the state.