By Ted AYALA
Gov. Jerry Brown’s act to dissolve redevelopment agencies across the state has plunged cities into major fiscal dilemmas. Glendale has been among those hit hard by the governor’s action. Members of the successor to the dismantled redevelopment agency met with the City Council at a joint meeting on Tuesday at City Hall to find a way out of the problem.
Looming over the head of city officials is how to plug a budget shortfall while reconciling the need for citizens to continue receiving a high quality of public services. With their hands essentially tied, the city is being forced to explore budget savings by way of lay-offs which could affect the whole range of public services the city offers.
At the moment it’s 28 jobs in the Community Development Department that are in the crosshairs. Though the savings would be in the area of $3 million, the department generates over $6 million in revenues for the city.
“[The lay-offs] are a significant impact on this department and it hits in areas that matter the most as we head into the future,” said City Manager Scott Ochoa. “Those impacts will indeed be dramatic.”
Still, as Ochoa stressed, the goal is to minimize the impact as much as possible.
“We know that Council wants us to maintain the hours that are agreeable and reflect well on customer service at the counter,” he said. “We simply can’t sit back and allow the turnaround on the Fire and Building plan check to lie around for months. Council has been very vocal on affordable housing services … These are the areas we need to focus on.”
Ochoa also assured that the city will remain focused on revenue generating projects formerly assigned to redevelopment, including the expansion of the Alex Theatre, the building of the Disney GC3 Campus, and improvements for the Central Library.
However the mood from City Council was generally grim as the city struggles to wind down redevelopment.
“If those projects don’t continue, that money doesn’t come back to the city,” said Mayor Laura Friedman. “If we lose those properties anything can happen to them. A project that we all liked could be replaced by something we all hate. The bad effects of people being laid-off, projects not happening, and losing from this city the quality of life they come to expect through the redevelopment agency strikes me as so unfair. [The state] did a betrayal to the communities that they had promised [these projects’ funding.]”
“We should plan for the worst case scenario,” she added.