The Starbucks is on the left, filled with particular coffee connoisseurs. Okay, maybe they are people who are addicted to watered down java. On the right, is a Banana Republic catering to clothing devotees. In fact, on both sides of this lifestyle mall are storefronts signifying that this neighborhood is clearly entrenched in middle-class America.
This is the flagship marker that a city has just rejuvenated a blighted neighborhood. It has occurred all over this country. In California, people flock to highly successful shopping and dining attractions -- Old Town in Pasadena, downtown Culver City, and Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego.
Experts in the field call this redevelopment. These multimillion dollar public projects, geared toward dramatically changing the economic and architectural neighborhood environment, are created and funded by publicly funded and operated redevelopment agencies, set up by cities.
So why would California's new Governor Jerry Brown want to completely eliminate these agencies? Especially when these agencies can literally change the economic status of a city, and create hundreds of new jobs for a neighborhood? Granted, this Golden State has a $25 billion annual budget deficit that amounts to more than many nations around the globe. He thinks he can save $1.7 billion by eliminating the 400 redevelopment agencies throughout the state.
But to cut one of the most effective publicly-funded programs that can dramatically improve a city's economic state, and pour in new jobs, just does not make sense.
Until you look under the dirty rug of state politics. We all know that money and power drives our society, more than compassion and justice.
Redevelopment agencies garner their public funds through property taxes that would otherwise go to counties and the State. For decades, the power and money struggle between cities and counties, as well as cities and the state, are annual rituals during budget times. Every jurisdiction wants to grab those billions of dollars of tax revenue that can balance their budget.
So why not the billions of dollars of redevelopment agencies?
Most days I sit in a building that was partially funded by the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles. In fact, nearly all of the housing and services facilities that we operate possess CRA funding. That is because redevelopment agencies not only create retail and commercial projects that bolster the economy, they also invest in developments that help the neighborhood's poor.
Affordable housing and homeless shelters are priority projects for redevelopment agencies. So when Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa calls the Governor's desire to eliminate redevelopment agencies a "nonstarter," I agree with the Mayor whole heartedly.
Take away funding that would permanently house homeless people, bolster a neighborhood economy, and bring in new jobs is more than a "nonstarter", it is simply foolish.
I see it more like the State of California taking an axe to the state budget with a blindfold on. They will cut off a much needed hand.
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