We are thrilled to see Gov. Jerry Brown attempting to tackle one of the state's worst government creations, the redevelopment agency.
As part of his first budget, Brown is proposing eliminating 425 redevelopment agencies across the state that redirect property taxes to promoting private economic development rather than actual government services.
This is a good thing. Redevelopment agencies represent the worst of government abuse combined with blatant, unrepentant corporate welfare. Redevelopment agencies steal from the poor and give to the rich, taking private citizens' property and money from schools and other special districts in order to essentially bribe large developers into building within their communities.
Barstow has a redevelopment agency, and to be fair to them, our agency has not engaged in the kind of abuse of authority that has taken place elsewhere across the state. Perhaps that's why our redevelopment agency has so little to show for its efforts (even before the state took its money last year to try to feed its massive budget deficit). But what little the local RDA does do (mortgage payment assistance, business renovation) is so completely out of the bounds of what government is supposed to do — provide for our public safety — that it needs to stop anyhow. By what right does the city use taxpayer money to subsidize the private purchase of homes or the renovations of privately owned businesses?
And the agencies really don't even really accomplish their goals of encouraging development. The independent Legislative Analyst's Office examined Brown's proposal and concluded there's "no reliable evidence" that redevelopment agencies actually improve the economy.
Given the modest use of our RDA, it's a bit of mystery why city leaders even defend it in the first place. One of the side effects of having an RDA is that it heightens the competition between cities to lure developers into their boundaries with these financial incentives. If all redevelopment agencies are eliminated, Barstow would actually become more competitive because it would help level the playing field. Developers wouldn't be getting these special deals from the government, therefore the city won't have to worry about Victorville or Ontario having more money in their agencies' budgets to use as lures.
It's a shame, though, that there's little evidence that we will see a reduction in the tax burdens placed on business in the state. That would be a more effective way of encouraging development in California, not through redevelopment agencies.