If you had been at the Madera City Council meeting Wednesday night, you would have seen an almost surreal development. It involved the City Council meeting as the Successor Agency to the former Madera Redevelopment Agency, and a new board, called the Oversight Board of the Successor Agency to the former Madera Redevelopment Agency.
If all this bureaucratese makes you scratch your head, you are not alone. Even the members of these groups wonder at times what is going on.
Basically they are fulfilling the orders of the Legislature for all the state’s redevelopment agencies to cough up money formerly used by these agencies for renewal projects in economically disadvantaged areas.
“It’s all about money,” said former RDA and now Successor Agency Executive Director Jim Taubert. The state, he said, wants to make sure maximum monies derived from dissolution of the redevelopment agencies are paid over to other taxing agencies in each county where redevelopment agencies have been active.
The problem, it turns out, is that in writing the law to dissolve the RDAs, the Legislature didn’t quite know what it was doing. As a result, changes are being made because the Legislature may have shot its own foot while taking aim at the heads of the RDAs.
The purpose of killing off the RDAs was to help balance the state budget. By taking the RDA’s income and assets, the legislators thought, they would be able to use it to fund schools and other activities.
They thought: Why not? It had worked when the Legislature simply ordered the redevelopment agencies to fork over cash to the state in 2010. Why not just take all their cash? That idea turned out to be too simplistic.
Now, the redevelopment agencies are facing a governmental bowl of spaghetti that will take a long time to untangle, and may wind up giving the taxing agencies less money than they got in 2010.
One idea was that the redevelopment agencies would sell off all their properties immediately. But somebody forgot to tell the Legislature the real estate market was softer than it had been in many years. Values are down.
The legislators also apparently didn’t realize that much of the income that redevelopment agencies used to create new developments came from bond sales — and that money has to be paid back.
In its enthusiasm to grab as much money as possible from the RDAs, the Legislature may actually have cost itself money in the process, while making lives miserable and costly in local governments.
Let’s hope some of the legislative fixes being discussed wind up making things better rather than making them take a turn for the worse.