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Brown meets with mayors over redevelopment

January 26, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Gov. Jerry Brown met with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and eight other California city mayors, all of them urging the governor not to cut off vital redevelopment funds.

It's rare for the mayors of California's nine largest cities to be in one place, but they all came to the Capitol to meet with Governor Brown in an effort to save their redevelopment money, which this year is $1.7 billion.

Local governments typically use a fraction of property taxes to help spur revitalization in blighted neighborhoods, with projects like shopping malls and affordable housing, to create 300,000 jobs a year.

"All of us have historical unemployment rate, in my case, a very high poverty rate," said L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. "This is the wrong time to move away from job creation."

But Brown says in these though budget times, he needs to divert that money to schools, public safety and social programs.

"The hallways are going to be crowded in the coming months of people who say, 'Please keep the money coming.' And my message is: 'The money is not there,'" said Brown.

Other mayors say it's not fair to play one need against another.

"If we're going to give our kids hope of a job, a promise of a future, you can't pit the immediate needs versus what they need in the future," said Oakland Mayor Jean Quan.

Brown's plan to eventually eliminate more than 400 redevelopment agencies throughout the state has brought attention to what they're really accomplishing what they claim.

Academic and economic research studies question how many jobs they actually create, and whether they bring in enough revenue to justify the investment.

In addition, overhead of each agency is eye-popping, with L.A.'s agency, for instance, paying its CEO nearly a quarter of a million dollars a year and secretaries $75,000.

"The research shows that redevelopment doesn't give us the bang for the buck we need in these economic times," said Jean Ross, founding executive director of the California Budget Project.

The mayors say redevelopment is worth it because of the number of jobs it creates and they point out many of their downtowns are now success stories.

Meanwhile Brown told the mayors he is open to any ideas to close the multi-billion-dollar budget deficit.

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