Did the Voters Give a Thumbs Up to Redevelopment by Passing Proposition 22?

The Governor’s proposal to eliminate redevelopment agencies in order to help balance the 2011-12 state budget and provide more funding for core local services has naturally generated a firestorm of opposition from redevelopment  agencies and the – mostly – cities that created them. Redevelopment diverts property taxes from schools, counties, and other local governments, ostensibly to eliminate “blight,” but does not increase “regional or statewide economic development,” according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. What’s more, property taxes diverted from schools must be made up with state General Fund dollars – at a cost of more than $2 billion per year.

Cities and redevelopment agencies have fought back by implying that the Governor’s proposal ignores the will of the voters who passed Proposition 22, an extremely complicated measure filled with arcane legalese in which redevelopment was just one of many issues raised. These groups state that, “over 61% of voters passed Prop. 22 [last] November to stop State raids of redevelopment funds.” Really? As Ventura County Star columnist Timm Herdt points out, the official ballot argument in favor of Proposition 22 said nothing about redevelopment. Instead, the measure’s proponents highlighted the need to protect funding for police, fire, and other local services from “state raids” – precisely the services that would benefit from the Governor’s proposal to end redevelopment. According to Herdt: “In the 463 words of the cities’ ballot argument in favor of Proposition 22, ‘911 service’ is mentioned five times, ‘fire protection’ four times, ‘police service’ four times and ‘senior services’ twice. ‘Redevelopment’ – which pays for none of those things – was mentioned not at all.”

In Herdt’s view, “to argue that voters gave a mandate to protecting redevelopment is dishonest and silly.” We couldn’t agree more.

— Scott Graves