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Governor’s Plan Will Rob Temecula, Says Council

City officials urge Governor Jerry Brown to change plans to take funds from cities to balance state budget.

City officials urged the governor to change plans to raid city coffers.

The City Council voted Tuesday to send a letter to Governor Jerry Brown asking him to change part of the state’s proposed budget that will eliminate redevelopment agencies and take the money they developed.

City Council members make up the city’s redevelopment agency, which invests tax dollars in local projects to rejuvenate blighted areas.

“Redevelopment is a tremendous economic engine,” said Pat Richardson, the city’s director of planning and redevelopment. “With the loss of that, we’ll suffer a tremendous loss.”

Redevelopment money paid for numerous projects in Temecula, such as the Mary Phillips Senior Center, the Overland Drive bridge, contributions to opening the Cal State San Marcos Temecula campus, the parking garage at the Promenade mall and the I-15 interchange with Winchester Road. The agency is also set to give $1.8 million to the school district over the next 19 years.

In some cases, the city attracts a new business by using redevelopment money to foot part of its costs. The business repays the cost through sales tax and keeps the economy healthy, city officials said.

“We would not have the Promenade Mall without the Winchester Interchange,” said City Manager Shawn Nelson.

For some residents, the agency gives an unfair advantage to big businesses, which benefit from these deals more than Temecula residents.

“I see redevelopment as the biggest scam in California,” said Robert Wheeler, who holds a PhD in economics and addressed the council at a meeting Tuesday. “I support the governor whole-heartedly, and I wish you would, too.”

Some residents said they felt the redevelopment agency abused the funds.

“I was a supporter until the redevelopment agency loan for the auto mall sign,” said Temecula resident Paul Jacobs at the meeting.

In October 2009, the agency approved a 20-year loan of up to $875,000 to the Temecula Valley Automobile Dealers Association, made up of Temecula car dealers, for an electronic sign visible from the freeway. The agreement included a 4.25 percent interest rate, but no obligation to make payments on time.

The city cited the bad economy as the reason for the loan. “In light of the economy becoming particularly difficult for the auto dealers over the past year, the agency staff and association conclude that now is the critical time to move forward with the new auto mall sign,” a city document stated.

“This was essentially a gift,” Jacobs said, and he called redevelopment funds “welfare” for big businesses.

Some residents supported the redevelopment agency. “It’s probably the most effective tool the city has to remove blight,” said Gary Thornhill, the president of Habitat for Humanity and a former deputy city manager for the city. “Why aren’t people concerned with locally-generated money being taken away by the state?”

The governor called redevelopment agencies corrupt and abusive, but only to corrode public support for the program, so it can take money they generate to balance the state’s budget, said Councilmember Maryann Edwards.

“They’re reaching down to local pools of money to rob and steal,” she said.

 

 

Art February 10, 2011 at 10:06 PM
Which tax generates this money? Seems like eliminating the tax would be more of a benefit to the general population than "lending" it to big business.
MIKE February 11, 2011 at 04:39 PM
That would be Jerry Brown for you!!! Someone who you cant trust. When you kill redevelopment you kill growth. By the way what would we do without big business. Also those people that say that big businesses are the ones that benefit. My question to you is, do you use any of these businesses?
Cori Carey February 11, 2011 at 06:51 PM
$875,000 for a sign paid back over 20 years? How much does the city see of the sales tax from those dealerships? How many jobs do they provide? Will a bigger electrical sign on the freeway bring more people to those places? I have lived here 16 years and those dealerships would be more successful with more competitive prices and better customer service and that wouldn't cost the city a dime.
deleted February 14, 2011 at 05:13 PM
Generally, I think redevelopment agencies are a good idea. But they can be corrupted just like any other government program. I don't really know much about how Temecula's redevelopment agency functions but I have seen the results. The Overland bridge has done much to ease traffic flow mid city. The addition of parking garages has eased parking at the mall. All in all I think the agency has helped Temecula alot and I would not like to see locally generated funds looted by the state.
JFreidberg May 23, 2011 at 01:55 AM
Eleminate the tax and let us spend our money where we would like to. Tell moon beam and his union bought group that we have had enough. Just think if you had a few more dollars in your pocket would you not go out more for dinner, movies, or famaily time? Get real moon beam, Babs (boxer) and the rest, we are tired of your ways!

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