Santa Barbara City Councilmember Dale Francisco blasted State Assemblymember Das Williams — Francisco’s former council colleague and political sparring partner — for voting to extort millions of dollars from redevelopment agencies statewide as part of a complex budget-balancing scheme passed this year by the State Legislature. In a press conference held in front of City Hall right before this week’s council meeting, Francisco said the Legislature and Williams violated the state Constitution and Proposition 22, which prohibited state lawmakers from raiding redevelopment agencies, among other local governmental entities.
The Legislature, facing unprecedented budget shortfalls, sought to bypass the provisions of Prop. 22 this year by voting first to abolish all redevelopment agencies outright and then voting for a separate measure that would allow agencies to reconstitute themselves, but only after first paying the state a considerable fee to do so. These payments would generate an estimated $1.7 billion. For the City of Santa Barbara, that means paying the state $7 million next year to keep its redevelopment agency alive.
Francisco chastised Williams for voting against the interests of the community he represents. Williams has steadfastly argued that his first priority is preserving educational funding levels for public schools, and if that’s accomplished at the expense of redevelopment agencies, so be it. In this, he has crossed swords with longtime political friends and allies — like Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider and Goleta Mayor Margaret Connell.
The League of California Cities has challenged the constitutionality of the Legislature’s move, and the California Supreme Court ruled last week to put the attack on redevelopment agencies on ice pending a final ruling, which the court promised would come no later than January 15, when the first payment to the state is due. Should the court rule against the State Legislature, Williams has said in past interviews, the state would cure the problem by voting simply to abolish redevelopment agencies outright, allowing no opportunity for their rebirth.