A consortium of Santa Barbara County mayors including Santa Barbara’s Helene Schneider, Goleta’s Margaret Connell, and Lompoc’s John Linn held a press conference expressing support for the lawsuit filed this week by the League of California Cities charging Governor Jerry Brown and the State Legislature violated the state Constitution by abolishing redevelopment agencies statewide. The mayors argued the state action violated Proposition 22, which 61 percent of state voters endorsed last November, that bars the Legislature from raiding local-government coffers. Specifically named in Prop. 22 were redevelopment agencies.
In response to California’s massive budget woes, the Legislature voted to eliminate redevelopment agencies outright in one bill, arguing that by so doing the state could secure up to $1.7 billion in additional revenues. In addition, the Legislature passed a companion bill that would allow redevelopment agencies to reconstitute themselves if they agreed to pay an opt-in fee charged by the state. Schneider referred to the opt-in fee as “extortion,” complaining the requirement would cost Santa Barbara $14 million. Officials in the Brown administration have countered that because redevelopment agencies are creatures of the State Legislature, the Legislature is legally empowered to pull the plug.
On this matter, Schneider has differed sharply with her former political ally and colleague on the council, Das Williams, who since being elected to the Assembly has voted to gut redevelopment. Williams has argued that redevelopment agencies dilute property-tax revenue streams that otherwise sustain public schools. Schneider disagreed, calling this either-or proposition “a false choice.” She said she recognized the excruciating financial challenges confronting the state, but said there were no sincere efforts made with local governments, which rely on redevelopment agencies to fund affordable housing and revitalization efforts. By hammering local governments, she said, the state has generated expensive litigation rather than income.