Unclassified Info: Some questions for RDA defenders

A couple of weeks ago, I commented on how little people seemed to care about the demise of the Glendale Redevelopment Agency. Evidently, Mayor Laura Friedman isn’t one of those people.

Along with a few other signees, she sent a letter to the Glendale News-Press titled “Redevelopment agencies are vital.”

As soon as I read the points in defense of redevelopment agencies penned by Friedman and company, I was inspired to offer some counterpoints.

For the record, let me clearly state my side: I want redevelopment agencies dissolved in the timely manner as suggested by Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Supreme Court on Dec. 29.

In my opinion, the very notion of using a loophole to keep these agencies running in direct defiance of a Supreme Court decision is typical of the kind of game playing and lobbying politicians believe is their divine right.

Herein lies the fundamental problem with redevelopment agencies. They have run with almost complete autonomy since they were put into existence, regularly claiming areas as blighted without the approval of the citizens they supposedly represent. They usurp property and land in the name of what they cite as the greater good, often lining the pockets of wealthy real estate developers along the way.

While some of their decisions may very well be beneficial, this kind of “limitless jurisdiction” must cease. It stupefies me to think any politician could possibly get behind such business practices let alone want them to continue.

According to Friedman and the other three individuals who support redevelopment agencies, “The real solution is for the Legislature to create a new mechanism that would allow cities to continue to create jobs, attract needed investment, initiate economic development, provide well-planned and quality affordable housing, clean up blight and enhance public safety.”

I firmly believe the real solution would have been for redevelopment agencies to proactively realize they were running rampant with no control or public approval process before the Supreme Court effectively said, “Enough is enough.”

Asking for a new mechanism after the fact feels much like the mea culpa of a philanderer after having been caught cheating for decades.

I’m also very curious about the support points supplied in defense of redevelopment. I’m hoping we will get some elaboration to the following:

“Our locally driven, locally focused economic development efforts and public/private partnerships have served our community well.” The creation of 9,000 construction and permanent jobs was used as support.

I’m wondering how many of those jobs are permanent? Having a bunch of hard hats coming in to build Rick Caruso’s version of Shangri La doesn’t feel like a permanent fix to Glendale’s employment woes.

Friedman and associates claim future commercial projects will create an additional 10,200 jobs. Based on what? And again, how many of those are going to be permanent?

As far as the list of “wins” exemplified by the redevelopment agency to improve Glendale, I will sound like a broken record and simply respond by asking, “Did the citizens of Glendale vote on these projects?” Or were these autonomous decisions?

Why does this question matter? Because local tax revenues fund these projects.

Look what happens when a Tennessee firm is hired to rebrand the city. We spend $140,000 and end up with the word, “Animated.”

I’d also like to know how hiring a firm thousands of miles away was of more benefit to the community than choosing a local marketing firm.

And as far as continuing to use the Alex Theatre as a crowning achievement of redevelopment, let me make a suggestion. Since the city has branded itself as “Animated,” why not pitch the Alex to the serious animation companies that call Glendale home?

Maybe Dreamworks, Disney and Technicolor could help turn the theater into an animation Mecca, much like Disney did when it revamped the El Capitan in Hollywood. After all, we gave them a nice new road to their campuses. Assuming the Alex has historic value, why not house an historic, permanent museum of animation there, upgrade the audio/visual capabilities and feature first-run, big-time feature animation films?

People travel to the El Capitan for an enhanced movie theater experience. Isn’t it reasonable to expect people from the northeast valley might travel to Glendale for something of similar value?

GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is currently working on his second novel and the second half of his life. Gary may be reached at gh@garyhuerta.com.

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