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The Governor Says 'Veto' and Cities Lose Again

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Governor Brown, to avoid "distractions," voted a packet of bills last week that would have given cities some relief from the state's shakedown as redevelopment agencies are dismantled. The six bills had a modest intention -- to give cities flexibility in supporting economic development projects and encouraging the construction of affordable housing.

Redevelopment agency funding had been virtually the only way California financed the construction of affordable housing for seniors, the disabled, and low-income families. With the governor's veto, affordable housing is just more collateral damage in California's permanent budget crisis.

Legislators thought that the vetoed bills would give cities some way out of the chaos that the end of redevelopment has whipped up. But chaos is what Governor Brown prefers until every dime of redevelopment agency money is paid out to the state. Anything else would be a "distraction" from settling accounts, because, as the Governor Brown noted with the driest of humor, cities might "focus their efforts on using new tools ... instead of winding down redevelopment. This would prevent the state from achieving the General Fund savings assumed in this year's budget."

The greatest good that city council members can do, it seems, is turn out their pockets. Rather like wicked King John in the tales of Robin Hood, the governor has dispatched his tax gatherers into the countryside to grind the humbled cities. As a volunteer member of two "dissolution boards" helping to unwind redevelopment, I assure you that the grinding process is getting ugly.

It's also not going solve as much of the state's budget crisis as Governor Brown had hoped. All along, the Legislative Analyst's Office has warned that projections of the money to be reaped were inflated. The revenue transferred to the state so far is about $400 million, only a third of what was anticipated at this point in the process.

"We're moving forward," Ana Matosantos, the governor's finance director, told reporters grimly.

Cities can anticipate thumbscrews and the rack as the state tries to extract an estimated $900 million more, which is a long way from the $3.1 billion in cash and property tax revenue that the state hopes -- somehow -- to get from cities.

D. J. Waldie, author and historian, writes about Los Angeles twice each week at KCET's SoCal Focus blog.

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