Eliminating Redevelopment Agencies: A Good Idea Implemented For the Wrong Reasons

By Allan Mansoor – Assemblyman, 68th District

Last week I voted to end redevelopment agencies (RDAs). While RDAs have been the source of wasteful spending at the local level, the biggest problem with RDAs is that they are a conduit used to initiate eminent domain actions against private property owners. In doing so, cities pick winners and losers by interfering with the free market.

The proposal to end RDAs was introduced by Democrats. Democrats generally oppose eminent domain reform measures and regularly use RDAs to support earmarked spending in their districts. With this in mind, their proposal deserved skepticism. What was their motive?

At a time of major budget deficits, the Democrat budget proposal included cuts to education along with increases to welfare and social services and new benefits to public employees. Their motivation in ending RDAs wasn’t an altruistic vision that RDAs are wrong. They wanted RDA money to pay off their public employee union supporters.

Redevelopment agencies are funded from the $45 billion Californians pay in property taxes. The RDA money in question is about $1 billion in savings that will be recognized after RDAs are eliminated. These are property tax revenues that I think should remain with local government. I am aware that there is abuse at the local level, but that abuse pales in comparison to what can happen at the state level where the abuse is more severe and more difficult to correct.

Raiding local treasuries is particularly troublesome in the current economic environment. I served on the Costa Mesa City Council and am aware of the fiscal crises facing many cities. For many cities, the unexpected taking of RDA funds is going to make tough times even worse.

The measure to end RDAs was actually two measures. One ended RDAs and the other took their money. My Republican colleagues who called the proposal a “money grab” were right when they focused only on the end result. But taken by itself, the bill to end RDAs was one of the most important pieces of legislation affecting private property rights in recent memory. I supported it even though I opposed the other. Unfortunately, the money-grab-measure passed.

In California, even the slightest victory in the fight for protecting property rights is cause for celebration, but victories public employee unions give us on a silver platter are hollow victories. As long as public employee unions control Sacramento, they can recreate RDAs anytime RDAs will serve their interests.

California To End Carpool Lane Benefit For Hybrid Owners

From 2005 through 2007, the state of California made a pretty tempting offer to get drivers behind the wheels of hybrid cars: Buy one and you’ll get a sticker that allows you to cruise in the carpool lane without having to have that annoying other passenger (or mannequin) next to you. It was like a VIP pass on the highway. But those halcyon days are about to end.

On July 1, that yellow stickers adorning around 85,000 hybrid cars in California will only serve as a reminder to those drivers that they too once had access to the speedier carpool lane.

“I’m dreading July 1,” one Prius driver who commutes 90 miles a day tells the L.A. Times. “We’re all going to feel the full wrath of the L.A. traffic beast.”

Read More at Consumerist By Chris Morran, the Consumerist

What a Public Bank Could Mean for California

California is the eighth largest economy in the world, and it has a debt burden to match. It has outstanding general obligation bonds and revenue bonds of $158 billion, largely incurred for infrastructure. Of this tab, $70 billion is just for interest. Over $7 billion of California’s annual budget goes to pay interest on the state’s debt.

As large as California’s liabilities are, they are exceeded by its assets, which are sufficient to capitalize a bank rivaling any in the world. That’s the idea behind Assembly Bill 750, introduced by Assemblyman Ben Hueso of San Diego, which would establish a blue ribbon task force to consider the viability of creating the California Investment Trust, a state bank receiving deposits of state funds. Instead of relying on Wall Street banks for credit — or allowing Wall Street banks to enjoy the benefits of lending its capital — California may decide to create its own, publicly-owned bank.

On May 2, AB 750 moved out of the Banking and Finance Committee with only one nay vote and is now on its way to the Appropriations Committee. Three unions submitted their support for the bill — the California Nurses Association, the California Firefighters and the California Labor Council. The state bank idea also got a nod from former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich in his speech at the California Democratic Convention in Sacramento the previous day.

Read More at Huffington Post by Ellen Brown, the Huffington Post

 

California Card Check Aims to Abolish Secret Ballots

IRVINE, Calif., May 16, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif released the following statement on today’s passage by the California State Assembly of the United Farm Workers-sponsored Senate Bill 104.

“If Governor Jerry Brown signs the card check bill, SB 104, he will effectively abolish a farm worker’s exclusive right to vote by secret ballot in a state-supervised election process. We doubt the governor has forgotten what he and Cesar Chavez fought for in the Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975—the secret ballot as the exclusive means of determining the true wishes of the workers. With a card check system, every worker’s vote is made public to the employer, the union organizers and co-workers. Union organizers trying to get signatures would be able to shove the cards in front of a worker with no one else around. This clearly exposes workers to unwanted pressure and possible intimidation by the union. This legislation is not about advancing the cause of farm workers; SB 104 is only about advancing the cause of a union that cannot persuade workers to vote for it without having a union organizer looking over the worker’s shoulder.”

About Western Growers:
Western Growers (www.wga.com) is an agricultural trade association whose members from Arizona and California grow, pack and ship 90 percent of the fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in California and 75 percent of those commodities in Arizona. This totals about half of the nation’s fresh produce. Western Growers is headquartered in Irvine, Calif.

Read More at the Sacremento Bee by Western Growers Association, the Sacramento Bee

Foreclosures share of California sales inches down in April

Properties previously foreclosed on in the last year made up 36.6% of the California market in April, down from more than 38% one year ago, according to DataQuick.

Foreclosure’s share of the market reached an all-time high in February 2009 at 58.5%.

Overall sales in the state reached 35,202 in April, down 6.1% from one year ago and 3.3% down from March. Sales for the month of April remain below the historic average of roughly 44,000, dating back to 1988.

Read More at HousingWire by Jon Prior, HousingWire

 

Study: Valley among state’s ‘struggling, forsaken’

A new quality-of-life study of California finds that Central Valley counties either fit into a “struggling” 38% of the population or are among “The Forsaken Five Percent” with residents “bypassed by the digital economy.”

The new study released today is from the American Human Development Project, an initiative of the Social Science Research Council with financial support from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. Called “A Portrait of California,” the study explores “well-being and access to opportunity across the Golden State.

The report uses the American Human Development Index, a composite measure of health, education and standard of living, and uses a 0 to 10 scale. Topping out among the state’s five most populous metro areas, San Francisco’s HDI measure is 6.97, while Riverside-San Bernardino is at the bottom at 4.58.

Read More at the Business Journal

Judge: California law applies in Toyota case

SANTA ANA A federal judge said that California law could be applied to the economic-loss lawsuits against Toyota.

Some Toyota owners claim that sudden-acceleration defects in their cars negatively impacted the value of their vehicles. Last year, attorneys for the owners filed a mass economic loss complaint. The claim alleges sudden-acceleration problems in Toyota vehicles are due to defects in the vehicles’ electronic throttle-control systems.

Toyota disputes the allegation and blames sudden acceleration on sticky pedals and faulty floor mats.

Read More at OC Register By Vik Jolly, The Orange County Register

California’s “Jungle Primary” System Gets Its First Test Today

Tuesday’s special election in California’s 36th District is a prequel to what will likely be the main event on July 12. If no candidate gets a majority of votes cast — highly unlikely in the crowded 16 person field — the top two vote-getters will advance to a runoff in the first test of the state’s new “jungle primary” system.

The Frontrunners: Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn jumped into the race almost immediately after now-former Rep. Jane Harman announced in February she’d step down to head the Woodrow Wilson Center. Hahn and Harman are close, and while Hahn doesn’t have the former congresswoman’s official endorsement, Harman did provide her with a heads-up she was leaving. Hahn comes from a well-known political family — her brother, James, served as the city’s mayor from 2001 until 2005, and her father, Kenneth, was a county supervisor for forty years.

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen took a bit longer to officially decide, but since her entrance, the two women have been at the top of a very crowded pack in the all-party primary. Hahn quickly rolled out endorsement after endorsement of other Members of the state’s Congressional delegation, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and even former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt. She’s also garnered most of the labor endorsements in the race.

Read More at the Atlantic By Jessica Taylor, the Atlantic

Facebook fights California privacy push

Computerworld – California is considering legislation that would tighten Facebook’s privacy practices, and the social network is not happy about it.

The bill, Social Networking Privacy Act (SB 242), would require Facebook and other social networking sites to make big changes to the way they handle users’ privacy. Industry analysts say social networks like Facebook could be wary of this move for fear that it will lead to a slippery slope of government control and privacy rules.

“Facebook has been very passive about security . They put the onus on the user to figure the security out on their own,” said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group. “Now it would automatically be more secure.”

Read More at ComputerWorld By Sharon Gaudin, ComputerWorld

Federal Judge Finds No Constitutional Right to Carry a Concealed Weapon

A federal judge in California has ruled there is no Second Amendment right to carry a concealed weapon.

Gun rights lawyer Alan Gura of Alexandria, Va., is planning to appeal the ruling by U.S. District Judge Morrison England Jr. of Sacramento, the Associated Press reports.

England sided with the Yolo County sheriff, who refused concealed weapons permits unless the applicant was a victim of a violent crime, was threatened with violence, was a business owner carrying large amounts of cash, or cited another specific need.

Read More at ABA Journal by Debra Cassens Weiss, ABAJournal paypal site down who is .