When elephants fly – the end of the dreaded RDAs

By Shawn Steel

California National Committeeman

Republican National Committee

Something strange happened in the first six months of the Jerry Brown administration. He killed the invidious Redevelopment Agencies [RDA] which many California cities used to confiscate private property against unwilling land owners, in the name of abolishing “blighted” neighborhoods. Through Assembly bill 26X, the legislature voted to disband redevelopment agencies unless they are willing to share property tax revenue in the future to help finance public schools.

Long Beach’s democrat mayor, Bob Foster, released a statement “We are extremely disappointed with the Governor’s decision to sign AB 1X26 and AB 1X27, legislation that will dramatically affect our ability to invest directly in our cities, build affordable housing, revitalize our local economies and create the jobs our citizens need now.”

It’s always fun hearing a democrat worry about affordable housing and creating jobs.

Sadly, too many republican mayors also adopt the position that the city is a better at central planning than the market. Instead of curing blight, many RDA’s help foster blight as can be seen in Anaheim. Central planning usually does not work against market forces. Giving any government the right and power to seize land is fundamentally questionable.  At the same time stealing private property invites corruption and generates huge profits for well connected developers.

What’s politically odd is that Jerry Brown was the prime mover to abolish these bureaucracies. Faced with unparalleled budget shortfalls, Brown discovered he could save the state some 1.7 billion in the first year alone, by stripping cities of the RDA’s The RDAs depend on property taxes, which are taken from the local county and state.

Most democrats voted for AB 26X. But without republican votes it would have not pass either chamber. Our hero is Senator Ted Gaines, whose vote made it possible to pass the senate. In the assembly, the heroes are Beth Gaines, Dan Logue, Alan Mansoor, Chris Norby and Jim Neilson.

State Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) argued he was forced to choose between two bad choices but had to choose against the RDA’s because “There’s a limited pie and it is shrinking. We are faced with doing this or that, but not doing both.”

Conservatives and free market economists realize that too much government begets more controls, more expenses and more bureaucracy. In the era of spending limits, this is a golden opportunity to abolish agencies, commissions, departments, boards and authorities. Conservatives believe that to return power to individual citizens we need to starve the beast. Who knew, that Brown would kill off one beast to protest another? Obviously Brown had ulterior motives to secure funding for his union allies at all costs. At least the RDA is buried. Let’s hope it doesn’t return like Frankenstein.