On motion by 7th district Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga the Council put off action on Councilman Lerch's proposals until after it decides whether to declare itself LB's governing Redevelopment Agency Board on November 16.
Some Councilmembers were cool to the Lerch proposals. Councilwoman Laura Richardson questioned the wisdom of seeking a unanimous vote of Councilmembers (if they became Redevelopment boardmembers) when a unanimous isn't required for other Council actions.
If adopted, the Lerch measures wouldn't legally bind future Councilmembers (acting as Redevelopment Agency boards) but they could force future Councils to go through the process of amending or rescinding the ordinances in order to change policies...with the public notice, attention, debate and controversy that might ensue.
Unable to prevent a delay on his proposed measures, Councilman Lerch said at the Council meeting that he will re-agendize them for the November 16 showdown meeting. At that meeting, Councilmembers could vote to give themselves direct control over millions of dollars in public money and property uses affecting nearly half the city.
Councilman Lerch has also subsequently indicated to LBReport.com that he will press to have his measures included as part of the formal Redevelopment hearing item itself and included in any hearing resolution that results.
The 6-3 Council vote to delay action on the Lerch proposed resolutions reflects the same split evident last month when the Council majority voted to consider whether it should make itself LB's Redevelopment Agency Board. LB is one of only three CA cities that has delegated all of its Redevelopment Agency powers to a separate, appointed Agency Board. In all of the other 385 CA cities with active Redevelopment Agencies, the elected City Council serves as the Redevelopment Agency Board.
LB's current Redevelopment Agency board (Mayor nominated, Council approved) has put nearly half of Long Beach, including much of downtown, into various Redevelopment project areas. Whether this has helped eliminate blight, or worsened matters, is increasingly debated. Critics of Redevelopment call it corporate welfare for wealthy developers; supporters call it a tool to replace blight with renewal.
Some at City Hall have previously indicated a willingness to merge LB's currently separate Redevelopment project areas. Activists in some of the Redevelopment areas view this as a device to raid their area's money and divert it elsewhere.
Mayor O'Neill previously tried to block appointees to the Redevelopment Agency governing board who had been nominated by grassroots Redevelopment project area committees. The Mayor said she wanted greater diversity on the RDA board, but others speculated that the Mayor was trying to fill the Board with a majority to support a merger. The Mayor's action produced an acrimonious Council meeting...in which a Council majority ultimately voted against the Mayor.
Meanwhile, city management sought (and received) permission from the Redevelopment Agency Board to spend money that had been accumulated to remove blight in NLB instead to fund a General Fund capital project (a North Division police station in Scherer Park). NLB's Redevelopment Project Area Committee reluctantly backed the move...but there was lasting damage, including fears that City Hall has been emboldened to raid Redevelopment anti-blight money to fund other projects.
In August 2004, City Manager Jerry Miller publicly urged the City Council to consider making itself the governing board of LB's Redevelopment Agency...and some activists view a Council take-over of Redevelopment as accomplishing a merger by other means...giving the Council access to the Redevelopment money.
By making itself the governing board of the Redevelopment Agency, the part-time Council could, if it wishes, also give itself a raise. A Council majority could vote to pay Councilmembers a sum (that within reason and subject to political considerations) they could set for their attendance at Redevelopment Agency meetings. LB's current non-elected Redevelopment Agency boardmembers receive $100 per meeting attended.
Earlier this year, LB's current Redevelopment Agency Board agreed to fund an "independent study" of Redevelopment in LB. It was less than some activists wanted, because it doesn't include a forensic or other formal audit of Redevelopment projects.
However, a number of redevelopment-impacted residents and businesspeople contend a Council takeover of Redevelopment would be premature until the independent study is completed. They have also expressed concern that the auditless study might not be completed if the Council were to run the Redevelopment agency.