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Commentary: Reasons To Have A Separate, Independent Redevelopment Agency (RDA) Board


Opinion brought to you by Gary DeLong. To email Mr. DeLong, click here.

(November 14, 2004, 7:40 p.m., with updated e-feedback below) -- It isnít often that the various constituencies in Long Beach agree, but it appears a topic has galvanized public opinion. Judging by its response, the community believes that replacing the citizens on the Redevelopment Agency (RDA) Board with City Councilmembers is a terrible idea. Solid, respected groups such as the Downtown Long Beach Associates (DLBA), the various Project Area Committees and the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce have all come out strongly opposed to this action.

Why is having the City Council act as the Redevelopment board a bad idea? There are reasons aplenty. Choose the one that appeals to you the most:

  • Reason 1: City Council members are already stretched thin. Therefore, city staff will drive more of the decisions, with less public involvement and input. City Council members will spend less time on redevelopment projects than current redevelopment agency board members do. Which leads to . . .

  • Reason 2: City Council members claim they donít have adequate time to address their existing workload. Is dissolving the existing RDA board a smoke screen towards attempting to justify full time council positions?

  • Reason 3: There will likely be a blurring of the Agencyís funds (property tax money meant to cure neighborhood blight) with General Fund money. Staff/Council may use RDA funds for General Fund projects.

  • Reason 4: Councilmembers can pay themselves more for taking on RDA responsibility. One suggestion thus far is $3,000 per month per Councilmembers. The City Attorney has already told us: City Council members can vote themselves any amount of compensation they like.

  • Reason 5: An independent agency board provides less potential for corruption, versus a City Council agency board that solicits campaign funds on a regular basis. Which of course leads to . . .

  • Reason 6: Redevelopment decisions could potentially be based on "political" considerations, rather than economic goals. If Company A wants to secure a contract for a certain redevelopment project and wants a certain Councilmember to vote his way, you can be sure that every Tom, Dick & Harry in that company will kick in the maximum campaign contribution of $300. And finally...

  • Reason 7: An independent Redevelopment Agency board will hold more public study sessions and subcommittee meetings, thus ensuring public input. This is an ongoing practice of the current RDA board.

On top of these arguments is the fact that there is a community-requested independent study of Long Beach Redevelopment underway as of last month. Why is this Council determined to take over Redevelopment before that objective third party analysis is completed? Why not wait for the studyís results? Why is our City Council circumventing the public input process?

For those City Councilmembers who think this is a great idea, perhaps they should attend every Redevelopment board and committee meeting for two months, and then decide if they want to take over the RDA Board. Of course, thatís assuming that they would show up for the various meetings in the first place.

So far, the only City Councilmembers that have publicly stated they are against this proposal are Frank Colonna, Rae Gabelich & Val Lerch. The next, and perhaps final, step is a council hearing set for November 16th.

[Update: On Nov. 16, the Council voted to continue the hearing to Dec. 21 at which time a decisive vote could be held. The Council will hold two informational study sessions before its Dec. 21 meeting. LBReport.com coverage, click here]

A proponent of dissolving the RDA has stated, "accountability and decisions concerning redevelopment should fall to the cityís top elected body." Lest we forget - the last time the City Council had the opportunity to make a significant financial decision, they created a three year $100-plus million city budget deficit, and then blamed staff (after the fact) for bad advice. If Redevelopment takes a turn for the worse under City Council leadership, will staff again be blamed for the poor results?

Kudos to Councilman Val Lerch, who has offered the following resolutions:

  • Require that the merger of any of the Project Areas require a two thirds vote of all members of the Redevelopment Agency Board.

  • Mandate that the current Councilmembers can not receive any more compensation that the existing Redevelopment Agency members ($100 per meeting).

    There is talk around town about launching a recall effort for any Councilmember that votes to dissolve the RDA Board. Is this a good idea or bad idea? Letís hear your thoughts on whether or not to dissolve the existing RDA Board. This is a critical issue that affects us all.

  • E-Feedback

    How do you feel about this issue?

    Select choice, then click "submit"


    To also receive a free email alert when Mr. DeLong posts a new "Sound Off" commentary, enter your email address below (type carefully):

    E-Feedback results as of May 30, 2005 (caveat: not a scientific poll)

    YES = 3.85%
    (Dissolve existing RDA Board, Council appoints itself as RDA Board)

    NO = 96.15%
    (Council should wait until 3d party analysis completed before taking any action)

    Other commentaries by Mr. DeLong

    Douglas Park: Can We Do Better?


    Mr. DeLong sponsors this page to foster discussion of public issues in Long Beach. An East Long Beach resident, Mr. DeLong is the President & CEO of The RTP Group, Inc., a Long Beach based telecommunications consulting and software development firm. In addition to serving on several local Boards of Directors, he is also a member of the City's Economic Development Commission. The views expressed in this column are in his individual capacity. To learn more about Mr. DeLong, click here.


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