(August 22, 2005) -- John Gooding, for eight years a member of LB's Redevelopment Agency governing board, the non-elected body which oversees spending millions of dollars in bond funds from debt incurred to eliminate blight, delivered a newsworthy address at this morning's (Aug. 22) meeting of the Board.
LBReport.com is informed that among those present at the meeting were Councilmembers Rae Gabelich and Bonnie Lowenthal, chiefs of staff from most if not all Council offices...and at some point LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill entered the room and took a seat near the back of the Council Chamber.
[update] One newstipster tells us the Mayor arrived about five minutes after the RDA Board vice-chair criticized seven Councilmembers and the Mayor for not being present. [LBReport comment: Why should they attend if RDA is an independent board? And many Councilmembers have days jobs.] [end update]
Boardmember Gooding's statement came in the wake of an August 16 City Council item agendized by City Manager Jerry Miller. As agendized, it stated, "Recommendation to receive and file the report discussing the implementation of the Independent Study recommendations and consider additional suggestions from the City Manager concerning redevelopment in Long Beach."
However the backup memo, publicly available on the internet, included several paragraphs of suggestions regarding Redevelopment...including:
"To ensure greater community participation in the process of redevelopment,
selection of new Redevelopment Agency Boardmembers should be better aligned with those Council Districts that have the highest proportion of defined redevelopment project areas. This approach would help to achieve greater sensitivity concerning those most pressing redevelopment-related issues and challenges that exist in each of the Council Districts."
[For easy reference, we've posted the City Manager's Aug. 16 memo in full. To view it, click here].
The text of Boardmember Gooding's statement as prepared for delivery follows. Mr. Gooding provided us with a copy in digital form at our request.
Before I share some comments on this item, I want to take a few moments to address some of the individuals that Iíve worked with over the last eight years.
To my fellow board members: A big thank you for your dedicated service! Although we all have had differences of opinion at times, I respect your points of view and I cherish the relationships we have forged and I wish each of you the very best.
To the new board members: I hope you make it! You deserve to know what your role will be before you are officially appointed. Very simply- I wish you independence and encourage you to stand up for what you believe.
To Staff: Sandwiched in the middle between management and our policy-making board, I commend you for your dedicated service in the face of often undeserving criticism. Many times fingers are pointed at you as culprits and yet you always are there when called upon. You deserve a better relationship and working conditions than you are receiving. Walking that fine-line is never easy and my hat goes off to all of you because I know you attempt to do your very best.
Through the last 8 years, I thought my very last meeting would be spent reflecting on some of the successes the Agency has accomplished during my tenure on the Board.
Instead, I sit here today more concerned about the future than the past given last Tuesdayís City Council debacle. Please sit back, this may take a while!
It was some six or seven weeks ago we participated in the third joint study session with our city council. Our City Manager announced that there was going to be no governance change or recommendation based upon the strength of the independent study and obvious community outrage. Period. We were going to implement some of the studyís recommendations and hopefully focus on a new era of cooperation.
All of that changed Tuesday night at approximately 10:45 pm with virtually no audience, no notice, no transparency and no consideration for the $430,000 recently completed study, or the hundreds of people who donated time in this process that took over a year to complete. How ironic that the independent study called for a more common vision, better communication and more transparency between the Board and Council and yet not one member of our Board was even notified that this item was agendized for last Tuesday. So much for transparency.
The Press Telegram headline on Thursday states "Bid to Take Over LB RDA Fails." I would submit to you the votes taken last week materially changed this Agency and weakened its independence and altered its ability to control investment in our neighborhoods and projects.
Some of the recommendations made in the City Managerís report last Tuesday went far beyond anything discussed in the independent study. The City Manager recommended that Agency board members be selected or aligned with those Council districts that have the highest level of redevelopment. If you follow this logic, perhaps we should only have downtown residents serve on the Harbor Commission, only Los Altos and Bixby Knolls residents serve on the Airport Advisory Commission, and since so much construction is taking place downtown, it must be fair to have the planning commission made up of people most affected by the building downtown.
Although this Council has a never-seen-before propensity to interject itself into other boards and commissions, this is the first time I have heard that the selection process should be altered for just the RDA. I wonder which commission or board will be next? Will it be the Harbor Commission, Planning? Airport? Or maybe the Transit Board. How much longer will dedicated community leaders want to serve our City and be treated by Council with sometimes little regard. Is there any group that they donít want to silence or control? The only city-wide perspective is that of the Mayor and any change to the board/commission process weakens our communityís only city-wide elected voice on the Council.
Our City is made up of nine districts with mostly provincial goals and objectives. Decisions throughout this City are being made with short-term benefits foremost in the minds of our elected officials. Redevelopment by its vary nature is a long-term investment strategy that does not mix well with short-term instant gratification objectives..
Is council district control of the board member selection process a good idea? It probably would show the same benefits that district elections have shown in the last few years-no city-wide shared vision! Letís not Balkanize the RDA by implying district control is some sort of panacea.
The third recommendation in Mr. Millerís letter is to have council control over RDA expenditures over $1,000,000. Since this would mean virtually all meaningful developments, the Council is essentially taking control of the Agency but leaving bodies on the
Board. If you are taking control, stand up and vote to take the Agency over. Please donít sugarcoat it and leave a weakened board in place. I found it meaningless that the Council would argue about control of the board member selection process, after just approving by a 7-2 vote, to control all of the money decisions. Folks, the train had already left the station!
Why is this recommendation in there? It's all about the money. This City has shown an inability to manage itís finances and pension costs. This RDA board has faced significant & increasing pressure form management to use precious redevelopment dollars intended for our neighborhoods, to fund and plug holes in the general fund. If the Council controls all of the money, how much will there be left for the neighborhoods and commercial corridors? It will allow them to further postpone the deficit spending for the next council representative to deal with. This will come at the expense of a new park, a new shopping center or new residential project. Thoughtful considerations need to be made with long-term growth in mind and a gatekeeper wary of the quick fix like another police station that would come at the expense of sorely needed cops on the street. While we are in the midst of a $100 million dollar general fund deficit, the City will soon ask the Agency to help fund $20,000,000 for a new police station in the Central district when the City just spent countless millions on the recently renovated downtown police building. Whatís wrong with this picture? It is fiscally irresponsible and buildings donít make our streets any safer! Perhaps five or six new developments would make a greater impact with those dollars. Hard questions that need to be asked do not appear to be forthcoming.
The last line of Mr. Millerís letter to the Council states that there is no fiscal impact with regard to his recommendations. With all due respect, I could not disagree more fervently with that conclusion!
Lastly, I would ask our community if we are heading in the right direction with the leadership of this City. Month after month, meeting after meeting, we are presented with decisions that fly in the face of community input, sound business decisions and fiscal responsibility. It is time for the business community, neighborhood groups, PACs, trade associations, charitable and service groups, and concerned citizens to stand up and demand more results than what we are getting. The time for a city-wide vision is upon us. If we do not act now, we have only ourselves to blame. Thank you for listening.