(June 19, 2006) -- Early tonight (June 19), LB's Redevelopment Agency will hold what it calls its "First Annual Redevelopment Agency Town Hall" at The Grand (4101 E. Willow) at 6:30 p.m. to [as described on City Hall's website] "highlight the successes and future of redevelopment in Long Beach and give residents an opportunity to address issues and concerns they have in their own communities."
City Hall says the event, which is also scheduled to include outgoing LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill, will "highlight the successes and future of redevelopment in Long Beach and give residents an opportunity to address issues and concerns they have in their own communities" and will feature "a panel discussion on the future of redevelopment with a group of Long Beach leaders."
Among the scheduled panelists: Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga, RDA Board chair Tom Fields, City Hall Economic Development bureau manager Robert Swayzee, an affordable housing advocate and a private developer.
The RDA says its Town Hall is part of a year-long (and continuing) public outreach effort to become more transparent, more open, more engaging of the public on Redevelopment issues.
That's fine...but it's inconsistent with City Hall's actions in pursuing "stealth lobbying" [our term] against the interest of private property owners on eminent domain and Redevelopment reform.
As we first reported last year, the "U.S. Conference of Mayors" (with Mayor Beverly O'Neill part of its leadership), the "National League of Cities" and "League of California Cities" -- all privately run advocacy groups supported in part by LB tax dollars through memberships, dues and junkets -- filed "Friend of Court" briefs urging the U.S. Supreme Court to rule against the interests of private property owners in a key eminent domain case, Kelo v. City of New London (CT)).
The resulting 5-4 decision constitutionally allows City Halls to take private property and give it to private developers if city officials [including recipients of developer campaign contributions] decide the developer's desires will provide some public benefit through increased taxes. This is so appalling that members of Congress and state legislatures (including Sacramento) backed measures to better protect property owners from abuse of the Redevelopment/eminent domain system.
The "Conference of Mayors" and "Leagues of Cities" immediately issued press releases applauding the Supreme Court ruling and then launched a jihad (they portray it as educational efforts) to blunt or kill remedial legislation adding stronger protections for property owners by either working to kill the measures, dilute them or advance diversionary, weaker half-remedies.
LBReport.com has consistently opposed anti-democratic "stealth lobbying" pursued by LB City Hall (and separately by the Port of LB) in which LB public officials quietly use advocacy groups like the Mayors' group and Leagues of Cities" to quietly advance the interests of City Halls against the interests of taxpayers...without any serious public discussion of those policies.
To us, the absence of serious discussion and direction by LB's policysetting City Council is key. Taxpaying LB property owners -- whose property taxes help bring City Hall its largest single revenue source -- shouldn't follow sheeplike as city officials spend their money against their interests without -- at minimum -- a public disucssion, debate and a recorded vote by their elected Councilmembers.
This hasn't happened. As previously reported on LBReport.com's front page, the U.S. Conference Mayors (with Mayor O'Neill as its president) on June 5th passed a policy resolution entitled "Revitalizing Cities Through Eminent Domain." To read it, click here.
And the beat goes on. Because City Halls and their affiliated lobbying groups continue to block strong Redevelopment/eminent domain reform, a petition-initiated homeowner protection ballot measure will now likely appear on the November ballot. If passed by voters, it will give property owners substantive protections against Redevelopment and eminent domain abuse.
Predictably, the "CA Redevelopment Association" (a lobbying group in which LB's RDA is a member, headed by former LB Ass't City Manager John Shirey) is preparing a jihad against the ballot measure and other sensisble reforms. We expect that before November arrives, multiple City Halls, their Redevelopment Agencies, the League of Cities and others likeminded will pull out the stops to defeat the ballot measure. They'll claim it isn't needed in CA (claiming that unlike CT we're protected by procedures defining "blight," in our opinion provable baloney) or the ballot measure goes too far and will harm RDA or City Hall efforts to fight "blight."
The latter argument will get an interesting reception in LB...where not a few people believe policies of LB City Hall and RDA have invited blight.
Deciding this issue democratically is what elections are for. If you attend tonight's RDA "Town Hall" event, we suggest you make clear -- politely but firmly -- that you oppose City Hall's continued anti-democratic use of "stealth lobbying" against your interests. You may also want to add that it hurts efforts by RDA and City Hall to reach out to the public when it simultaneously works to blindside the public by steathfully lobbying against their interests.
Enjoy the meeting...but don't drink the policy Kool-Aid.
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