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    With Council Poised To Become LB's Redevelopment Agency Board, Councilman Lerch Wants Ordinance Requiring Unanimous Approval To Merge Any Redevelopment Project Areas

    (October 22, 2004) -- In the wake of an October 19 Council vote (6-3: Colonna, Gabelich, Lerch dissenting) supporting a hearing on replacing LB's non-elected Redevelopment Agency Board with the elected City Council, Councilman Val Lerch has sent an October 21 memo (text below) to the Mayor and Councilmembers with the intention of placing the following item on the November 9 City Council Agenda:

    There is a great concern by the Redevelopment Community that should the RDA Board be dismantled and the City Council takes over as the RDA Board, that there will be a merger of all of the Redevelopment PAC areas.

    Therefore, I request that should the City Council establish itself as the RDA Board, the City Attorney should be directed to prepare an Ordinance to read as follows: "Require that the merger of any of the Redevelopment PAC areas require a unanimous vote of ALL members of the Redevelopment Agency.

    Reaction is pending as we post.

    The October 19 Council vote set the stage for a major change in decision-making on Redevelopment in Long Beach -- including who controls millions of dollars public money and property uses affecting nearly half the city. LB is one of only three CA cities that has delegated all of its Redevelopment Agency powers to a separate, appointed Agency Board; in CA's 385 other cities with active Redevelopment Agencies, the elected City Council serves as the Agency Board.

    Last year, some at City Hall indicated a desire to merge LB's currently separate Redevelopment project areas. Activists in some of the Redevelopment areas viewed this as a device to raid their area's money and divert it elsewhere.

    Mayor O'Neill created a firestorm when she tried to block appointees to the Redevelopment Agency governing board who had been nominated by grassroots Redevelopment project area committees. Redevelopment area activists speculated that the Mayor's move was part of an attempt to pack the RDA Board with a majority that would support a merger. (The Mayor denied this) but her action produced an acrimonious Council meeting in which a Council majority voted against the Mayor.

    Meanwhile, city management sought (and received) permission from the Redevelopment Agency Board to use money that had been targeted 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 let City Hall use the money as a loan...but there was lasting damage, including fears that City Hall is increasingly motivated 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 by giving the Council access to the Redevelopment money.

    LB's current Redevelopment Agency Board had agreed to fund an "independent study" of Redevelopment in LB...but it angered some activists by balking at the inclusion of a forensic or other formal audit of Redevelopment projects. With a possible Council take-over of Redevelopment pending, the future of the "independent study" is now uncertain.

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