California’s teachers and firefighters today denounced efforts by the Los Angeles City Redevelopment Agency to ram through hundreds of special pet projects at the expense of schools, public safety and other core services.
On Friday, the Los Angeles City Redevelopment Agency -- without meaningful public input – voted to fast-track nearly $900 million in funding paid to developers through the city’s redevelopment agency. Their objective was to thwart budget reforms that, if enacted, would return billions to local cities, counties, fire districts and school districts to pay for core services.
“The Redevelopment Agency is basically saying that developer profits are more important than schools, public safety, libraries and other core services,” said Lou Paulson, president of California Professional Firefighters. “This rushed action deliberately thwarts California’s effort to restore fiscal sanity and accountability to government.”
The agency’s proposal is an attempt to get around fiscal reform efforts contained in Governor Brown’s proposed state budget. The governor’s plan would phase out redevelopment agencies, which draw about $5 billion in property tax revenue every year. Under the governor’s plan, those funds would be redirected directly to cities, counties, fire districts and school districts for core services.
“Governor Brown has put forth a balanced proposal that would return meaningful authority to local government,” said David A. Sanchez, President of the California Teachers Association. “Rather than address the governor’s plan thoughtfully, the city is trying to ram through funding for its own special interest projects.”
Redevelopment agencies throughout California have come under scrutiny for their lack of accountability and distribution of special favors. The Los Angeles Times recently reported finding “widespread instances of corruption, questionable spending and poor accountability at such agencies.”
“Acting with little public notice or input, the agency proposed committing nearly a billion dollars of taxpayer money to business and developer interests,” said Paulson. “Meanwhile, fire stations are closing, school class sizes are rising and core services are left to starve.”
“We understand the importance of economic development, but not under the cover of darkness,” concluded Sanchez. “The place for these issues is in the budget process, so that all interested parties can participate.”
The California Teachers Association represents 325,000 teachers, counselors, school librarians, social workers, psychologists, nurses and education support professionals who work in 1,000 school districts. California Professional Firefighters represents 30,000 local, state and federal firefighters in California.