San Bernardino Sun: County leaders see a positive future despite the loss of redevelopment tools
Andrew Edwards, Staff Writer Posted: 02/29/2012 08:26:51 PM PST
County leaders touted a bright future in spite of ongoing economic challenges in front of a crowd of more than than 1,000 local officials and business leaders at San Bernardino County’s State of the County event Wednesday night. The event took place at the Million Air Terminal near San Bernardino International Airport.
Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Josie Gonzales made opening remarks and presented a short video highlighting county success stories. “It’s up to us to implement change,” Gonzales said in the airplane hangar where attendees gathered for drinks and conversation. “No one’s going to come and do this for us. We’re in the same economic bind.”
The video presentation identified the county’s hospitals, universities and military bases as major assets, while acknowledging key issues such as the need to improve primary and secondary schools and maintaining an adequate supply of water.
Prior to the video, business and government leaders discussed future interactions between the public and private sectors in California’s post-redevelopment era in a panel discussion. The panelists, which included San Bernardino County Chief Executive Officer Greg Devereaux, unhappily accepted that redevelopment agencies will no longer provide a means for local governments to subsidize development. They agreed there should be some kind of active role for government to play in planning which kinds of developments are best for their respective jurisdictions.
“Land, and how you use it in a city will determine your costs and revenues. What business wouldn’t want to determine their costs and revenues?” asked Devereaux, who served as Ontario’s city manager before taking the county’s top administrative position.
Redevelopment, as it existed in California until Feb. 1, allowed local governments to create redevelopment agencies that were empowered to use property tax dollars to improve infrastructure, finance affordable housing projects, acquire real estate and float bonds without needing to obtain voter approval.
Within the Inland Empire, redevelopment agency dollars aided the developers who created shopping centers like Ontario Mills and Victoria Gardens in Rancho Cucamonga. Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature took action last year to terminate redevelopment agencies and redirect their money to schools and other programs. In that sense, the end of redevelopment is the result of one of the several conflicts between Sacramento and local governments over scarce tax dollars, but that was not the only controversy related to redevelopment.
Although Wednesday’s speakers were of one voice on the value of redevelopment, critics of the program charged that redevelopment agencies gave taxpayer dollars to politically favored developers whose projects may not have been viable under free market conditions. Changing market conditions, however, was one of the purposes of redevelopment. Agencies were supposed to use their powers to eliminate urban blight and create conditions where the private sector could create a foothold.
Panelist Ed Konjoyan, an executive with Industry-based Majestic Realty Co., said that in his opinion many redevelopment-aided projects would not have come to fruition if officials simply waited for developers to propose them.