To the Members of the California State Assembly:
I am returning Assembly Bill 2531 without my signature.
Redevelopment funds are to be used solely for the purpose of eliminating blight in urban neighborhoods in California cities. This bill would authorize the use of redevelopment funds for projects that are not necessarily blighted as well as for projects outside the redevelopment area, and as such would violate the primary purpose of redevelopment law.
For these reasons I cannot sign this bill.
That’s the short and sweet veto message the governor sent out late Thursday just before the midnight deadline for action on AB 2531 -- the legislation City Hall sought to completely corrupt the whole purpose of the LA Community Redevelopment Agency.
It’s hard to think of a City Hall scheme as rotten as this one.
It would have allowed the CRA — an agency created to help the poor and restore blighted neighborhoods — to take taxpayer money and spend it anywhere in the city for just about any purpose.
It was a license to steal, to enrich political insiders, to trash the city with high-rise projects that served no one except the profiteers who feed off City Hall and fund its corruption.
The Council slipped through its approval of this back in January as part of a long list of legislative proposals. It was one of the pillars of First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner’s plans to create jobs no matter what they cost the public, no matter how much harm is done to the quality of life of the residents..
There was no public discussion or notice until a source pointed it out to me a week ago in an item called “Beutner’s Folly.”
Since then there has been an uproar among informed people across the city with flurries of emails and a terrific article by Ziggy Kruse on City Watch LA dissecting AB 2531 and how it represents an abuse of eminent domain law by allowing the CRA to confiscate private property and give it to private interests for financial gain.
Valley Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes pushed this bill only affecting LA through the legislature mainly along party line votes. It would have allowed the CRA to use public money — local taxes and grants from the state and federal government — for almost any purpose: Job training, small business
incubators, funding non-profits, construction loans and for funding
capital and equipment purchases without the restriction of even being in a CRA project area.
Dozens of people got involved and interconnected through emails and blog posts to dig out the facts about how City Hall tried to slip this destructive passed the public without any open discussion.
Reporter Katherine Russ of the North Valley Reporter dug into the legislative history and found the original Council File 10-0002. She and others in a long series of emails examined the record and shared their findings, which were then sent and re-sent widely like chain letters to a wide network of activists.
The record shows that on Jan. 13 Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller began transmitting a series of proposals for state and federal legislation from various city departments to the Council.
They ranged from rabies vaccination reporting to a tax on satellite TV service and all 15 were rubber-stamped as a group on Jan. 19 by the Information Technology and Government Affairs Committee. You can blame Tony Cardenas and Dennis Zine. Jan Perry didn’t bother to even show up.
The very next day, the Council approved the recommendation unanimously with Eric Garcetti, Jose Huizar, Paul Krekorian and Greig Smith absent. The mayor agreed on Jan. 29.
That’s when the obedient Fuentes went to work in the legislature using the report on the CRA scheme from CLA Miller as the model for a bill that would only apply to LA — something Perry and other Council members criticized as wrong when denouncing City Attorney Carmen Trutanich’s efforts to get LA-only legislation to give him the power to issue subpoenas and impanel a grand jury.
Dozens of activists dug into the city and legislative documents online and shared their understanding in emails that were re-sent to many others on various individuals email lists.
James O’Sullivan, for instance, focused on how the city was seeking to change the meaning of the word “blight” — the key reason redevelopment law was written in the first place as the governor’s veto message notes.
“One of the really onerous parts of this bill is amending the definition of BLIGHT,” he wrote.
“It now will include (only in Los Angeles) area’s that lack Parks an open space. I shudder to think what area’s this will now bring under the CRA banner. The City has allowed developers to twist and bend what they can call open space but one only has to look to Laura Chick’s audit of Quimby fees to see why we don’t have more parks and open space.”
Blight is defined in dictionaries as meaning “urban decay … whereby a
previously functioning city, or part of a city, falls into disrepair and
decrepitude” and “something that impairs growth, withers hopes and
ambitions, or impedes progress and prosperity.”
Here’s how the city wanted blight redefined: “Public housing projects in the City of Los Angeles that are more than 50 years old, Areas unhealthy for persons to live or work by .(1) high incidences of obesity, diabetes,. and other diseases which-are affected by poor access to fresh food; (2) or high incidences of asthma, lung cancer and other respiratory diseases which are affected by air pollution or the presence of contaminated properties; and Areas that suffer from a lack of parks and open space.”
In other words, the city is admitting the air and soil are so contaminated, fresh food and parkland so lacking in so many areas, LA is like smoking hazardous to your health. So the answer they wanted was the right to densify the entire city and make it even more unlivable.
The governor was inundated with letters, emails and phone messages from the public pleading for him to veto AB 2531. But few Arnold would listen to their the pleas and the publicity over AB 2531 because of his close connections to many of the interests behind it.
To the pleasure of many — except Beutner and the developers — the governor decided to veto AB 2531, saying “the use of redevelopment funds for projects that are not necessarily
blighted as well as for projects outside the redevelopment area …would violate the primary purpose of redevelopment law.”