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What Makes Cities Great: People, not Buildings — Stop the CRA Swindle

“For years, cities like Detroit built fancy towers and development
projects in the hopes that this would revive the downtown core. But
cities thrive because they host quality conversations, not because they
have new buildings and convention centers” Columnist David Brooks, New York TImes, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2011.

For the third time, the City Council has put on its agenda today the protection of nearly $1 billion in Community Redevelopment Agency funding from local property taxes — money that is intended to be used, as it has been in the past, to fund “fancy towers and development projects.”

UPDATE: The CRA item was continued until Feb. 16.

Billions of dollars in taxpayer money have funded high-rise towers, luxury entertainment venues and other costly developments in downtown and Hollywood to the detriment of the rest of the city — money that otherwise would have gone into the general fund and the school budgets.

The result is shrinking city services, an inadequate education system and worst of all continuing deterioration of the neighborhoods and the quality of the lives of vast numbers of people.

The failure of this policy of buildings over people has been documented in study after study, in report after report.

The point David Brooks is making, the point social critic Joel Kotkin is making is the same: Economic vitality of cities comes from the quality of people’s lives, the strength of their civic engagement, the connection they have with each other in parks and streets and libraries and wherever people come together and interact.

It takes leadership to bring all that together and make great things happen — and that most of all is where LA is most impoverished.

It’s noteworthy that several  CRA projects on Wednesday’s Council agenda involve items that on their face improve the infrastructure of neighborhoods instead of erecting buildings.

Streetscapes, sidwalk repair and street paving in poorer neighborhoods involved in these projects are real improvements that affect people’s lives and help generate more business activity, more jobs and lead to real crime reduction.

The Hollywood Farmers Market has become one of the prime examples of misguided public policy.

It’s an event that attracts 10,000 people on a Sunday, provides income to hundreds of vendors and farmers.

Yet, the city keeps trying to push ahead and destroy it despite the promises of Council President Eric Garcetti by approving a CRA-subsidized office building for a questionable developer in a market glutted with quality office space that is empty as well as expansion of the LA Film School.

Redevelopment does play a role in building a healthy city but only as it fits into real planning for sustainable communities with a high quality of life — not in drawing lines around vast areas and then subsidizing buildings on a case by case basis.

The promises of jobs and economic development from such projects are hollow — as hollow as the promise of the economic development that an NFL stadium on the Convention Center site is hollow. Football stadiums are not economic engines as studies have repeatedly shown.

In the case of AEG’s plan, the lies and manipulations are rapidly being revealed, starting with the false claim no tax dollars will be spent. The real question is what is the profit to the public in terms of tax dollars, something no one speaks of.

Today, the Daily News casts even more doubt on the credibility of the mayor’s “Blue-Ribbon Commission” that is supposed to protect the public interest by showing nearly the entire panel is made of people with strong ties to AEG, not to mention its chairman Austin Beutner has been involved in discussions about the stadium for months.

Maybe the NFL stadium is a good idea, maybe not. We’ll never know because we are nothing but a tool of the Mafia-like bosses who run professional football and our own greedy billionaires who want to join their club with the help of politicians who sell out the public interest for free tickets, fine wines and campaign cash.

Only one thing will stop this relentless machine bulldozing our city to erect lavish monuments to their egos instead of homes for all the decent people who aspire to a better life and that’s you the voters.

Mail-in ballots are already in your hands. Election day on March 8 is less than three weeks away. Send them a message that you want dramatic changes at City Hall, that you want leaders who serve the people, not themselves, that you want to reverse the decline of LA and make it a great city. 

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12 Responses to What Makes Cities Great: People, not Buildings — Stop the CRA Swindle

  1. Anonymous says:

    It is alarming to look at the rising billions of dollars that the State’s redevelopment agencies are sucking out of the coffers of our City, our County, and our School District.
    This misguided program of redevelopment has become a vehicle of organized crime and corruption by politically-connected developers. We are robbing our children’s educations to build empty towers to house the wealthy. It’s just part of an ongoing massive transfer and concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer people. This will lead to another round of LA riots and new lip service and the flight of hard working people out of Los Angeles.
    We need to replace the regime at City Hall. March 8th is upon us.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Brooks wrote…”But cities thrive because they host quality conversations…”
    Well, that’s certainly the opposite thinking downtown, isn’t it? Any chance City Hall can cut-off the public dialog (and the right to know) they do. I think this sums up the true state of Los Angeles about as well as Kotkin’s comments yesterday.
    Another quote in Brooks’ article says…”
    The cities that have thrived over the past few decades tend to have high median temperatures in January (people like warm winters and other amenities…” That’s nice news for a change.

  3. Anonymous says:

    How about a compromise between the governor and local officials that half of the development funds stay with the cities and the other half goes to the state to pay down the debt.
    This would be in effect for the next three years or until the economy recovers to replenish these lost funds.
    It is unconscionable in this recession to even conceive of a parking lot for Mr. Broad’s museum right now.
    However in a couple of years when the the recession is over and the funds are flush, we can certainly consider this “luxury item.”
    Just my opinion….thanks to ron for keeping attention on this matter

  4. James says:

    @Anonymous on February 9, 2011 12:13 PM
    The best thing that can happen is the closing of CRAs and then NOT have future funds be set aside for development.

  5. Scott Zwartz says:

    Unless we vote, we lose. Ten to one, however, Angelenos will vote for the councilman whose name they recognize without giving a thought to anyone else.
    Unlike some countries where a military dictatorship is imposed upon the citizens, Angelenos always vote for the same crooks — if they bother to vote at all.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Here is an excerpt from the Daily News who have endorsed the corrupt Cardenas who voted for CRA funds and to kelo our city:
    “THERE is an understandable backlash against incumbents at the moment. We saw it in the midterm congressional elections, when newcomers swept out sitting elected politicians; we’re seeing it now in the unusual number of challengers in Los Angeles City Council races.
    This is due in large part to L.A. Clean Sweep, a political action committee that has pushed grass-roots candidates to challenge incumbents, and there are a number of new faces seeking office. In the last L.A. City Council election, two council members ran unopposed and the other five incumbents faced one challenger each. This year, there are no uncontested races.
    Given the backlash and this new energy to unseat the old, we wish there was a strong challenger to incumbent 6th District Councilman Tony Cardenas. There is not, and even with his shaky record of achievement, he remains the best choice.
    In his eight years as councilman, Cardenas has not shown he is a particularly effective servant for his community, nor has he stood out as a leader in City Hall, despite his intelligence and political savvy. He’s operated somewhat under the radar, generally siding with the council majority in major issues.
    Cardenas deserves credit, however, for his work on gang prevention and intervention”.
    What a joke! This is a reason to elect a guy who has allowed his community to deteriorate such that gangs have filled the vacuum?
    In the same vein, LA Times endorsed that totally useless man, Mitch Englander in CD12 for the sole reason that he had raised the most money, about half a million. No questions asked as to where he got the money from and why some special interests were willing to bestow such huge sums on this man.
    Both our local papers are such sad excuses for local coverage that it would be preferable if they kept completely out of the elections. They will never allow new faces cause they prefer the stink of the current.

  7. Sandy Sand says:

    At no time — good times or bad — do the uber rich deserve any public funds as was suggested above.
    If having a museum dedicated to your own ego and inelegant art is the dream of some zillionaire like Eli Broad, which has become our nightmare, then let him build it and the parking structure with his own gold. If he were a REAL philanthropist, that’s what he would do and admission and parking would be free.
    The same goes for all the fat cats who are entangled in the AEG/LA Live rat’s nest. It’s a business venture, and if it’s so damn profitable then they should go it on their own, pay their fair share of taxes and stop living off the public’s money.
    I’m so sick of these people saying these things are for “our benefit” when they’re all for their benefit. What percent of the millions who live in Los Aneles will ever travel downtown to participate in any events held there? A tiny percentage; certainly not enough to make it worth spending billions of tax dollars that should be spread throughout the city in the form of police and fire, trash collection, street maintenance, public health, parks and libraries.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hope people in CD12 are paying attention to Brad Smith, an honest and smart person, not beholden to special interests.
    Listen to Brad’s interview with KRLA host Kevin James, where they discussed the city budget, the need for new leadership in the council, and Brad’s commitment to use one-third of the $180,000-a-year council salary for the district’s needs!
    02-09-11 broadcast:
    Hour 1 Segment 2
    Hour 1 Segment 3

  9. Bob says:

    The big problem right now in LA City and LA County is that when strong evidence of a crime is presented to City or County Officials, nothing is done about it. It’s in your face, everyone knows about it – its in writing for goodness sake.
    When that happens, Los Angeles has sunk to a new low and needs and outside, non-tainted law enforcement authority to fully audit the actions of the City, depose people, and take action to clean up LA.

  10. Anonymous says:

    This is what all of us are trying to do. While we await for someone from the outside to clean up LA, let’s do our part in ridding the incumbents with honest candidates who don’t have the money that gets them an endorsement from the major publications. We can at least give them our vote. It is election time and repeating the same thing that something needs to be done isn’t getting us anywhere.

  11. kayojon says:

    The only way I would ever support the CRA is if they started a project at Normandie and Slauson… anybody can join the gentrification of Hollywood after it’s already started, but where is the CRA when you really have a blighted area? There’s even a train right of way to build a subway.

  12. Anonymous says:

    This reminds me when we used to play Monopoly with adults…everybody played by the rules…as soon as we began playing without supervision…the older or more experienced Monopoly players would start cheating or colluding against the younger novice players…before you knew it, they started conning you out of Boardwalk and Park Pl…Concerned Angelinos…WE must defunk our beloved city by voting these unscrupulous snake oil peddlers out of office…Show them curb, or perhaps the caboose…
    “Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass go, do not collect $200.”

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