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California cities launch ad campaign to protect redevelopment agencies

March 7, 2011 | 11:33 am

Cities have launched a statewide ad blitz and signature-gathering campaign urging legislators to protect California's roughly 400 municipal redevelopment agencies from Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to eliminate them.

Brown is recommending that the $5 billion a year in property taxes that the agencies run on be sent to schools, counties and the state instead.

"Any day now, the state politicians will vote on a budget that takes redevelopment away from our cities," said the ad, which called the move "a scheme" that will "put thousands more out of work."

The ad campaign comes as state Controller John Chiang released a report Monday finding that city redevelopment agencies illegally shortchanged schools by more than $40 million last year while spending millions of dollars in public money on such things as luxury golf courses.

Times' Data Desk: How is your redevelopment agency spending money?

Not to be outdone by the cities, the California Professional Firefighters and the California School Employees Assn. put up funds for a countercampaign on radio stations in Sacramento. "While deputies are facing layoffs, fire stations are closing and local school funding is slashed, redevelopment agencies are spending taxpayer money for stadiums, parking garages and 'mermaid bars,'" one radio ad said.

Behind the scenes, cities continued their rush to shield redevelopment money from the state, with the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency holding another emergency meeting Monday morning -- at such an early hour that one activist showed up in a bathrobe as a form of protest. At the meeting, officials pledged $100 million more for housing projects, parks and shopping centers in an attempt to keep the money out of the state's reach.

That is on top of more than $900 million that the agency pledged last month for a laundry list of projects.

The state Legislature could vote on the budget as soon as this week, and many observers believe redevelopment could be killed, despite the furious lobbying of the traditionally powerful California Redevelopment Assn. and the League of California Cities.

Chiang's report, which was completed in just five weeks, further fuels the argument that redevelopment is sucking up precious funds with little to show in return.

RELATED:

California to audit 18 redevelopment agencies

Lots of cash and little scrutiny in city redevelopment

Bid to kill redevelopment agencies sets stage for fierce battle

-- Jessica Garrison

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