State in need of 'California Spring'
We need a California Spring movement. Recent political unrest in the Middle East has been called the Arab Spring. The heart of that activity echoes our own Declaration of Independence which states, "governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed."
The recent budget passed by the State of California should serve as a wakeup call to all Californians that a "California Spring" may be what is needed to get the Golden State back on track. The new budget includes the elimination of California redevelopment agencies which the "governed" have on three separate occasions told the "government" not to touch.
Elimination of California redevelopment agencies has much broader implications than the loss of funds, jobs, and economic opportunities for cities throughout the state. This action does more than confirm the state's institutional arrogance and disregard for the voters of California. It is also an institutional acknowledgement of an economic ignorance, or disdain, for how to actually expand a tax base and create jobs.
Even some well-intentioned efforts, such as California Forward, operate from a misguided premise that the state must "bestow" power to local governments rather than recognizing that true legitimacy and authority flows "up" from the residents of California.
On three separate occasions, residents of California have sent a clear signal they want Sacramento to solve its own issues without tampering with local resources. Redevelopment agencies are one of the pillars of local control and economic opportunity. But today, just as King George ignored the colonies, so too Sacramento ignores the will of the people on this and other issues.
The denial of the governor's efforts to go to the ballot for a vote on revenue increases ignores the "social contract" the governor established with California voters when he said he would only support raising taxes if the voters approved them. He deserves that opportunity. He won clearly stating that would be his approach. Likewise the will of the people should be respected on local control.
The current budget deal reveals the fatal flaw in Sacramento's thinking today. RDAs are not just one more program. The failure to recognize how to grow and expand tax bases means that Sacramento fundamentally doesn't understand that cities historically are where people gather together to engage in commercial activities and create wealth.
Ending redevelopment agencies takes away one of the key economic tools at precisely the time when expanding local economies and creating jobs should be our number one priority.
To knowingly suggest the state is subsidizing redevelopment speaks to an unimaginable lack of understanding of how the marketplace actually works and how tax revenues are ultimately generated. It certainly isn't the approach I want guiding the world's eighth largest economy.
Let your state lawmakers and the governor's office know that your vote should count and that eliminating redevelopment agencies is not the way to move California forward.
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Dennis Donohue is the mayor of Salinas, where he has been a lifelong resident. His opinion piece is reprinted from PUBLICCEO.com.