Sausages and bad law
The process of creating laws has been compared to making sausage, which may be an insult to sausage makers the world over. A multitude of ingredients, some of mysterious origin, are combined in an elastic container and allowed to age, sometimes indefinitely, before being delivered to the public who are rarely told precisely what’s inside.
The sausage equivalent of the legislative package adopted to dissolve California’s redevelopment agencies might well have been rejected by a jackal. It has proven to be profoundly distasteful to countless city officials around California and no one seems at all clear – least of all those who cooked it up – precisely what all the ingredients are or what they will or won’t do. Clearly, those who put the parts together had no idea what they were creating. But now, as we close in on a year post-redevelopment, the one thing that is clear is how big a mess they made.
The evidence of that mess can be found along Highway 12 in the Springs, where mothers still push baby buggies mere feet (and sometimes inches) from passing traffic, because there are no sidewalks or curbs to separate them from the mechanical flow.
And there are no sidewalks along roughly half of that congested corridor because Phase II of the Springs Highway 12 redevelopment project no longer has any redevelopment money, even though the bonds were sold and the revenues were collected and the work was ready to be put to bid.
We do not believe that the California Department of Finance, which has blocked use of the Highway 12 funds, is indifferent to the health and safety of Highway 12 residents. And we know for certain that DOF authorities are aware of the project, that they have heard a full-on presentation from Sonoma County officials on why it could and should go forward.
But we understand from 1st District Supervisor Valerie Brown that the Department of Finance is unwilling or unable to make what they fear would look like a policy exception for Sonoma County, even though the county’s Oversight Board has crossed all the “T”s and dotted all the “I”s in approving use of bond money to finish the project.
If that’s true, it means, that 25 years of waiting and planning – and for the past two years building – a public improvement vital for the safety of Springs residents, has been parked because of a petty technicality that, itself, is the inevitable byproduct of legislative sausage making by people incapable of planning for or predicting the consequences of a hasty, ill-conceived act of lawmaking.
It is likely that the Springs sidewalk improvements – which have been called the poster child for legitimate, blight-improvement redevelopment projects – are but one example of many around the state, and that the Department of Finance will be the target of numerous lawsuits, further freezing bona fide redevelopment projects in place, along with the jobs and public improvements they would have produced.
And that fiasco-in-motion is in turn the result of a rigid refusal by a handful of conservative lawmakers to allow even a modest increase in tax revenue to end California’s budget misery. Oh, the shame.