‘This is Torture,’ Says Hayward Mayor Sweeney on Redevelopment Payments

Sept. 22, 2011 | Michael Sweeney is quite a mild-mannered public servant, but he has one button; when pressed, agitates the hell out of Hayward’s mayor. Sweeney is the East Bay’s most vocal opponent of the state’s proposal to continue local redevelopment agencies featuring an “opt-in” component he and many other officials routinely call ransom.

During a council meeting Tuesday night, Sweeney had more unkind words for the plan, currently under stay by the State Supreme Court. “This is torturous,” he told city staff before directing his comments to viewers watching on cable access. “And those of you watching this torture at home, thank Sen. Ellen Corbett and Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi and their colleagues in the state Legislature for imposing this on us all.” It is not the first time he has laid blame squarely on the city’s two representatives in Sacramento and likely not the last.

A frequent attendee of Hayward City Council meeting named Jim Drake, though, said local cities complain about the state taking funding away and the state complains about the federal government. “It’s a trickle down effect,” he said, “Suck it up.”

As Drake left the podium, Sweeney quickly reacted to the statement. “I’m sure you’ll be pleased to suck it up when we have to reduce services because the state continues to take general fund money,” said Sweeney.

A staff presentation detailed the process moving forward for the city to begin remittances for the initial $4 million payment next year that will continue function of its redevelopment agency. Half is due in January 2012 with the remainder in May. In subsequent years, the city will be on the hook for around $960,000 annually.

Cities in California are hoping Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to balance the state budget through the reorganization of redevelopment agencies fails in the court. Staff is hopeful a decision by the court will be made in advance of the first redevelopment payment in January. In the meantime, the city is appealing the state for a decrease in its remittance payment, according to a staff report.

Since the percentage of its tax increment for paying tax allocation bonds and interest rose to 18 percent, the city could be in line for a reduction of over $300,000. The break could be granted because the rate is above a threshold outlined by the state controller’s office. Assistant City Manager Kelly Morariu, though, said the appeal’s outcome is “anybody’s guess at this point.”

In a sense, most California cities have been in an holding pattern regarding redevelopment since last March. “We can’t do anything except status quo,” said Morariu. Until the court makes a decision in the next few months, Morariu said, the redevelopment agency can only pay its debt service, meet payroll and tend to existing contracts.

In staff reports, the state’s program is referred to as the “Voluntary Program.” Sweeney, with a wry smile, urged staff to remove the term “voluntary” or simply add the term, “so-called” before every occurrence of the word.

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