The Great Redevelopment Showdown; What Will Sharon Quirk Do?

On May 5th, the Fullerton City Council will once again take up the matter of a vast new Redevelopment land grab in Fullerton. The bureaucrats in City Hall want to appropriate all the property tax that they can by throwing the Redevelopment net over a huge swath of the City. In order to do so they must find “blight” and they must be able to prove it. So far they haven’t. They never will.

Well, that's a bit over-dramatic
Well, that's a bit over-dramatic, don't you think?

What does “redevelopment” mean in practical terms? It means the diversion of property taxes from other government agencies; it means the power of eminent domain over law-abiding property owners; it means more massive developments by favored developers; it means more design mediocrity – or worse.

Blight replaces blight...
Blight replaces blight - Redevelopment style...

Devoted Friends of Fullerton, over the past few weeks we have favored you with a litany of loose accountability and lax responsibilty exhibited by Fullerton’s Redevelopment Agency over the years. These sad stories have detailed incompetence, government overreach, bureaucratic usurpation of sovreign authority, the serial uglification of downtown Fullerton; and worse still, our tales have shown the happy compliance and enthusiatic support of the City Councilmembers for all this misfeasance.

It's not our money!
Jeepers, what a swell party!

Although some of the Redevelopment case studies of mismanagement and boondogglery we have related occurred in the 1990s, nothing has changed. The fact that Don Bankhead and Dick Jones can still cheerlead for this failed – and failing – government entity only goes to show how irresponsible it would be to permit the metastasis of Redevelopment in Fullerton. Harnessed side by side, these two have trudged through the last twelve years approving most of the Redevelopment disasters we have recounted to you Friends.

The main thing is to just keep going...
The main thing is to just keep plodding along, and whatever you do, don't look back...

So now we are at the proverbial eleventh hour; what will happen on Tuesday? Jones and Bankhead(Joneshead?) are on safely board. Nelson is on record as opposing the expansion; Keller seems to be opting out because of a conflict of interest. This leaves Sharon Quirk as the necessary third vote. Although every instinct in her body must be telling her to go with the staff and the good old boys, to just follow on the slip-stream of inertia, we think she may be entertaining some nagging doubts. Even if these doubts are of a political character, we will embrace them as if they were the heartfelt and genuine response to our brilliant posts on the history of Redevelopment disasters in Fullerton.

Ain't Love Grand?
Ain't Love Grand?

On Tuesday we will be watching Quirk. She will have the rare opportunity to do the right thing – to refuse the expansion and to say why: Redevelopment does not work. It is a scam. It invests authority in people who are not qualified to exercise such authority and it engenders both incompetent government action and lack of accountability for those who act ineptly or even illegally.

Quirk’s choice is really pretty easy.

21 Replies to “The Great Redevelopment Showdown; What Will Sharon Quirk Do?”

  1. I feel like I’m in the twilight zone – two Republican votes have already been written off for a big government land grab and wasted tax dollars? No wonder the new GOP mantra is “abandon ship”.

    Nelson is smart to go against this one. The economy has forced voters into frugality and they’re going to exercise their wrath against anyone who starts throwing tax dollars around and taking private property. The “aye’s” are going to pay the price on this for a long time.

  2. Yes, the choice is easy. For you or me. Quirk has no real ability to understand what’s going on and so she relies on what the staff tells her to do. It’s sad but true. But she knows she’s going to get reamed by this blog if she goes the wrong way.

    It will be fun to watch her performance on Tuesday. My guess is she’ll try to get staff to recommend a continuance of the whole thing to a date uncertain – so she can pick it up again later when she thinks everyone has forgotten about it.

  3. Yes, Dusty, it’s a pretty disturbing image (shooting a yoked oxen is almost as easy as shooting a moose). But it works on so many levels I just couldn’t residt using it.

  4. Yes, the oxen photo is my favorite so far. Very profound.

    Patience. Fine ‘shine must age for at least 2 days.

  5. There is a chance that this item will be recommended to be continued by the staff, but we shouldn’t count on it. One thing about the whole redevelopment model that bothers me that it appears to be funded by the floating of bonds. In theory, I suppose, the bonds are paid off by the increased sales revenue generated by the projects (?). Has this model worked? Otherwise, are we not in an endless cycle of having to constantly issue bonds to pay for more projects? When does the bill come due?

  6. No, Matt.

    Bonds are floated alright but they are secured by property tax increment. That increment is the difference in property tax revenue from before the project area is established to what excess is generated after. The logic is that Redevelopment is responsible for the excess value which is pure unadulterated baloney, of course. Most of the time its just the general increase in property values – or inflation.

    When property values fall Redevelopment Agencies can get into trouble.

    The true Redevelopment raison d’etre is to generate additional sales tax revenue for the city that goes directly into the general fund. An ancillary benefit for staff is the fun of playing developer with somebody else’s money. It’s like gambling on the house’s dollar: no risk to you.

    And of course nobody does look backward to compare the Redevelopment result with what could have been accomplished without it. The analysis would get pretty interesting because you’d have to consider lost property tax revenue, lost private sales tax revenue, plus the lost opportunity cost of the Agency’s “investment.” Since all this involves hypotheticals it gives a Agencies a good reason not to do it, and to simply gloat over their “success.”

    I really hope Sharon Quirk is reading this.

  7. “I really hope Sharon Quirk is reading this.”

    As painful as it might be, all councilmembers and city staff should be following this blog. It would be negligence to not know what’s going on in your own city.

  8. Harpoon, Perhaps it would help the process to put up some pictures from across the nation where redevelopment has worked because such funds have been used appropriately..

  9. Law of the Land has a bit written on it, as well as a book recommendation. Here’s an excerpt from the review:

    ” The various stakeholders in the process may have very different primary considerations – for example the developers may be concerned about marketability, land assembly and a return on what could be a considerable financial investment. Local governments are mindful of increasing public scrutiny on the use of condemnation proceedings that may be needed for some redevelopment projects, as well as other public infrastructure and public health, safety and welfare concerns. Neighborhood residents may be concerned about the impact of the project on their homes as well as on the economy of the area. The editors acknowledge the great impact that the recent convergence of three movements – Smart Growth, New Urbanism and Green Building – have had on the way governments and the public think about redevelopment projects. “

  10. I recommend Jane Jacob’s “The Death and Life of Great American Cities.” A fifty-year old masterpiece that is not dated one iota.

    missk, the Redevelopment “process” defines success in its own way – by ignoring other possible scenarios. Even apparent success stories are suspect because the analysis of them necessarily excludes other outcomes.

    One may even find the design elements appealing but realize that the same thing could have been accomplished without public subsidy or without duress.

    On ne passe pas! Ecrasez l’infame!

  11. Harpoon, for us ignorant, please translate in English the meaning of “On ne passe pas! Ecrasez l’infame!”

    Thank You.

  12. Cathy,
    I believe Harpoon is blogging from La Vie En Rose. That, or he’s been watching way too much Pepe LeP eu.

    “Au revoir, pidgeon. Sweeting is such part sorrow.”

  13. Yes, I always freshen up my dissertations on management theory with tidbits of fractured French.

    Amphibian hints for the google challenged: Verdun 1916 & Jean Francois Marie Arouet.

  14. After quirk votes yes for tax funded unnecessary redevelopment, she will return to her crayons and coloring book.

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