SANTA CRUZ – A series of boards overseeing the dissolution of local redevelopment agencies is taking shape, providing a glimpse into the next phase of California’s elimination of a program that helped build local libraries, swimming pools, streets and more.
Under legislation passed last year, California’s 400 redevelopment agencies are being eliminated, saving the state $1.7 billion. But the move has touched off a scramble to wind down agencies that often swung multimillion-dollar development deals to help eliminate neighborhood blight.
All boards must be in place within a matter of weeks. The county has set March 27 for its oversight board’s first meeting. County Auditor-Controller Mary Jo Walker is also tasked with auditing each of the five redevelopment agencies operating in the county.
“There’s no precedent for something like this,” County Board Chairman John Leopold said. “There’s some detail on parts of it and there’s a lack of detail on much of it.”
Because redevelopment diverts increases in local property taxes, it was often accused of skimming tax proceeds from schools, fire departments and other cash-strapped agencies. Under state law, those agencies now get a seat at the table when deciding how to eliminate redevelopment, which has many wringing their hands.
Tuesday, the county board appointed Leopold, Comerica Bank vice president and Port Commissioner Reed Geisreiter and county employee Susan Rozario to its oversight board. They join Central Fire Chief Jeff Maxwell and assistant schools superintendent Patricia Deming, with two more to come.
Local boards are taking shape as well.
Supervisor Greg Caput nominated former Watsonville Police Chief Terry Medina to that city’s redevelopment oversight board. And Supervisor Neal Coonerty nominated former Santa Cruz City Councilmember Cynthia Mathews to Santa Cruz’s board. Leopold is recommending county school board member Jack Dilles to Scotts Valley’s board, and Supervisor Ellen Piries nominated Gayle’s Bakery owner Gayle Ortiz to Capitola’s.
County supervisors are expected to serve on those city oversight boards as well.
Filling out Scotts Valley’s oversight board is Councilmember Dene Bustichi and Deputy City Manager Corrie Kates, joined by Scotts Valley Fire District Board Member Rudy Cabigas. Two more positions are still being finalized.
In Santa Cruz, Economic Development Director Bonnie Lipscomb said tentative members include Councilmember Hilary Bryant, Doug Ley of the Parking Facilities District and city worker J. Guevara, a former redevelopment agency employee. More appointments are still also to come.
Representatives from Watsonville or Capitola did not immediately return inquiries. Cabrillo College also gets a voice on local oversight boards, but their nominees have not been finalized.
Santa Cruz County Superintendent Michael Watkins said he opted for simplicity and consistency when choosing his appointments. The chief business officials for several local school districts – Deming, Alvaro Meza, Brett McFadden, Vickie Clark and Mary Hart – are being appointed to their respective oversight boards.
“I think they want to be a player at the table to make sure students and schools are being served in the process,” Watkins said.
In other business, the county voted 4-1 to incorporate the framework of a 1979 United Nations treaty aimed at improving the lives of women and girls in its practices and policies. That treaty, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, has never been adopted by the U.S., but both San Francisco and Los Angeles have incorporated at least parts of it in their policies and practices.
The vote came during renewed debate about women’s rights, particularly when it comes to access to contraception. Nationally, conservative talk show Rush Limbaugh has come under fire for crass criticism of a law student who supports insurance coverage for contraception.
“Despite everything’s that’s been done, there are some attitudes out there still,” sighed Sheila De Lany, a Women’s Commission member who praised the board’s action.
Supervisor Greg Caput voted against the county’s policy change, saying the county should not endorse treaties not approved by the federal government, and that as a pro-life Catholic, he objects to language in the treaty supporting womens’ access to abortions in countries where it is legal.