RDA-Redevelopment Dead on Arrival?
This past Tuesday’s city council meeting (Dec. 10th) seemed more like a variety TV show with melodramatic slides and sounds to expound on the success of our Redevelopment Agency (RDA) which is on the endangered species list of taxpayer’s dollars funded programs.
I had to bite my lip when interim Housing and Economic Redevelopment Director Jan Davidson (a double dipper earning both a salary and pension from the city) said she was not going to list accomplishments by our RDA in her presentation, and then did just that, well sort of.
Some accomplishments Ms. Davidson noted which did not include dates when these projects were completed were Cabrillo College (1997), the Mello Center (1992), Soccer Central (1997), and the Civic Plaza Building (2003) which was the last major project completed with RDA money almost 9 years ago.
What was not included in the presentation as RDA accomplishment at the city council meeting was that we gave Romo Properties (Ms. Stella Romo) a $400,000.00 low interest loan in 2010 for “tenant improvements” for her new building on Second St. across the street from the Civic Plaza. The city sold her the lot for that structure for $25,000 four years earlier on October 2006. And, according to public records, a few months ago this past September, the City of Watsonville may have provided Ms. Romo another loan for this property in the amount of $3,200.00 from federal funds. The reason given to the city council for the $400,000.00 loan was that upon completion of the interior of the building Whole Foods would move in, and with it, 40-50 new jobs would be created. I called Whole Foods corporate headquarters in Texas and a representative said maybe a few jobs were added but it was mostly a lateral move of existing employees. Additionally, $35,165.00 of RDA funds was used for “Jalisco’s Parking Lot”. Jalisco’s is a Romo owned restaurant.
Another RDA accomplishment not mentioned is the million dollar loan given to a large corporation to purchase some property in Watsonville in 2009. The property in question belonged to the City of Watsonville which owned the land underneath the Evergreen Apartments. The buyers could not afford to purchase the city owned land, or at least that is what the city council was led to believe, so they were given a million dollar loan by our Redevelopment Agency to buy it. The buyers then paid the city the million dollars for the property with the Redevelopment Agency million dollar loan. Basically, what seems to have happened is that one million dollars from our Redevelopment Agency was transferred to the city’s General Fund account in the process of the “sale” of the city owned property so the city could balance its budget which was around a million short at the time.
According to city records, the city has managed to hand out around $237,000.00 to business property owners in the last 10 years for “Façade Improvements”. This equates to around $23,700 per year. How long have we been paying Redevelopment Agency city staff over a million dollars annually for the past ten years? It seems that the time has arrived that we do some basic math before we thump our collective chests about the “accomplishments” of our Redevelopment Agency.
NEWS FLASH RUMOR(s)
City Public Works Director David A. Koch may be retiring. Now, he will be truly missed. Although as a city council member I have known Mr. Koch for only few years it is obvious that his conduct is professional, courteous and exemplary. Best wishes Mr. Koch to you and your family. Watsonville will miss you.
On another note, the Fishing Report predicted that ex-council member Antonio Rivas would be running for a County Supervisor seat. It was announced today that he will be running. I received a call from a source wanting to remain anonymous who said, “He (Rivas) has the I.Q. of a rump roast and I wouldn’t be worried about him winning, but then look at Caput”. I have to admit I got hee bee gee bees thinking about that combination which reminded me of the time when I ordered the combo plate at a Mexican restaurant and the enchilada was missing.