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With a proposed November ballot initiative originating in Orange County to reestablish redevelopment agencies gaining steam, it is important to consider the widespread political failures and mismanagement that led to the death of the original “RDA’s.” Here in Irvine that means turning attention once again to the mismanagement and ineptness of the politicians controlling the establishment of the Great Park. The original elimination of RDA’s in 2011 cost the Great Park an estimated $2.2 billion in funding, contributing to the decision to actually build a much smaller park for the time being.
Let’s review the facts. Why did RDA’s go the way of the dinosaur several years ago? The answer, largely, was mismanagement, political ineffectiveness, and in some cases downright fraud. RDA’s were created with the purpose of financing revitalization of blighted neighborhoods. However, some California cities enlarged the scope of this definition to include things such as multi-million dollar homes and golf resorts. Additionally, according to State Controller John Chiang, “Redevelopment agencies had widespread accounting and reporting deficiencies, questionable payroll practices, substandard audits, faulty loans, and inappropriate use of affordable housing funds.” If this sounds familiar, you may be thinking of the recent Great Park audit, which outlined a comedy of errors that led to lots of money changing hands but very little construction actually occurring.
As the OC Register recently reported, Irvine’s original financing deal for the Great Park consisted of a $134 million loan between Irvine, its redevelopment agency, and the Great Park Corporation, all essentially components of the city of Irvine. An Orange County grand jury determined back in 2010 that Irvine would likely never see the return of its money due to this deal, yet the powers that be ignored that fact. Now the city of Irvine is facing financial heat from Chiang who is seeking the return of $71.3 million in assets—including 35 acres of land—that were transferred from its RDA after the January 1, 2011, deadline to do so. Just when we thought the multitude of bad decisions outlined in the Great Park audit could not possibly get any worse, it became a lot worse.
This $71.3 million dollar incident would understandably deal a major financial blow to Irvine, yet it could have all been avoided if this transfer was conducted before the January 1 deadline. Instead, it was done a few days prior to the date the bill eliminating RDA’s became law, which certainly does not appear fishy at all. *snark*
When asked about this mess, Mr. Agran decided to reflect instead upon the “big picture,” that Irvine owns most of the Great Park land outright and the park itself has a large net worth. This is expected, as the so-called big picture makes it harder to see all the small, little pictures of mismanagement and ineptitude that have placed Irvine and this Council in this situation to start with.
This new situation reinforces what more and more residents of Irvine are coming to realize: change is needed. The current political establishment has mismanaged the crown jewel of Orange County, focused instead on providing what Governor Brown has called “corporate welfare” to their cronies and lining the city’s general funds. The result is a Great Park less than one-fifth the original planned size and now a $71 million loss for the city. Change is needed, and change is coming.
It’s time for the voters to move on. WE have an opportunity to change the tone of the City to transition from ineffective public policy to effectual, trustworthy relevant decision making about public policy and civic issues that will raise voters awareness.