League of CA Cities Eminent Domain panel discussion

Last evening I attended the Orange County Div., League of CA Cities panel discussion labeled “EMINENT DOMAIN: UNDERSTANDING ALL SIDES OF THE ISSUE.” This Southern CA Edison sponsored event was held at the OC Pavilion in Santa Ana.

As I looked around the room my guess is that there were around 75 local council members and city officials in attendance who were there to get a better insight into the differences between the League sponsored eminent domain initiative and the one which I support that is co-sponsored by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, HJTA, the CA Farm Bureau Federation and the CA Alliance to Protect Property Rights.(CPOFPA).

Dr. Jo Ellen Allen, Southern California Edison Director of Public Affairs, Southern Region,
welcomed the audience and stated that the powers of eminent domain are important to their firm. As an aside public utilities have nothing to fear in the CPOFPA Initiative.

The panelists were 73rd AD State Assemblywoman Mimi Walters, Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle, City of Riverside Mayor Ronald Loveridge and City of San Diego councilman and League President Jim Madaffer.

The M.C. for the evening was Tustin City Mayor Pro Tem Jerry Amante who spent more time reading speaker bio’s than their three minute opening remarks.

Mimi opened the discussion saying that “there is something inherently wrong when the government can take private property” and transfer it to another private entity.

Jim followed by pointing out flaws of Prop 90 and how “we the leaders, wanted to protect homes, churches” in legislation that failed. As to “protection for business” he stated that they “had worked with the HJTA in drafting ACA-8 but that Jarvis went a different direction,” which resulted in ACA-8’s defeat.

He pointed out that their Initiative “protects owner occupied homes ..no hidden agenda.” Note: While ACA -8 was amended to add protection for churches their Initiative does not offer said protection. Why not??

Jim said the CPOFPA Initiative is “funded by mobile home park and apartment owners.” He called it “a flawed measure that will impact zoning. It contains a lot of deceptive issues that have us concerned such as water storage.”

The next panelist was Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle who stated “I don’t believe government should use it’s power of eminent domain to take private property.” He mentioned passage of “council policy, approved by 80 percent of their voters, where the city of Anaheim “will not take private property for economic gain.”
He refuted the full protection of homeowners in the defeated ACA-8 citing a five unit condo that would not be covered.
He did say that Prop 90 went too far and followed by confirming that “the majority of voters want protection.” Curt also disputed the need for “local control” which he called “a bogus argument.”

The final speaker was Ron Loveridge who admitted that “redevelopment should be used prudently.” He argued that his city of Riverside was an older city and that “without the ability to engage in eminent domain” our economic “growth would be handicapped.” Ron pointed out the transformation of the Marketplace Area as compared to University where you could find gangs and drugs.

This was followed by two minute responses by each of the panelists.

Mimi defended the Legislature’s effort on ACA-8 pointing out that we “tried to come up with a compromise and spent many hours in negotiation. Member De La Torre didn’t want to protect small businesses, churches or open space. That’s why ACA-8 failed miserably on the floor.”
Jim followed stating that he “wished the legislature could have agreed” (on ACA-8). “This is so much more deceptive than Prop 90. It contains rent control and other factors hidden in the text. Control land use through the use of water which led to their starting to collect signatures on the Homeland Protection Act.”

Curt pointed out that Anaheim, the oldest city in Orange County, is celebrating it’s 150th birthday. He pointed out that cities have a lot of tools i.e. “Platinum Triangle where the city gave incentives to developers. They will be building 9,500 residential units and over two million square feet of commercial buildings. They are modifying the plan now to a maximum of 19,000 units.”
Curt questioned why the League Initiative does not say only blighted residences in their initiative.

Next we shift to questions from the audience where we turned in 3 x 5 cards which were than given to M.C. Jerry Amante.

The first question was very straightforward. “What is the definition of a public use?”
Here is where it get’s twisted. Both Mimi and Curt called it correctly. A school, a highway, and other examples of infrastructure. Jim cited Horton Plaza in San Diego that stimulated business. Lou said it’s in the public interest to restore old buildings.

Note: At some point in the discussion we were told that only one “owner occupied” home has been taken by eminent domain in CA. Curt said if that be true, than why is the League involved in this issue other than to block the Jarvis Initiative.

The second question dealt with the legality of having two topics in the same initiative. Rent control and eminent domain protection. Mimi clarified the rent control aspect which does not impact any of the current occupants. It can only be altered once the current tenant moves out. Curt said the single subject argument should not be a concern.

Jim spent most of the evening knocking the Jarvis Initiative with allegations of hidden Agenda’s, unspecified frivolous lawsuits and said it was poorly crafted. Yet he did not acknowledge that their Initiative fails to protect any house of worship, small businesses (which are 26-99 full time employees per the state of CA), family farms, newly acquired owner occupied residences or investment properties.

It was apparent that Ron wants the legislature to solve this problem rather than through the initiative process.

An audience question asked if the legislature would work with the cities and send money back for public services to which Mimi responded “talk to your Democratic leaders.” Curt followed by saying that some cities have a need for money. You have the Initiative process when the legislature does not act.” Jim stated that he was “disappointed that Assembly Republicans killed the Bill.” He added that (eminent domain powers) is “a tool you don’t want to take away.”
Curt pointed out one of the flaws in the League Initiative where “you don’t protect five plex’s or homes where parents let their kids live in.

At this point I believe that one of my questions was asked however Jim shifted gears and restated his belief that our Initiative was “loaded with abuse” He didn’t answer the question. He didn’t have an answer. The question was not too difficult. “Why does your Initiative fail to protect houses of worship?”

As the moderator ignored my first question let me share it with you the readers.

Question #1. According to the Flash Report blog, the League of Cities spent $3.5 million to defeat Prop 90 and so far, about $1.5 million (for signature gathering) to defeat the CPOFPA, ballot measure. By some accounts the League may spend up to $20 million to defeat the Jarvis eminent domain Initiative. Where are you getting said funds?

As taxpayers are you using our money to undermine our private property rights?

The Flash Report includes the following statement from the state’s independent Legislative Analyst’s Office on the League sponsored Initiative which said, “It is not l
ikely to significantly alter current government land acquisition practices.”

Bottom line. Mayor Curt Pringle correctly stated the true strategy and tactics of the League. Create an alternative measure to oppose the Jarvis Initiative.

Let me repeat what the opposition stated last night. Over the past few years there was only one home taken in the state under the powers of eminent domain. If that is correct, than why is the League spending millions of dollars on their Initiative?
In the packet provided by League President Madaffer is a page of “do’s and don’ts for city officials and city employees.”

Number one. “Don’t” use public funds.

On the “do” side one example states “Have the city council adopt a resolution at a public meeting that officially endorses or opposes a ballot measure and confirms the prohibition on using government funds for political purposes.”

Which again raises the issue as we try to “follow the money.”
Are the multi millions in funds coming from city dues and special assessments or are said funds from developers or city contractors who prefer not having their names made public as they engage in these bogus and immoral “takings?”

Last points. Strategy. When you have little to offer in your Initiative attack the opposition with a smoke screen of fear tactics. That is the exactly what I heard from President Madaffer the entire meeting. It’s interesting that Jim mentioned our source of Initiative funding yet did not mention theirs.

And lastly, while we have 34 cities with over 150 city council members in Orange County, the League had to resort to “carpetbaggers” from two other counties to oppose the CPOFPA Initiative. Think about it.

Larry Gilbert, surrogate spokesperson CPOFPA Initiative.

About Larry Gilbert