If Prop 99 passes your church may be taken by a redevelopment agency

Six years ago today, April 14, 2002, OC Register senior editorial writer Steven Greenhut penned an editorial entitled “Cypress continues its unholy war.” The subject of that commentary was the pending use of police powers by the Cypress City Council to enact its power of eminent domain to take an 18 acre parcel of land purchased by the Cottonwood Christian Center for a new church and community center. On page 4 of the Commentary section of the May 19th issue of the Register is a follow up article by Rev. Mike Wilson, minister of the Cottonwood Christian Center. In that article he points our the scheme engaged by the city to thwart their use of the property.

Fast forward to the March 13, 2006 Long Beach Greens article where reads “The Long Beach Redevelopment Agency (RDA) has voted unanimously to demolish the Filipino Baptist Fellowship Church at 2155 Atlantic Ave in order to hand the property over to a private developer to build condos.” This conduct should not be taken lightly.

That can’t happen to our church! Are you sure?

John Chiang, CA State Controller, has just issued the annual report on redevelopment agencies in which he confirms that “95% of the cities with populations over 50,000 have redevelopment agencies.”

Question. How many people live in your town?

The Long Beach City Council/RDA initiated a Resolution of Necessity and fortunately through efforts of property rights protection activists and attorneys the RDA did an about face. I have a copy of an April 5, 2006 letter from Heather Mahood, Assistant City Attorney of the City of Long Beach, to John Eastman, director of the Claremont Institute’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, confirming that the “Long Beach Redevelopment Agency has terminated its efforts to acquire the property located at 2155 Atlantic Ave through the use of eminent domain or otherwise.” John Eastman is quoted in the April 26th, 2006 Baptist Press to comment about reaction by the church. “They’re ecstatic. They’ve got their church, they can conduct their ministry. Right now the gun of condemnation has been removed from their heads.”

Last year the CA State Legislature had several bills in the annual effort to address the issue of eminent domain takings. One Bill introduced by Assemblyman De La Torre was a proposed Constitutional Amendment known as ACA-8 that you can easily find on the web. In that Bill, amended in the Assembly on July 10, 2007, there was no protection for any house of worship. We raised that issue during the debate which led to a later Amendment on August 29th. That text reads in part: “the measure would prohibit the state and local governments from acquiring by eminent domain…… real property that is used exclusively for religious worship and is exempt from property taxes under specified provisions.”

Now fast forward to Prop 99, supported by the same power brokers who supported failed legislation ACA-8. Prop 99 does not provide any such protection. Each time I question this discrepancy they refuse to comment. They can’t. They had no intent to protect churches from their development schemes.

We need to send them a message. We are not asleep in reading their Trojan Horse alternative to the only true property rights choice. Furthermore, even if both measures are approved by the electorate, should Prop 99 have more votes than Prop 98, all of our provisions of protection, including your local church will not become law.

Let me urge you to share this story with your pastor, priest, reverend, minister or rabbi as the redevelopment agency bulldozer really doesn’t care what denomination or faith you belong to.

Vote YES Prop 98. Vote NO Prop 99

Larry Gilbert, OC Chairman, Prop 98 campaign

About Larry Gilbert