State Fiscal Crisis

Long-Awaited Death of California Eminent Domain Abusers Continues

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A Los Angeles government agency with a long history of fraud, theft, graft, blight, abuse, corruption and failure is winding down quickly, and there may be no way state or local officials can rescue it. 

The Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles (CRA/LA) will cease operations and lay off 192 government employees at the end of this month, under terms laid out in a law signed last year by California Gov. Jerry Brown and upheld in December by California's supreme court. 

CRA/LA board member Madeline Janis, with characteristic self-dramatization, confirms the glorious news that she will be out of a job come February 1. Janis, who has managed a comfortable existence as a union lawyer and anti-business activist, concedes that she will lose only power, not money. But she sheds hilarious tears for the CRA employees who must now find other ways to drain $109 million a year (the projected cost to the city of taking over CRA's blight-creating tasks) from taxpayers. 

Rescue from the city does not appear to be in the cards. Nor does rescue from Los Angeles County. A county politician, who has his own two-decade history of involvement with a large failed CRA project run by a corrupt local developerconcedes as much to the L.A. Times

"The liabilities associated with redevelopment in the city of Los Angeles are just too big for the county to absorb," said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, a former Los Angeles city councilman.

Readers know I will not believe the CRA is dead until I can refuse to piss on its smoldering ashes. So please note that State Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) is already trying to slide through a bill that would delay the termination of the Golden State's redevelopment agencies (RDAs) until April 15.

But that train may (just may) have left the station. Although RDAs remain favorites of politically connected developers, chambers of commerce and lawmakers from both parties, the California Redevelopment Association's lawsuit attempting to block the new law ended in a decision that destroyed the rescue package Brown and other Democrats had cobbled together for them. Under this plan, RDAs would have been able to lay dormant for a few years and return to destroying wealth in the future. By suing, the RDAs ended up negating their own rescue package. 

The suit also exhausted the patience of Brown and probably other Democrats, all of whom have no appeal from the broken condition of city, county and state finances throughout California. And it exposed the arrogance with which thugs like Janis have been operating for decades. This is an appropriate end. RDAs do not deserve a decent burial.