Without Redevelopment, Some Chambers of Commerce In Trouble


It's time for a new California bumper sticker: "Honk if you didn't get money from redevelopment."

Community redevelopment agencies throughout the state were put out of business by Gov. Jerry Brown, who wanted to use the property tax money they depended on for schools.

But it has now turned out that cities were using the money to pay for salaries and departments that had little to do with redevelopment. (When Gov. Jerry Brown was mayor of Oakland, some of his salary was covered this way).

Local chambers of commerce were depending on redevelopment money also.

A story in the Pasadena Star-News describes how local chambers are struggling to stay open after losing redevelopment funds that had been supporting their operations. In one community, the chamber became an all-volunteer organization. Layoffs have been common.

This isn't good news. But it's rich with ironies. California's business community has generally opposed changes to property taxes, and to the tax system -- by arguing that taxes are already too high and that today's taxes are being misspent.

Now it turns out that portions of property tax in many cities were going to prop up the business community, at the expense of local schools.

It's past time to fix the tax system. And if chambers want to be funded by local government for good work, they should fight to restore the power of California's local governments to raise taxes as they see fit.

Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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