Kash Boodjeh: Oversight Board ‘Creating Alternate Realities’ – December 20, 2012
Meet and Confer Assets Liquidation
Local Government Program Budget Manager
California Department of Finance
915 L Street
Sacramento CA 95814
I am writing to you as a past member of the City of Arcata Oversight Board of the Successor Agency and Chair of the City’s sales tax committee for the last 4 years. My term as the public member, appointed by the County Supervisors, to the oversight board was limited to one meeting. Very brief, I will attempt to be the same here.
I have been practicing as an Architect in Arcata for over 22 years and can speak on the many “goods” that our Redevelopment Agency had been a part of here in our small fiscally challenged community of folks w/big ideas.
I had learned prior to my appointment, that the main purpose of an Oversight Board was to verify transparency between the agency and state in order to avoid the kind of problems we now have. Amongst other reasons, one factor that lead to my resignation from the board, was what immediately seemed to me to be a clear lack of it. At the time the explanation by the staff was the changing rules from the state and the last minute nature of all things RDA.
As part of my preparation for my service, I studied ABx1 26 and subsequent court and legislative actions and attended a presentation by “Goldfarb Lipman” in Eureka. As a result, the state deadlines and rules seemed pretty darn clear to me, a layperson, by around mid April. They were even further clarified by your department in the following weeks.
Listening to the continuous expressions of the confused nature of the intent of the law, it was hard to avoid the conclusion that this interpretation stated by the majority of our city staff in the various agencies, and the counsel, mainly had to do with their lack of clarity on how to manipulate the information and prevent what was constantly being referred to as ”a take” by the state, the best way they could.
In our City this type of maneuvers was highlighted best when our former RDA director, appointed to serve by the successor agency (City council) as a board member, made the first action on the board his nomination of the former mayor to serve as the chair. Totally legal but, in my opinion, more to the point of continued nature of things rather than transparency and service to the city or state.
The Counsel for the successor agency in that meeting went on supporting the staff practically scaring all members of the board into action approving resolutions that were neither totally clear or complete, against the warnings of the county auditor who made a presentation that day. I understood the oversight board to be an instrument of the state and found the counsel’s engagement beyond the explanations of the rules of conduct to be out of order.There were no follow up meetings for 7 weeks.
As an Architect, I am well aware of the abuses of RDAs, specially in larger cities. Our community is clean, I will be one of the first people in line defending any accusations to the contrary.
However our council, despite being warned to act as if RDA did not exist back in winter of 2011, has gone ahead and spent money it never had. It is now facing a huge shortfall as a result of confused advice and action by well meaning. I am sure our city is not the only one having a hard time letting go of what it considers its own, remaining in denial and creating alternate realities.
With this note, I like to stress the importance of a clear expression of the events that has lead our community into this mess. That it was not the Law that was confusing, it was the way Arcata has been going about it, mainly trying to keep as much money as it could, that has caused the mess.
Humbly, I hope you can help our City after the “meet and confer” to get the message out to the public at large vs remaining the main target of their blame game. This can be done through our local paper and its fine editor Cc’d here.
thank you for your time