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What’s your opinion? Redevelopment was meant to fight blight.

August 16th, 2013 | by James Folmer | Comments

What’s ySilverRockour opinion?
Redevelopment. When I was working at my first daily newspaper job in Vista, in north San Diego County, in the late 1970s, redevelopment was an issue. The city’s redevelopment agency was studying a planned community with homes and shopping centers to be called Shadowridge.
A resident named Carl von Badinski sued, arguing that this was not what the program was meant for. Redevelopment was created in 1945 to allow cities and counties to use tax-increment financing to combat blight. After a project was financed, the agency could use the increase in property tax revenue to pay off bonds.
This wasn’t blight, Von Badinski argued. It was just vacant land. He lost his case in Superior Court, but appealed. I followed the appeal for months, calling the court clerk every few weeks to check on the decision.
Finally one morning, I walked in and found a large envelope on my desk. The clerk had mailed me the decision, and Von Badinski won. I called the city manager to get a response, and he didn’t know the news. That was the first time that had happened to me.
I moved on to another newspaper and didn’t follow the case. A few years later, Shadowridge became the thriving community the RDA envisioned. It’s still one of the nicest parts of town.
That experience stuck with me two years ago when the Legislature decided that diverting tax revenue for this kind of project was not a good idea when the state was facing multibillion-dollar deficits and schools were facing more painful budget cuts. One example that critics cited was Indian Wells. There was never any blight in Indian Wells, but redevelopment helped build luxury hotels that became the city’s economic salvation.
The Coachella Valley wouldn’t be what it is today without redevelopment. It financed most of the flood control channels that keep us safe, and many of the golf courses and shopping centers that drive the economy.
But old Carl von Badinski was right. It was built mostly on a false premise
Monday Newsmaker. We started doing this feature in November 2009 when our former James 2editor introduced “30 improvements in 30 days.” It wasn’t really a new idea. My predecessor did a similar feature called “Five Questions.” We made it a weekly feature and added a video element. It has become a vital part of my job, a way of getting to know the movers and shakers throughout the valley.
I believe we’ve only skipped three or four Mondays, once when the subject’s emailed answers didn’t come through and he went on vacation, and a few times leading up to the November 2012 election to make room for letters to the editor. We’re closing in on 200 “newsmakers.”
A few months ago, we noticed the video wasn’t getting much attention. We decided to shoot more the video on scene instead of in our studio. This has made it much more fun for me and, I hope, interesting for website visitors.
Next Monday’s Newsmaker is one of my favorites. We talked to Stacey Johnson, CEO and president of The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. He and public relations manager Nyla Patzner set us up at the giraffe’s exhibit. Videographer Nick Bolland and I both got to feed the giraffes. How cool is that?

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