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State’s got its fingers on our money

It took me a long time to warm up to the formation of a redevelopment agency for Atascadero.

Back when I first reported on the idea, I thought it took too long to do any good. The fact is, however, it did take a number of years for the Atascadero Redevelopment Agency to get up and running, and still longer to generate some working revenue. But I’m convinced it has been a positive force for this community.

The money is generated here and goes to support local projects. The fact that the City Council is also the agency board of directors seems a little weird, but it was legal to set it up that way, and who am I to argue?

We’ve used that increased tax revenue for improvements to the Sunken Gardens, downtown streetscape, lighting and roadway enhancements and even marketing this community to the rest of the state.

Now the state of California has swooped in and said it wants to take those funds to bail itself out of its own economic quagmire. I could understand the state taking those funds if that was where we had gotten them in the first place.

But we didn’t. The money for the redevelopment agency comes from the increased tax revenue generated when local property is developed and improved, thereby bringing in more tax dollars.

The old Carton Hotel is an example. It was in the heart of the redevelopment zone. The derelict, albeit historic, old hotel, worth an estimated $1 million, was torn down, and a new one was built in its place at a cost of about $11 million.

Just imagine what that single piece of property in the redevelopment zone generated in income for the agency. I’m sure the same thing is happening two blocks away as Colony Square rises out of the ashes of the former shopping center built in the 1970s on the old golf course.

Redevelopment funds are helping stimulate more jobs for those people working on downtown improvements. Agency money is being used to help restore the historic City Administration Building. Some small local eateries are getting a helping start from those agency-generated funds.

Based on the income potential of the local redevelopment agency, it has been able to borrow money that is being spent right here.

I’m glad a number of redevelopment agencies have joined forces to take legal action to stop this state raid on local money, especially in light of the fact that the voters last year approved a measure to prohibit just this very grab.

The state needs to look elsewhere for the funds it needs, including raising sales taxes and more.

I like Jerry Brown. I voted for him. But I say, “Leave our cash cow alone. Go find your own.”

Lon Allan can be reached at 466-8529 or