Joetopia

As agencies crumble, so does future

This stinks.

That’s my two-word assessment of the state Supreme Court’s decision to ax hundreds of redevelopment agencies across California, including several in San Luis Obispo County.

The court upheld a state law passed last summer to abolish the agencies — a ruling that would allow their funding to be rerouted to schools and special districts.

Normally, I’d be all in favor of anything that provides more money for schools.

But this is basically a case of sacrificing one beneficial government program for another beneficial government program. It’s a setting of priorities in the face of inadequate funds, and an unfortunate one, at that.

Atascadero — a city desperately in need of an attractive commercial core — was using redevelopment funds to beautify and upgrade its streetscapes. That money was also elemental in plans to build a pedestrian bridge that would link Colony Square and Sunken Gardens.

In Paso Robles, the loss of that money could threaten plans for the Salinas River walk project, as well as low-income housing and improving access for disabled people on Spring Street.

These are not frivolous projects.

They are projects that enhance our cities for the future. They are projects that create jobs for local residents.

Yes, schools should come first and are absolutely in dire straits, but we shouldn’t have to obliterate efforts to upgrade our cities in the process.

Critics have said too much of this money has been used to subsidize for-profit businesses, but the fact is that sometimes public-private partnerships are the only way to get major projects built.

The elimination of a program whose goal was to revitalize blighted areas will certainly curb that kind of improvement.

Yet, this is what you get when legislators refuse to compromise in Sacramento.

We can choose to starve our civic entities of money, but we will see the effects, whether it’s in jam-packed classrooms or dilapidated sidewalks.

With few options at his disposal, Gov. Jerry Brown tapped this pot of cash as a significant component in a budget plan that’s been springing leaks since barely after the ink was dry.

His back is against a wall on these fiscal issues. So I can’t really fault him for having to choose one odious option over another.

But the fact remains that redevelopment agencies have contributed valuable and visible improvements to our communities, improvements that have suddenly been shelved.

At the end of the day, it comes down to what kind of society we want to be: one that invests in its future, or one that does not.

One that invests in its children, its roads, its parks and its public safety agencies, or one that does not.

It’s our choice, and saying we just have to use every dollar more wisely isn’t always the answer.

Sometimes, we were using the dollars wisely, and yet they’re still gone.

Sometimes, it’s not about the “bridge to nowhere.”

It’s about many very real somewheres and no bridges.

And how do we reach the future then?

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