Category Archives: Politics

General Politics

County of San Bernardino Working Together to Build a Better Future

Published by:

By Kelly Reenders
Economic Development Agency Administrators
County of San Bernardino

If you attended the State of the County, held on February 26 at the Citizens Business Bank Arena, then you were among the more than 1,000 attendees who heard the County’s message of collaboration. This has become an important theme within all County departments.

To encourage greater opportunity for the County’s residents and businesses depends on our ability to work together to build a brighter future. Collaboration between the private and public sector is central to this goal. While there are certainly challenges, the County has something significant in its favor, a Countywide Vision. This vision will continue to shape how we plan for transportation, schools and water as well as how we work hand-in-hand with our residents and businesses to encourage a greater quality of life and a positive economic environment.

Throughout the region there are numerous examples of the power of collaboration and how our Countywide Vision is taking shape to transform the region for the better.

Our Jobs/Economy & Housing Collaborative met March 19 to discuss best practices. It brought together, in an unprecedented way, residential developers, city and county officials, SANBAG and the leadership of the BIA Baldy View Chapter to celebrate and encourage business-friendly best practices in order to encourage a proactive business environment.

One element of the meeting was a presentation of a first draft inventory of Business-Friendly Best Practices. The report is designed to create a list of programs and practices that cover customer service, development processing, business attraction/retention and direct business assistance (economic initiatives). Information was also presented from a survey of cities and developers that outlined the factors necessary to encourage investment and development in our communities.

Some of these best practice ideas included: pre-application review, centralized cashier, comprehensive review, an easy to understand fee schedule, ability to use debit and credit cards, incentives, one-stop permit process and review of time commitment/time frames associated with approving milestones.

Throughout the meeting, the message was clear: As a team we can work together to build the best San Bernardino County. Looking ahead, this coalition will continue to work toward building a resource of best practices.

Another powerful form of public agency and public sector collaboration is the ongoing work of our County of San Bernardino Workforce Investment Board (WIB) to help companies thrive and create jobs.

Southern California Aviation (SCA) is a Victorville-based Aircraft Transitional MRO Facility. For the last 15 years, the company has been responsible for repairing and maintaining aircraft for some of the nation’s top carriers, including United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Cathay Pacific Airways and Boeing. SCA recently formed a partnership with the County’s WIB to help recruit and train newly qualified mechanics. This program has beenhelpful for SCA since, in order to uphold strict industry standards, their employees must undergo specialist training to ensure strong understanding of federal regulations.

The County’s WIB helped the firm to recruit licensed A&P mechanics through its On-the-Job Training program. The WIB’s federally funded On-the-Job Training program provides partial wage reimbursement for the first 90 days of employment, the designated training period. The goal is to help alleviate the financial burden that often accompanies hiring new employees, thereby supporting company growth. By absorbing the expense of costly training, WIB helps to create a win-win solution for the business, the employees and the County. Programs such as these are a direct example of collaboration and ways in which the County continues to proactively step in to support its business community.

To learn more about the Countywide Vision, visit http://cms.sbcounty.gov/cao-vision/home.aspx. The VisionWire is another ongoing source of information on County programs: http://wp.sbcounty.gov/cao/visionwire/. We also encourage you to contact our agency, www.sbcountyadvantge.com

General Politics Property

Assessed Values on the Increase

Published by:

By Dennis Draeger
Assessor-Recorder-County Clerk
County of San Bernardino

Proposition 13, overwhelmingly approved by California voters in June 1978, is the basis for property tax assessment today in California and all of its 58 counties. Prior to the passage of Proposition 13, property taxes could increase dramatically from year to year based on the market value of the property. The tenets of Proposition 13 limits the tax rate to 1 percent plus additional rates necessary to fund local voter-approved bonded indebtedness. It limits the assessed value increases to a maximum of 2% per year on properties that did not undergo a change in ownership nor had completion of new construction. Proposition 13 placed explicit limitations on the power of government to impose additional property taxes and it requires real property to be assessed at its current market value upon a change in ownership and new construction is to be reappraised at its current market value as of its date of completion. Proposition 13 has been amended numerous times since 1978, resulting in several change in ownership and new construction exclusions from reassessment.

When Proposition 13 was originally enacted in 1978, it did not provide the assessor the legal authority to reduce assessments resulting from a decline in market value. California real estate was appreciating at record levels in the late 1970s so the drafters of Proposition 13 did not have the foresight or envision a need to allow assessors the ability to reduce assessments resulting from economic conditions, depreciation, damage, obsolescence, or other factors causing a decline in value. Proposition 8 was approved by the voters in November 1978 to remedy this oversight in Proposition 13. Proposition 8 allows the assessor to make temporary reductions to assessed values when property has been damaged or its value has been reduced by other factors suchas economic conditions. The assessor can recognize declines in value if the market value of the property on lien date (January 1st) falls below its Proposition 13 value, or stated otherwise, the value to be enrolled in any year is the lower of a property’s Proposition 13 value or its current market value.

During the mid-2000s, San Bernardino County experienced unprecedented appreciation in real estate prices in all areas of the county which resulted in double-digit increases to the assessment roll for years 2004 through 2007. The 5 High Desert cities and adjoining unincorporated areas showed a particularly robust increase in real estate prices with a corresponding increase in their assessed values for years 2004 through 2007, then stabilizing in 2008. The peak of the real estate market in San Bernardino County occurred in 2007, stabilized in 2008, and then began its steep decline. During the late 2000s, the 5 High Desert cities and adjoining unincorporated areas were especially hard hit with decline of real estate values and substantial decreases to the assessment roll. Beginning in 2008, the County Assessor’s Office began reviewing thousands of decline in market value requests and also proactively reviewed assessed values county-wide. Overall, more than 200,000 county-wide property values were temporarily reduced under the provisions of Proposition 8 and approximately $32 billion of assessed value was removed from the assessment roll for years 2008 through 2012.

The real estate market is now recovering in San Bernardino County, but some areas are recovering at a greater rate than others. This is particularly true in the High Desert area of San Bernardino County where some areas are recovering at a much greater rate than others as indicated by a comparison of median home prices between 2012 and 2013. Apple Valley, Hesperia, Victorville, Phelan, and Wrightwood (I disregard Yermo due to a small number of real estate sales) are showing strong signs of recovering. Adelanto, Barstow, and Pinon Hills median home prices are increasing but at a lesser rate than the other High Desert areas. Lucerne Valley’s median home price is flat and I do not place a great deal of weight on Newberry Spring’s 73% decrease due to limited number of real estate sales in that area.

For property owners, an increase in the market value of their real estate holdings is generally a good thing except when it comes to property taxes. Many property owners who had received Proposition 8 reductions since 2008 may see an increase in their 2013 assessed value, which will result in a slight increase in their 2013 property tax bill which they will receive next September. Proposition 8 reductions are temporary reductions that recognize the fact that the current market value as of a particular January 1st lien date has fallen below it Proposition 13 value. Once a Proposition 8 value has been enrolled, it is reviewed annually as of the January 1st lien date to determine if its market value is less than its Proposition 13 value. These Proposition 8 values can and do change from year-to-year as the market fluctuates and if an increase is warranted, the increase is not limited to 2%. which only applies if the property is assessed at its Proposition 13 value. Now with the real estate market in a recovery mode and the Assessor’s Office in the process of reviewing approximately 160,000 parcels that are under Proposition 8 status, we anticipate a significant number of parcels will see an increase in their assessed value. Let’s say for examplea single family parcel located in Apple Valley has a Proposition 13 value of $142,800 as of 1-1-2013. Last year for 2012 the property owner requested a Proposition 8 review and it was reduced to $106,000 as of 1-1-2012. It is now being reviewed for the 1-1-2013 lien date and market value is determined to be $125,750. This is an 18.6% increase from the previous year but it is allowable because properties under Proposition 8 provisions are not subject to the 2% annual increase limitations that apply to those enrolled under Proposition 13 provisions. Continuing on with this example, next year the assessor reviews the assessed value for the 1-1-2014 lien date and market value is determined to be $160,000. The assessor will reinstate the Proposition 13 value of $145,656 ($142,800 plus 2%) because in no case may a value higher than a property’s Proposition 13 value be enrolled. Once the parcel’s Prop 13 value is restored it will now be limited to the 2% increase, unless it changes ownership or experiences new construction.

General Politics

Save our Courts-Revive our Economy

Published by:

By Assemblyman Tim Donnelly
State of California
33rd Assembly District

This year the state has the opportunity to correct a massive injustice that has been looming over our trial court system for years. The governor, however, did not include any new funding for our ailing courts in his latest budget. It is up to the legislature now and our response will have far reaching implications, not only for the judicial branch, but also for our economy.

The administration of justice is a core duty of government; it is also a necessary function within a free market system.

With California ranking among the five states with the highest unemployment rate and topping the charts for the worst states to do business in, we cannot afford to scare away any more businesses who rely on a properly funded court system to navigate lawsuits, enforce contracts, or settle disputes.

Over the last five years, California’s judiciary – the third constitutionally mandated branch of government – has been cut by over $1 billion. This has created a backlog of cases, caused court closures, and led to hundreds of staff layoffs. In San Bernardino alone, 8 of 13 courts have already shut their doors.

Access to an open court room is crucial to a thriving economy. According to a survey cited in USA Today, 71% of small-business owners said that they would delay hiring new employees while being sued. Further, many businesses caught up in litigation struggle to maintain customers and to get necessary loans. It is important that these businesses have access to a fair and speedy trial so they can continue contributing to our economy.

Despite the fact that our judiciary is a key indicator of our economic health, the California budget has historically underfunded certain regions of the State’s County Court system, including San Bernardino County. That is why I have introduced AB 1313, which will allocate up to 12 additional judicial positions each year to the counties with the greatest disparity between their current allocation and Judicial Council’s recommendation.

This is not an issue to play politics with. All of us rely on a high functioning court system and our very form of government depends on its existence.

If you are interested in supporting AB 1313, and other measures to improve court funding, please contact me at assmblymember.donnelly@assembly.ca.gov. Your voice is invaluable in this fight to reinvest in justice.

General Politics

Correctional Facilities: Friend or Foe?

Published by:

By Dr. James Hart
City Manager
City of Adelanto

Cities and Prisons, do they go togeth­er? Are prisons a magnet to draw fam­ily members of prisoners to the area? Often City of Adelanto representatives are asked these questions by people. Some people really want to know the answer and others have already made up their minds. Regardless of which side of the issue you are on, study af­ter study has indicated that prisons do not attract prisoners’ family members to the community in which they are lo­cated and in fact are economic benefits to the local area.

In 2010, the City of Adelanto entered into an Intergovernmental Service Agreement (IGSA) with the Depart­ment of Justice, Homeland Security to house approximately 1,300 inmates. While the city has experience operat­ing a correctional facility, the deci­sion was made to subcontract with The GEO Group as the operator. The GEO Group is one of the world’s largest pri­vate correctional facility operators and is well equipped to be the operator.

To house up to 1,300 inmates, a new facility had to be constructed and an old facility had to be rehabilitated. As part of the subcontract with The GEO Group, it took on the responsibility of purchasing and rehabilitating the city’s former correctional facility and build­ing a new facility. The purchase price for the city’s former facility was $28 Million and The GEO Group put an additional $20 Million into the reha­bilitation. To total cost for construc­tion of the new facility is not known by the author of this article, but both the rehabilitation of the city’s former cor­rectional facility and the new facility infused several millions of dollars into the local economy through the creation of construction jobs for approximately 18 months. Additionally, local vendors were used to purchase materials for the facilities. Overall, the project infused several millions of dollars into the lo­cal economy.

The GEO Group facilities were ful­ly operational in August/September 2011. There are currently 358 employ­ees working at The GEO Group facili­ties. With an average salary of $40,000 per year (an estimation not confirmed by The GEO Group), there is about $14 Million for expenditure in the lo­cal economy. As we all know, the mul­tiplier for this makes that $14 Million about $40 Million or more per year.

The economic benefit of a prison in the local area is significant and the fam­ily impacts are minimal to none. The GEO Group facility houses Immigra­tion Customs Enforcement individuals who are waiting to be deported. They are not criminals, just individuals who are in the United States illegally and are awaiting their hearing regarding deportation.

Adelanto has been known to support correctional facility development in appropriate zones. As one can see, the reason for this support is due to the economic benefit that is derived for the entire region.

General Politics

Americans with Disabilities Act and Small Business

Published by:

By Robert A. Martinez AIA, CASp, CASI
CASp Pro…Certified Access Specialists

More than 50 million Americans-18% of our population-have disabilities and each is a potential customer. People with dis­abilities are living more independently and participating more actively in their communities. They and their families want to patronize businesses that wel­come customers with disabilities. In ad­dition, approximately 71.5 million baby boomers will be over age 65 by the year 2030 and will be demanding products, services, and environments that meet their age-related physical needs. Studies show that once people with disabilities find a business where they can shop or get services in an accessible manner, they become repeat customers.

People with disabilities have too often been excluded from everyday activities: shopping at a corner store, going to a neighborhood restaurant or movie with family and friends, or using the swim­ming pool at a hotel on the family vaca­tion. The ADA is a Federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and opens doors for full participation in all aspects of ev­eryday life. This article provides gener­al guidance to help business owners un­derstand revised ADA regulations. The ADA applies to both the built environ­ment and to policies and procedures that affect how a business provides goods and services to its customers. Using this guidance, a small business owner or manager can ensure that it will not unintentionally exclude people with dis­abilities and will know when it needs to remove barriers in its existing facilities.

Businesses that provide goods or ser­vices to the public are called “public accommodations” in the ADA. The ADA establishes requirements for 12 categories of public accommodations, which include stores, restaurants, bars, service establishments, theaters, hotels, recreational facilities, private museums and schools, doctors’ and dentists’ of­fices, shopping malls, and other busi­nesses. Nearly all types of businesses that serve the public are included in the 12 categories, regardless of the size of the business or the age of their build­ings. The ADA also requires businesses to remove architectural barriers in exist­ing buildings. “Grandfather provisions” often found in local building codes do not exempt businesses from their obli­gations under the ADA.

Policies and Procedures

Your business, like all others, has for­mal and informal policies, practices, and procedures that keep it running smooth­ly. However, sometimes your policies or procedures can inadvertently make it difficult or impossible for a customer with a disability to access your goods and services. That is why the ADA re­quires businesses to make “reasonable modifications” to their usual ways of doing things when serving people with disabilities. Most modifications involve only minor adjustments in policies.

Customers with disabilities may need different types of assistance to access your goods and services. For example, a grocery store clerk is expected to assist a customer using a mobility device by re­trieving merchandise from high shelves. A person who is blind may need assistance maneu­vering through a store’s aisles. Usually the customer will tell you up front if he or she needs assistance, although some cus­tomers may wait to be asked “may I help you?” When only one staff person is on duty, it may or may not be possible for him or her to assist a customer with a disability. The business owner or manager should ad­vise the staff person to assess whether he or she can provide the assistance that is needed without jeopardizing the safe operation of the business.

Wheelchairs and Other Power-Driven Mobility Devices

People with mobility, circulatory, or respiratory disabilities use a variety of devices for mobility. Some use walk­ers, canes, crutches, or braces while others use manually-operated or power wheelchairs, all of which are primarily designed for use by people with disabil­ities. Businesses must allow people with disabilities to use these devices in all ar­eas where customers are allowed to go.

Devices categorized as wheelchairs must be permitted.

Communicating with Customers

Communicating successfully with cus­tomers is an essential part of doing busi­ness. When dealing with customers who are blind or have low vision, those who are deaf or hard of hearing, or those whohave speech disabilities, many business owners and employees are not sure what to do. The ADA requires businesses to take steps necessary to communicate effectively with customers with vision, hearing, and speech disabilities.

Because the nature of communications differs from business to business, the rules allow for flexibility in determin­ing effective communication solutions. The goal is to find practical solutions for communicating effectively with your customers.

Many individuals who are deaf or have other hearing or speech disabilities use either a text telephone (TIY) or text messaging instead of a standard tele­phone. The ADA established a free telephone relay network to enable these individuals to communicate with busi­nesses and vice-versa. When a person who uses such a device calls the relay service by dialing 7-1-1, a communi­cations assistant calls the business and voices the caller’s typed message and then types the business’s response to the caller. Staff who answers the telephone must accept and treat relay calls just like other calls. The communications assis­tant will explain how the system works if necessary.

The rules are also flexible for commu­nicating effectively with customers who are blind or have low vision. For exam­ple, a restaurant can put its menu on an audio cassette or a waiter can read it to a patron. A sales clerk can find items and read their labels. In more complex trans­actions where a significant amount of printed information is involved, provid­ing alternate formats will be necessary, unless doing so is an undue burden. For example, when a client who is blind vis­its his real estate agent to negotiate the sale of a house, all relevant documents should be provided in a format he can use, such as on a computer disk or audio cassette. It may be effective to e-mail an electronic version of the documents so the client can use his or her screen-reading technology to read them before making a decision or signing a contract. In this situation, since complex finan­cial information is involved, simply reading the documents to the client will most likely not be effective. Usually a customer will tell you which format he or she needs. If not, it is appropriate to ask.

Reading a menu to a customer who is blind is one way to provide effective communication.

Making The Built Environment Accessible

People with disabilities continue to face architectural barriers that limit or make it impossible to access the goods or ser­vices offered by businesses. Examples include a parking space with no access aisle to allow deployment of a van’s wheelchair lift, steps at a facility’s en­trance or within its serving or selling space, aisles too narrow to accommo­date mobility devices, counters that are too high, or restrooms that are simply too small to use with a mobility device.

The ADA strikes a careful balance be­tween increasing access for people with disabilities and recognizing the financial constraints many small businesses face. Its flexible requirements allow busi­nesses confronted with limited financial resources to improve accessibility with­out excessive expense.

Existing Facilities Readily Achievable Barrier Removal

The ADA requires that small businesses remove architectural barriers in existing facilities when it is “readily achievable” to do so. Readily achievable means “easily accomplishable without much difficulty or expense.” This requirement is based on the size and resources of a business. So, businesses with more re­sources are expected to remove more barriers than businesses with fewer re­sources.

Readily achievable barrier removal may include providing an accessible route from a parking lot to the business’s en­trance, installing an entrance ramp, wid­ening a doorway, installing accessible door hardware, repositioning shelves, or moving tables, chairs, display racks, vending machines, or other furniture. When removing barriers, businesses are required to comply with the standards to the extent possible. For example, where there is not enough space to install a ramp with a slope that complies with the standards, a business may install a ramp with a slightly steeper slope. However, any deviation from the standards must not pose a significant safety risk.

Determining what is readily achievable will vary from business to business and sometimes from one year to the next. Changing economic conditions can be taken into consideration in determining what is readily achievable. Economic downturns may force many public ac­commodations to postpone removing some barriers. The barrier removal ob­ligation is a continuing one and it is ex­pected that a business will move forward with its barrier removal efforts when it rebounds from such downturns.

Priorities for Barrier Removal

Understanding how customers arrive at and move through your business will go a long way in identifying existing barriers and setting priorities for their removal. Do people arrive on foot, by car, or by public transportation? Do you provide parking? How do customers en­ter and move about your business? The ADA regulations recommend the fol­lowing priorities for barrier removal:

  • Providing access to your business from public sidewalks, parking areas, and public transportation;
  • Providing access to the goods and services your business offers;
  • Providing access to public restrooms; and
  • Removing barriers to other amenities offered to the public, such as drinking fountains.

In some instances, especially in older buildings, it may not be readily achiev­able to remove some architectural bar­riers. For example, a restaurant with several steps leading to its entrance may determine that it cannot afford to install a ramp or a lift. In this situation, the res­taurant must provide its services in an­other way, if that is readily achievable, such as providing takeout service. Busi­nesses should train staff on these alter­natives and publicize them so custom­ers with disabilities will know of their availability and how to access them.

When barrier removal is not possible, alternatives such as curbside service should be provided.

Parking

If your business provides parking for the public, but there are no accessible spaces, you will lose potential custom­ers. You must provide accessible park­ing spaces for cars and vans, if it is read­ily achievable to do so.

Accessible Entrances

One small step at an entrance can make it impossible for individuals using wheelchairs, walkers, canes, or other mobility devices to do business with you. Removing this barrier may be ac­complished in a number of ways, such as installing a ramp or a lift or re-grad­ing the walkway to provide an accessi­ble route. If the main entrance cannot be made accessible, an alternate accessible entrance can be used. If you have sever­al entrances and only one is accessible, a sign should be posted at the inacces­sible entrances directing individuals to the accessible entrance. This entrance must be open whenever other public en­trances are open.

Accessible Route to Goods and Services

The path a person with a disability takes to en­ter and move through your business is called an “accessible route.” This route, which must be at least three feet wide, must remain accessible and not be blocked by items, such as vending or ice machines, newspaper dis­pensers, furniture, filing cabinets, display racks, or potted plants. Similarly, accessible toilet stalls, dressing rooms, or counters at a cash register must not be cluttered with merchandise or supplies.

Shelves, Sales and Service Counters, and Check-Out Aisles

The obligation to remove barriers also applies to merchandise shelves, sales and service counters, and check-out aisles. Shelves and counters must be on an accessible route with enough space to allow customers using mobility de­vices to access merchandise. However, shelves may be of any height since they are not subject to the ADA’s reach range requirements. Where barriers prevent access to these areas, they must be re­moved if readily achievable. However, businesses are not required to take any steps that would result in a significant loss of selling space. At least one check-out aisle must be usable by people with mobility disabilities, though more are required in larger stores. When it is not readily achievable to make a sales or service counter accessible, businesses should provide a folding shelf or a near­by accessible counter. If these changes are not readily achievable, businesses may provide a clip board or lap board until more permanent changes can be made.

Food and Restaurant Services

People with disabilities need to access tables, food service lines, and condiment and beverage bars in restaurants, bars, or other establishments where food or drinks are sold. There must be an acces­sible route to all dining areas, including raised or sunken dining areas and out­door dining areas, as well as to food ser­vice lines, service counters, and public restrooms. In a dining area, remember to arrange tables far enough apart so a person using a wheelchair can maneu­ver between the tables when patrons are sitting at them. Some accessible tables must be provided and must be dispersed throughout the dining area rather than clustered in a single location.

Restaurants must provide access to self-service items.

Where barriers prevent access to a raised, sunken, or outdoor dining area, they must be removed if readily achiev­able. If it is not readily achievable to construct an accessible route to these areas and distinct services (e.g., spe­cial menu items or different prices) are available in these areas, the restaurant must make these services available at the same price in the dining areas that are on an accessible route. In restaurants or bars with only standing tables, some accessible dining tables must be pro­vided.

How do I comply?

SB 1608 and SB 1186 were developed to allow building owners and business owners the means by which they can comply with ADA regulations. The first step would be to conduct a Certified Ac­cess Specialist (CASp) field survey. At CASp PRO… Certified Access Special­ists we can guide you through this pro­cess.

Contact us at: CASp PRO… by call­ing (760) 241-7858 or by e-mail: casp.pro@gmail.com

General Politics

Protecting our Families and Communities

Published by:

By State Senator Jean Fuller

In 2011, the governor signed legislation that drastically changed how California protects the public’s safety. Assembly Bill 109, the Prison Realignment Policy, was designed to reduce the state prison population because of a federal court mandate. Certain low-level criminals, and the responsibility of incarcerating them, were shifted from state prisons to county jails. This had the effect of making county jails overcrowded – which then resulted in the release of inmates into our neighborhoods and communities.

Since then, we have seen a number of effects that have placed the safety of our families and communities in jeopardy. At least 3,400 arrest warrants were issued in California for parolees, most of them sex offenders, who tampered with their GPS monitoring devices. Parolees who disable their tracking devices have correctly bet that local jails are too full to take them back. The number of unaccounted paroled sex offenders in the state and who remain fugitives is 15 percent higher today.

Last month, the governor released his revised budget plan – commonly referred to as the May Revise. To deal with the effects of prison realignment, the May Revise includes additional funds for county probation departments. However, with an increase in violent and property crimes in most large California cities this year, the largest such increase in 20 years, the administration should have included additional funds to counties for front-line law enforcement and county jail operations. Senate Bill 144, the Realignment Reinvestment Act, a bill I co-authored, would have provided such additional funding, but was voted down by the majority party.

The governor’s Prison Realignment Policy is not working. It continues to produce new problems that even its supporters had not anticipated. And yet, other legislators vote against legislation that could at least help to equip local governments with more resources in dealing with the rise in crime and number of parolees.

Some of my colleagues too often want to create new laws and administer new programs. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, they execute them with little success and fail to deliver on large promises made to the public. The Prison Realignment Policy should be reversed. Until then, I will argue for more resources for local governments who have to deal with many more violent criminals than they normally work with.

The role of government should be limited to a few responsibilities and elected officials must manage them effectively. Protecting the safety of our families and neighbors in communities across California should be one of them.

General Politics

Fire Prevention “Fee”

Published by:

By Senator Jean Fuller
California Senate District 18

My office has been overwhelmed with calls and questions about notices in the mail that they must pay a fire prevention “fee.” In July 2011, Governor Brown signed into law AB X1 29. The bill established a fire prevention “fee” for homes within the State Responsibility Area (SRA), an area that encompasses 31 million acres and approximately 825,000 homes.

In the eyes of many, myself included, this “fee” is really a tax. Because they could not persuade the required two-thirds of the Legislature to vote for a tax increase, the majority party instead re-labeled it a “fee,” thereby requiring only a simple majority vote for passage. The majority party in Sacramento used verbal gymnastics to twist and turn a tax increase into law.

This “fee” was passed to help backfill a budget problem that came about as a result of overspending. There is nothing about this tax that will provide better fire protection or prevention for property owners. It was done simply to balance our state budget, and that is wrong, and in this case, illegal.

If you received a notice from the State Board of Equalization (BOE) and believe you have been billed in error or the “fee” amount calculated is incorrect, it’s important you petition the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection(CAL FIRE) for a redetermination of the amount determined to be due, using a Fire Prevention Fee Petition for Redetermination form. You can find the petition form by visiting www.firepreventionfee.orgor contacting the Fire Prevention Fee Service Center at 1-888-310-6447. A list of frequently asked questions and answers can also be found on the www.firepreventionfee.org website.

Please keep in mind that you have 30 days to pay and appeal this fee, so it is important that you take action as soon as possible.

In the meantime, there are taxpayer advocacy groups like the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association that are closely following this issue and are preparing to file a lawsuit to stop this tax. I will be keeping a close eye on their activity while updating you, the constituents, on their progress. To ensure that you receive a refund, should this lawsuit prove successful, I strongly encourage you to file the redetermination form.

Economy Politics

Reviving California is Going to Take a Revolution

Published by:

By Assemblyman Tim Donnelly
California 59th District

“You can send everyone else home; this is my job.”

That is what a woman told an employer when interviewing for a job that received hundreds of applicants right here in San Bernardino County. When asked why she was so confident, the woman told her interviewer that she wanted it more than anyone else – that unless she found work that day, she and her young son would be living out of their car.

She isn’t alone.

When I was walking door-to-door meeting constituents, one man stepped away from our conversation mid-sentence to take a phone call, then rushed out the door and took off in his car. His wife nearly broke out into tears explaining that he got a call offering a half-day’s work. They had been living on a wing and a prayer, hoping against hope to keep their home, and every little job was a godsend. I wish every elected official in this state could have stood with me on that porch. These are the people we represent. We were not sent there for the lobbyists and special interests who try to buy power.

People all over this state are doing everything they can to get back to work. I wish I could say the same for the legislature. Instead, the people who are supposed to represent us are doing everything they can to stay in the good graces of the green police and union bosses to keep their pet projects running. They have done so at the expense of our business climate, job market and overall economic health.

In the last week of session, the Assembly tried to pass 550 new bills in just 5 days. Most Californians don’t think we need any new laws at all. Governor Brown just finished going through the mess of hundreds of bills the Legislature sent him this year. Among them was a brand new tax on timber, which, of course, he signed. This means that the Sacramento majority and the Governor, both looking at double-digit unemployment and a state that is hemorrhaging businesses, decided that taxing the literal building block of the recovery was the answer.

I disagree.

I regularly have the pleasure of meeting business owners from across the state. Recently, a gentleman explained to me that because of California’s heavy regulatory hand, he is unable to expand his business and hire more employees, although he would otherwise do so. In the midst of the greatest recession since the Great Depression, it is a devastating and offensive reality. It’s offensive because it is 100% preventable. The vast majority of business owners in almost every industry tell me that their number one problem is not the economy; it’s government interference.

While other states are rolling out the red carpet for businesses to open or expand, California taxes materials, penalizes energy users (aka manufacturers) and punishes production. These backwards policies have chased business owners out of our state, with manufacturers leading the charge. It’s as if the so-called leaders of our state don’t want anything to be built in California! When they drive stable, high-wage jobs out of our region, they create a hole in the budget, which always disproportionally affects education, the largest state expense.

Instead of trying to attract new businesses or incentivize employers to hire people, California is literally extorting billions of dollars from companies under the guise of “Cap & Trade.” And what are they going to do with all this new-found money? Are they going to pay down the deficit or restore K-12 funds? No. Instead, the Governor just signed AB1532, removing all constraint on how those funds can be used. No constraint. That describes the legislature’s actions through the last session. AB1532 is a recipe to fund every hare-brained scheme and pet project they can dream up, all under the guise of reducing greenhouse gasses.

The inescapable reality in California is that no matter what business you are in, government, not greenhouse gas, is the greatest threat to your livelihood. The good news is that we can change our government. The founders created a peaceful process of revolution that takes place every 2 to 4 years. Beginning in November 2012, I believe the people will confound the experts and reject these wrong-headed policies that threaten to strangle our state.

Politics Property

The County of San Bernardino is Moving Forward with Major Construction Projects

Published by:

By Brad Mitzefelt
Vice Chairman & First District Supervisor
San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors

As I’m completing my service as San Bernardino County’s First District Supervisor in December, I’m pleased to take this opportunity to update readers of the High Desert Report on just a few of the county’s many ongoing and recently accomplished initiatives.

First and foremost, the ability of local government to provide public services is correlated to the success, or lack thereof, of local businesses. While I have recently successfully pushed for reforms to our development code and permit processing to encourage economic activity, my successor will have much to work on to build on this progress. In addition to whether an area is open for business, there are several other factors considered by a business making a decision about where to locate, including infrastructure and quality of life, especially related to public safety and public and private amenities.

Infrastructure is perhaps the most visible. For example, it’s impossible to miss the rapid construction of the La Mesa/Nisqualli interchange on Interstate 15, due to be complete next year. It was a true team effort by High Desert representatives to SANBAG, and I was proud to have been President of SANBAG when we agreed to partner with the City of Victorville in constructing this critical bypass to Bear Valley Road.

Strategic flood control improvements, including two that help advance development of a critical east-west corridor, from the Yucca Loma Bridge in Apple Valley to the Nisqualli Interchange in Victorville, to more traditional projects like a new storm drain at Mountain View Acres in the Victorville area are just a few examples of the county and cities working together to solve longstanding problems. Mountain and desert communities worked together to bring more than $28 million in additional road funding from state sources over the past few years, not including tens of millions of state bond dollars secured for Nisqualli and the new Ranchero interchange in Hesperia, and a hundred million dollars for the soon-to-be-reconstructed Devore Interchange at the I-15/I-215 junction that will eliminate the evening and weekend backup there.

A longer-term project that deserves special attention is the High Desert Corridor, which will link Palmdale and Victorville through a Public-Private Partnership that will speed up construction by 20 years. It will be the most powerful job-creating machine the High Desert has ever seen, ranging from blue-collar logistics jobs to highly skilled manufacturing to high-tech research and development. I was proud to be the founding chairman of the joint powers authority between the two counties that has since expanded the environmental analysis to include a rail component. This is our ticket to Metrolink commuter rail service to the High Desert, and potentially even a Palmdale to Victorville leg of the XpressWest private high-speed rail to Las Vegas project.

On October 1, the Board of Supervisors supported my motion to approve the Cadiz Valley water project, 15 years in the making, that will make available more than 200,000 acre-feet of water to water agencies within San Bernardino County over a 50-year period after it’s constructed in a few years. This will provide hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in our county and thousands of jobs, without harming the environment in the remote desert watershed near Amboy.

Public safety is always the top priority of local government, and nearly tripling the capacity of the Adelanto jail from 760 beds to 2,152 beds will allow the county to better deal with state prison realignment, which is putting thousandsof additional convicts and parolees under County jurisdiction. This improvement is currently under construction.

Outstanding public safety services require modern facilities. We’ve built new fire stations in Hesperia and Phelan, and the County’s new High Desert Government Center in Hesperia will soon be home to a state-of-the-art Public Safety Operations Center that will house dispatch for sheriff and fire and will serve as an emergency operations center. The County recently approved plans for a new fire station at Spring Valley Lake, which should be completed by fall 2013.

Public safety is one aspect of the important services provided by county government. Educational, cultural and recreational facilities also define the character of a region. The Victor Valley Museum in Apple Valley reopened last year as a fully accredited branch of our exceptional county museum system. It is truly an important cultural and historical touchstone for the High Desert.

It was quite an undertaking to acquire this previously private museum and bring it into the county system. However, I am now concerned with its future. So I am helping start the Friends of the Victor Valley Museum to raise private support to keep the museum open and thriving. I have pledged matching funds to a fundraising kickoff event on November 8 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the museum.

The County continues to support development of the Mojave River Walk trail which will join downtown Victorville with Mojave Narrows Regional Park and beyond. Victorville is the lead agency and my office was able to provide $75,000 as matching funds for a grant that allowed the environmental review by Victorville to continue uninterrupted. And early next year, Wrightwood will have a new skate park, providing young people with a safeplace to enjoy their favorite pastime.

The most popular and internationally recognized attraction in the nine-park county regional park system is undergoing major improvements. Calico Ghost Town just opened the new Calico Mining Museum in the previously unused Zenda Building, providing an entertaining and informative window into the past lives of the miners and the historic mining equipment and techniques that made Calico one of the most productive mining districts in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Lane House at Calico is also being refurbished with new exhibits, and the County recently awarded a contract to construct new restrooms and showers at the campground that serves as a popular staging spot for off-road trail adventures.

As we continue to look to the future, we want to ensure that growth and development down the road has necessary infrastructure and public amenities to ensure a great quality of life. The community of Helendale in the not-too-distant future will be an even more ideal location for the highly skilled workers and managers the region is beginning to attract. When a number of proposals emerged several years ago to build hundreds of new homes there, I called for and have since funded development of a Helendale specific plan, which is analyzing and planning for the community-wide need for roads, water, parks, and other infrastructure. The specific plan will guarantee that Helendale will live up to its potential.

To address the county’s past corruption and prevent future continued ethical issues, we have prosecuted and pursued wrongdoers for punishment and restitution. We are recovering millions of dollars lost to corruption and we have passed numerous reforms. We have made county government more transparent and put a cap on campaign contributions to county elected officials. Our citizens demand clean government and our good name depends on it.

I was proud to have helped usher in entirely new management that includes a world-class, respected and empowered County Executive Officer, who has helped us get our financial house in order over the past few years, identifying and eliminating myriad deficiencies and bringing order and professionalism to a government that was at times dysfunctional, sometimes unable or unwilling to do more than follow the whims of elected officials.

Like any family or business, the County is obligated to live within its means and serve as vigilant stewards of your tax dollars. The decline in property values and taxable sales have hammered County government on the revenue side, but generous pensions for our public employees that were negotiated and awarded during boom times threaten to overwhelm our ability to provide essential public services.

Employee associations are recognizing the gravity of the long-term situation and have been partners in reaching solutions. Top administrative staff started paying the 7 percent employee share of their pension deductions more than a year ago and fire department employees followed suit. More recently our deputy sheriffs and probation officers joined them in being part of the solution as well. The next challenge will come when the contract with the general employees comes up for negotiation in 2014. Labor costs are the bulk of local government expenditures so we will have an opportunity to make adjustments that will put the county on solid financial footing for years to come.

But government is a lagging indicator and the financial health, and as I said before, of local government depends on the success of the private sector. The High Desert needs to work as a region to attract employers. I have made key investments on your behalf in education of our workforce, from aviation mechanics training to nurse training to precision machinists training. But there is much more to do to replicate these efforts and leverage training programs and dollars across all major industries.

Our selling points are compelling – location, land, labor, and leadership. But we need to realize that whether a business comes to Adelanto or whether it comes to Apple Valley, we all benefit. To that end, I am supporting the creation of Team High Desert, a cooperative effort among the four Victor Valley cities to market the region to site locators.

I see High Desert governments working together better than they did when I began my public service with the county. This is helping us solve regional problems, which is always a huge challenge. I consider that one of the most important things I have had a hand in. It has been an honor to serve, and I thank you for the opportunity.

General Politics

Federal, State and SoCal Leaders Seeking a Partner in the Inland Empire

Published by:

By Paul Granillo

Retiring Mayor of Riverside Ron Loveridge asks a great question when he ponders the mystery of “Who rules in the Inland Empire?” The answer to the question is no one, and now we all know there is no emperor in our empire, but perhaps the better question to ask is Who speaks for Inland Empire?

That is the question the Inland Empire Economic Partnership (IEEP) seeks to answer. IEEP is a convener that exists to bring together private and public leaders from both Riverside and San Bernardino Counties to provide solutions to our regions problems. IEEP seeks to accomplish its mission by representing the voice of our four million residents and it’s heard throughout the decision making groups in Southern California, our state, and nation.

Speaking from my personal experience whether at the White House, Sacramento or among my peers in statewide economic development organizations there is deep desire for our opinion to be heard. Why? Because you cannot tell the full story of the economy of Southern California or our state without including Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. The Inland Empire is a geographically and financially significant player in the economy of the United States. Our success means success for the national economy and our troubles become part of the nation’s struggle.

Leaders of the nation and state want to hear what we have to say about goods movement. They want to see how we can create solutions for the ancillary effects of the sector while continuing to allow it to grow and flourish as world trade and the information age continue to more closely connect countries and peoples.

When it comes to manufacturing, leaders know that our location and history make us one the remaining hubs for the sector in the United States. When it comes to healthcare we represent a hugely underserved population. Leadership wants to see how we can cope with the lack of medical staff and hospital beds. They are looking to us for outside the box thinking like the creation of the UCR School of Medicine, designed to insure the population can school and keep physicians here in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.

From these issues to education and diversity our region’s challenges can be turned into success stories that can teach others. That is why IEEP partners with the Regional Economic Alliance Leaders of California, the California Stewardship Network, the California Leadership Council, Mobility 21, the Southern California Associated Governments, and many others to make sure the Riverside and San Bernardino Counties residents and businesses have a voice at the table and that national, statewide, and Southern California private and public leaders have a partner from the IE.

Politics

Turning the Green State Golden Again

Published by:

By:  Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, 59th District

You have probably heard of cap and trade, but like most, you may have no idea what it actually is. Regardless, you are paying for it roughly every 3 days. Today, simply filling your gas tank so you can get to work and provide for your family feels like dropping a down payment on a brand new car. You are seeing and feeling the impacts of these misguided cap and trade policies instituted by out of touch lawmakers. Prices are going up. It is only the beginning, and your government CAN do something about it. The Governor can STOP it. I would argue that is in fact, the duty, of the Governor to undo this harm by suspending AB 32 and by scaling back on the California Air Resource Board’s (CARB) power.

California politicians have long tried to create a Green Utopia under the auspices of “saving the planet.” So, in 2006, the Legislature passed AB 32 – California’s version of “Cap and Trade,” which constituted the most sweeping expanse of environmental regulations up until, or since, then. It essentially put the ability to pollute in the process of manufacturing up for sale to the highest bidder. This meant that only large corporations could afford to purchase this new hot commodity and continue to keep up with the costs to do business, while the local “mom and pop” shops couldn’t afford the “carbon credits” necessary to keep their operations going. Since its passage, our unemployment rate has skyrocketed and it will only continue to do so as long as it stands. This is both irresponsible and a gross abuse of power. No matter where you stand on the issue of global warming, the simple truth is that your government is dictating based on science that is nowhere near settled and is ruining our livelihoods and economy in the process.

AB 32 has an impact on nearly every sector of our economy, including manufacturing, construction, housing, and transportation. It even impacts school bus access. For instance, one new regulation requires tractors to idle for 4 straight hours to clear the soot trap after only running for 4 hours. It further mandates that an operator must man the tractor at the business owner’s expense. How is California improved by this new regulation? Additionally, we see cement companies dropping like flies. Within our air quality district, we dropped from 11 to 8 just last year.

I recently asked a friend I did business with years back to share his perspective on what the State can do to improve the business climate.

He told me with pain in his voice about how businesses, the backbone of our economy, are struggling to breathe in the suffocating, regulation-laden California environment. Worse yet, while the State emits rule after rule, it fails to notify the people whose taxes and production it relies on to continue operating. Instead, it imposes fines on business owners who may fail to keep up.

“You’d think they’d be required to inform me at the very least, considering the enormous cost of not complying – fines and penalties that often run into the tens of thousands of dollars,” he said.

In California though, a truck driver–the person who delivers fresh food to our stores–can be fined $1000 for failing to have a certification slip in his truck at any given time, even if he is in fact certified and in compliance with all emission standards. What is the net effect of this kind of non-sense regulation? It is no surprise – trucking companies are moving out. They are now setting up shop and building the economy of bordering states. Our economy is dying the death of a thousand regulations just to continue feeding the bureaucratic beast that is California.

That is why, this year, I am running AB 1721 to ensure businesses are given a warning for first violations, rather than fined for simply missing yet another rule coming from the California Air Resources Board (CARB). With support from business owners, we have a good chance of pushing forward this common-sense piece of legislation to lessen the blow to California’s job creators. Still, much more is required to reverse California’s business and job-destructive course.

Good public policy hinges on two things: First, doing the right thing, and second, Doing the thing right. AB 32 does neither.

The right thing is certainly not to sink billions of taxpayer dollars into unfounded theories while simultaneously bleeding California businesses one restriction at a time. This is especially true when the policy does not even accomplish its stated goal!

Ironically, the “green police” have done nothing to decrease air pollution. Increasing restrictions on businesses only serves to force them out of state, or even out of the country. Many businesses are choosing to open in or relocate to China. California then not only loses revenue and jobs, but actually increases pollution since other states and countries have far more lenient environmental laws. Even before AB 32, for every dollar that California and China spent on manufacturing, California produced ¼ the carbon emissions that China did. Now California has taken it too far. This means dirtier air for all of us as more production moves out of the state. (Air does not recognize international borders the last time I checked.) AB 32 is actually increasing air pollution!

California’s irresponsible, go-it-alone approach to its environmental crusade has become all but a state mandated religion. If you don’t buy it, you are silenced, as has been seen with numerous teachers and scientists facing job loss for countering the environmentalists’ policy conclusions. Never mind that the science behind global warming promotion is documented to be fraught with fraud.

For every hard working Californian who loses his job, for each mom who gets a sick when she sees the rising food prices when shopping for her family, the results of this bill to the ordinary citizen are becoming impossible to ignore.

California, once the Golden State, can turn this around, but it will require keeping the “green police” from locking up our vast potential. We must stand up for California and demand that this massive legislative error be reversed so our communities and our businesses do not continue to suffer for the sake of a green dream.

59th District Assemblyman Tim Donnelly can be reached at:
DISTRICT OFFICE
15900 Smoketree Street, room 100
Hesperia, CA 92345
(760) 244-5277, (760) 244-5447 fax
assemblymember.donnelly@assembly.ca.gov

Economy Politics

No More Redevelopment…What’s Next?

Published by:

By Larry Kosmont, President & CEO of Kosmont Companies

Successor Agencies have assumed control and will be responsible for the winding down of the activities and assets of former Redevelopment Agencies under the supervision of Oversight Boards, which are currently being assembled. Following audits by Counties and the State of previous redevelopment transactions and ongoing Successor Agency obligations, properties of the former Redevelopment Agencies will begin to come onto the market. Cities are now handicapped with respect to future economic development without the capacity for tax increment financing. New and relatively untried tools such as infrastructure financing districts and community-based economic development authorities will be explored and implemented as a replacement for redevelopment, while existing tools, such as lease/lease-back financing and sales tax reimbursement agreements will concurrently be revisited. Several redevelopment legislation clean-up measures are underway to provide guidance and options to cities in California, but filling the void left by redevelopment will still be a formidable task.

Where We Are

Redevelopment is dead, and effective February 1, 2012 the dissolution process has begun. Though it is procedurally untried, the unwinding process is vaguely similar to certain aspects of private sector liquidation in that, by and large, the new decision makers (Oversight Boards) will act much like creditor committees, seeking to liquidate assets in order to share in the sale proceeds in addition to getting public agency-owned properties back on the tax rolls.Due to the unique and untested requirements and processes in AB1X 26, Successor Agencies (the cities that formerly had redevelopment properties) and private sector entities that took part in the program or may want to buy those properties are focused on several key questions going forward, regarding such issues as the next steps in redevelopment dissolution, the availability of properties going forward, the feasibility of redevelopment without tax-increment financing, replacement economic development tools, and potential redevelopment legislation clean-up.

What’s Next?

  • Successor Agencies have already made the decision to remain in control of the redevelopment dissolution program. Almost every city in the state elected to become a Successor Agency to its redevelopment agency, enabling them to finish ongoing projects and dispose of assets with the express review and approval of Oversight Boards.
  • Seven-member Oversight Boards will be formed over the next two months (deadline is May 1, 2012), to oversee the winding down of redevelopment assets and activities. For the most part, careful attention and emphasis is being put into the selection of board members, as these are the individuals who will decide what happens to former agency assets (though decisions can be appealed to the State Department of Finance and/or State Controller’s Office). Oversight Board members are appointed by county board of supervisors (two), the city mayor (one), the largest special district by property tax share within the jurisdiction of the former agency (one), county superintendent of education (one), Chancellor of the California Community Colleges (one), and one member representing employees of the former agency.
  • Successor Agencies have adopted their Enforceable Obligation Payment Schedules (“EOPS”) in January 2012. Audits and reviews of former agency transactions are now underway by the Department of Finance and the county auditor-controllers to scrutinize the EOPS and Recognized Obligation Payment Schedules (“ROPS”) and importantly, to set up the liquidation of former agency assets, including notes and properties.

Will Properties Become Available? If So, When?

Properties will become available. Timing is unclear. The Successor Agency EOPS must be ratified by the county auditor-controller, State Controller’s Office, and Department of Finance. The primary assets referenced on EOPS require ongoing payments (e.g. bond payments). Concurrently, real estate assets are being placed on lists by Successor Agencies to be disposed of “expeditiously and in a manner aimed at maximizing value” subject to the direction of the Oversight Boards as outlined in AB1X 26. Successor Agencies are currently evaluating preferred methods of disposition, initiating assessments of value, and formulating strategies to be recommended to Oversight Boards, once they are formed (by May 1, 2012).

Can Cities Accomplish Economic Development Without Tax Increment Financing (“TIF”)?

Terminating redevelopment essentially eliminated TIF in California. As a result cities have lost their primary leverageble revenue source for economic development projects. California is now one of only two states in the nation without some form of this valuable financing instrument. TIF enables public agencies cities to freeze property and other tax revenues, such that additional increment can become available to match or enhance private sector equity/debt investment. Without this tool, California cities are limited in ways to assist public-private projects and pay for infrastructure.

New & Untried Economic Development Tools

In the next year, there will be a prevalent debate about which tools should be authorized as a replacement for redevelopment. Most alternatives will involve the reintroduction of tax- increment at some level:

  • Infrastructure Financing Districts (“IFD”), which divert property tax revenues for public infrastructure improvement projects (highways, transit, water, sewer, parks, etc.). The current IFD statute requires approval by all effected taxing authorities and a vote by all constituent parties. As such, the process is too cumbersome and not workable.
  • Community-Based Economic Development Authorities – some charter cities have had such authorities in place, such as the City of Placentia (a Kosmont client), where the Industrial Commercial Development Authority was established in 1982. The City of Alhambra is a charter city that is leading the way by adopting an economic development ordinance that empowers the City to acquire or lease property, provide for site preparation work, accept financial assistance from public and private sources, provide financial assistance to projects, issue debt, and other essential economic development activities. Other charter and general law cities in California must decide whether to pursue similar actions. Ideally incorporated into any such model would be broadened surplus property disposition, ability of general law cities to create TIF-based reimbursement agreements, and capacity for cities to sell property below market to encourage private investment and job creation.

Existing Economic Development Tools Are Being Revisited (partial list):

  • Lease / Lease-Back Financing
    • With and without General Fund guarantees
    • Site specific tax revenue pledges for hotels and retail
    • Ground Leases
    • Sales Tax Reimbursement Agreements
    • Operating Covenants (e.g. for Retailers and Auto Dealers)

Clean-Up Legislation in Process (As of March 2012)

  • SB 654 (Steinberg) – Various Redevelopment Clean-Up
    • Currently at Assembly Desk
    • Would allow for L/M Income Housing Fund to transfer to Successor Housing Agency
    • Would allow certain City/Agency loans as Enforceable Obligations
  • AB 1585 (Perez) – Various Redevelopment Clean-up
    • Currently with Senate Rules Committee
    • Some overlap with SB 654 re: Housing Fund Balance and City/Agency loans
    • Additionally addresses employee project and termination and other admin costs
    • Requires Oversight Board to direct Successor Agency to prepare inventory of assets and fair market values and adopt asset disposal/transfer strategies
  • SB 986 (Dutton) – Bond Proceeds
    • With Senate Committee on Governance & Finance
    • Provides that all bond proceeds generated by former Agency are encumbered and not remittable to County Auditor-Controller
    • Requires that proceeds are used by the Successor Agency for the purposes for which the bonds were sold
    • Obligates Oversight Board cooperation with respect to establishment of enforceable obligations related to bond proceeds
  • SB 1220 (DeSaulnier, Steinberg, Assembly Member Atkins)– Housing Opportunity Trust Fund Act of 2012
    • With Senate Committee on Transportation & Housing
    • Imposes $75 on recordation of real estate documentation to support affordable housing development
  • SB 1151 (Steinberg) – Long Range Asset Management Plan
    • With Senate Committee on Governance & Finance (hearing scheduled for April 18, 2012)
    • Requires Successor Agency to prepare long range asset management plan outlining a strategy for ongoing economic development and housing functions
    • Plan would require Oversight Board & DOF approval
  • SB 1156 (Steinberg) – Community Development and Housing Joint Powers Authority
    • With Senate Committee on Transportation & Housing(hearing scheduled for April 10, 2012)
    • Authorizes Cities/Counties to form “Community Development and Housing Joint Powers Authorities” to assume from Successor Agencies the responsibility for managing the assets and property of the former redevelopment agency
    • Authorizes these entities to exercise specified powers included in the RDA law and to exercise certain other powers relating to financing its activities such as establish additional sales tax

Economic Development – A New Wave is Coming

As the burden of redevelopment dissolution and the roles and responsibilities of the various successor entities become clear, it is also becoming evident that there is significant room for differentiation in how cities cope and position themselves for future economic development efforts. Cities should be assertive in their pursuit of asset strategies, starting with full consideration of an upgraded and updated economic development strategy. Now, more than ever, local governments will need to be creative in their exploration and implementation of economic incentives and public financing tools for economic development projects. While redevelopment was the most widely used revenue-financing tool, it was in fact just one tool in the toolbox at the disposal of California cities.

More to come, so stay tuned!

Politics

Solar Mitigation

Published by:

By Brad Mitzelfelt, 1st District Supervisor, San Bernardino

Economic and environmental problems with the mega solar projects now being erected on federal land in our Southern California deserts have been the subject of several stories in local and regional media recently.

One major aspect of the issue has not been addressed in that coverage. Solar energy development on public lands not only affects species and their habitats; it has potentially profound impacts on local government, future economic growth, and other historic uses of the desert, including recreation, off-highway vehicle use, and mining, among others.

We fear that expansive solar developments, because of their impacts to species and the imposition of draconian mitigation requirements, could result in locking down the rest of the desert, creating an impenetrable de facto wilderness area, and eliminating a critical array of economic activities, while denying the right of our citizens to enjoy the public lands they own.

More than 80 percent of San Bernardino County is in federal ownership, and multiple uses on those lands – ranging from a variety of recreational activities to filming to mining – have long been critical to a sustainable and vibrant local economy.

As the elected county supervisor who represents 15,600 square miles of San Bernardino County, including the six-square-mile Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Station just this side of Primm, Nev., it is clear to me that the strategies and costs of protecting species from this headlong rush toward renewable energy are unsustainable and unacceptable.

Projects that disturb or destroy habitat must make up for that loss by purchasing private land at ratios of 2-to-1, 3-to-1, even 5-to-1. In San Bernardino County, just three solar projects on federal land – BrightSource’s Ivanpah project, K Road Power’s Calico project on Interstate 40 east of Barstow, and a project proposed by First Solar immediately adjacent to Ivanpah – will require the acquisition of nearly 22,000 acres of private land or roughly 34 square miles. That’s an area larger than Glendale that must be purchased, provided the required mitigation ratio is “only” 2-to-1.

That land comes off the tax rolls, reducing revenue and further straining the ability of local government to provide essential services, and precludes any other uses that provide sustainable recreational and economic opportunities. (Note that Abengoa Solar’s 250-megawatt Mojave Solar Plant, now under construction northwest of Barstow, is on private, previously disturbed agricultural land and requires minimal mitigation.)

Under the current mitigation strategy, it would take only a few more of these mega-projects to take out the remaining available private land in the desert, and render future development, solar or otherwise, virtually impossible.

I advocated a policy that broadly supports the development of renewable energy, but rather than relying solely on the purchase of private land for mitigation, calls for developers to pay into a fund for aggressive and scientifically supportable strategies to enhance, preserve, and protect species and their habitats on existing federal land.

I also called for the protection of historic uses on public lands, including hiking, camping, rock hounding, off-highway vehicle use, grazing and mining. If a solar project eliminates one or more of those opportunities where they existed previously, then other public land should be made available for the affected uses. Those positions were ultimately adopted by not only San Bernardino County, but the National Association of Counties.

Solar development clearly is going to be part of the multiple-use mix on our public lands. Given the construction industry in the Inland Empire has been devastated with the loss of more than 76,000 construction jobs since the peak in 2006, the employment opportunities created by large solar projects are badly needed.

However, at the local government level, we are striving to help our state and federal colleagues understand that these projects must not restrict or eliminate other uses that have provided economic benefits for more than a century.

Brad Mitzelfelt is vice chairman of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors and represents the First District, which includes a large portion of the Mojave Desert.