High Desert Cities Join Lawsuit to Overturn Redevelopment Legislation

From left to right:Mike Leonard, Mayor of Hesperia, Joe Gomez, Mayor of Barstow, Cari Thomas, Mayor of Adelanto, Scott Nassif, Mayor of Apple Valley, Ryan McEachron, Mayor of Victorville,Pat Orr, Business owner. Photo By Kathie Martin.

By Alyssa Penman

High Desert Daily

(APPLE VALLEY)– Mayors and business representatives from across the High Desert gathered Friday to share with the public their support for a lawsuit brought by the League of California Cities, the California Redevelopment Association and the cities of San Jose and Union City against the State of California.

Town of Apple Valley Mayor Scott Nassif introduced the event at western terminus of Yucca Loma Road. This site will be the eastern end of the long-awaited Yucca Loma Overpass project, connecting Green Tree Road in Victorville and Yucca Loma Road in Apple Valley. Redevelopment funds are vital to completion of this project, among others Mayor Nassif described. According to Nassif, “redevelopment is the strongest local tool to revitalize downtowns, bring jobs and build infrastructure,” something High Desert communities desperately need.

Victorville Mayor Ryan McEachron expressed his frustration over AB 1X 26/27 and said that it is “outrageous that the legislature and governor would eliminate one of the only tools cities have to create jobs and stimulate the economy.”

All mayors and business leaders expressed concern that this bill directly violates the state constitution, particularly Prop 22 which was passed just last September. According to McEachron, if allowed to go forward, this legislation will have disastrous effects for jobs, as well as the Southern California Logistics Airport (SCLA) and the Foxborough Industrial Park.

“What part of ‘No’ do our politicians not understand?” asked Mayor Mike Leonard of Hesperia. 84% of voters passed Prop 1A in 2004, prohibiting the state government from “raiding” local municipalities redevelopment funds during a state budget crisis.

Voters made their voice heard again last November with the passing of Prop 22, which had stronger language to prohibit what AB 1X 26/27 is believed to do. In Hesperia, projects like the Ranchero Rd underpass and railroad track improvements in industrial areas will be in jeopardy or eliminated entirely.

Blight removal and attracting businesses are top on Barstow Mayor Joe Gomez’s agenda for redevelopment funds. He believes that leaders have an obligation to the taxpayers to ensure their money is used properly, which is why the City of Barstow is in support of this lawsuit as well.

Adelanto Mayor Cari Thomas pointed out that her city has just begun to develop the kind of commercial infrastructure that requires access to redevelopment funds. Currently, “Adelanto residents can’t buy brand new shoes without leaving town, and if they have a medical emergency they have to leave the city” as well. According to Thomas, economic development is the engine that makes the state economy grow. “State officials have mismanaged funds and now are raiding our funds to cover their problems,” she declared.

Local businessman Pat Orr represented the interests of private enterprise in the High Desert and expressed that the Chambers of Commerce and many business owners are in support of the lawsuit as well. “Businesses need a reason to be in California. RDA funds help make that happen,” he said. “This bill is a disaster for our local and regional economic future.”

It is estimated that at least $31 million will leave the High Desert, and nearly 20,000 potential jobs will never come to fruition if this legislation is allowed to go into effect. Residents of the High Desert are encouraged to write letters and call their state representatives to express their concerns. While most local and county officials are in support of the lawsuit, citizens can contact them to share their concerns as well.

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