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Manteca’s own Don Quixote pokes holes in absurdity

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POSTED May 1, 2010 2:21 a.m.
Joe DeAngelis is a regular at Manteca City Council meetings.

His motivation is admirable. After all, one can’t have a representative republican form of government work effectively without the people being governed stepping up to let their views be heard.

At times his comments to the council at their twice monthly meetings end up being soliloquies with the points he makes giving him the cloak of a modern day Don Quixote tilting at windmills, so to speak, with the unbridled idealism of one who believes  strength comes from questioning the world and its injustices.

It does everyone a great disservice to simply dismiss those who position themselves as Don Quixotes.

At the last Manteca City Council meeting, DeAngelis asked, if the redevelopment agency does such great things for the city, why not put all of Manteca into the redevelopment agency’s domain and be done with it? Manteca is currently exploring the possibility of adding 11 distinct neighborhoods to the redevelopment agency due to blight concerns triggered by a substantial drop in property values triggered by the foreclosure meltdown.

It’s a good question.

There are some California cities that actually have put their entire jurisdiction within a redevelopment agency’s boundary but that was before the state got wise. It’s one thing for Sacramento to preach local control, it is entirely different for them to allow that to actually happen.

Depending upon your take, the redevelopment law is either a powerful and effective economic tool that local government can use to stimulate the local economy and fight blight or else it undermines the American way of life.

Redevelopment was created by the California Legislature to assist local governments in eliminating blight from a designated area as well as to achieve the goals of development, reconstruction, and rehabilitation of residential, commercial, industrial, and retail districts.

After the passage of Proposition 13 in June 1978, voters successfully reformed local governments but in doing so emboldened the state to take more control.

Here’s how it happened.

Prior to Proposition 13, a school district or city would develop a list of expenses for the year and then tabulate revenue from all sources. Whatever amount they came up short, they adjusted the property tax rate accordingly.

Not only did Proposition 13 cap property taxes but when coupled with subsequent ballot measures local jurisdictions were hamstrung in their ability to raise rates or fees. This was a good thing except for one small detail. While local government was playing by new rules, the state kept spending and expanding into new areas that quickly made things such as art a basic government service. That also led the state to swipe revenue from local jurisdictions living within their means.

Today, cities such as Manteca typically get 10 percent of the property tax that is collected while portions of the city in the redevelopment project area brings back about 80 cents of the property tax collected to Manteca.

To answer DeAneglis question, if the state still allowed an entire city to go into an RDA they could then use the money collected to pay for police and fire services as the entire city would meet the definition of blight. Ironically such a move would help restore cities back to the strength of their pre-Proposition 13.

Of course, it can’t legally happen so the question is academic.

Even so, it underscores the complete lunacy of how government funding and how people are taxed or charged to support government.
It is utter madness. Cities such as Manteca have had to result to creative ways to get things done with the confines drawn by the state and the will of the people while the state simply rewrites restrictions on how they can secure and spend revenue to meet their whim du jour.

Many of the questions and observations DeAngelis makes take actions to their absurd conclusions. The city – whether we like it or not – has to operate within the confines of the craziness the state has created. It would be nice to tear it down and start all over again but cities are powerless to do that. Only the state could bring true reform to the mess that it essentially created.

Honor and justice seem to be a major theme in DeAngelis’ observations. In a perfect world that would reign supreme. But as long as cities have to survive dealing with edicts and conflicting laws thrust upon them by the state they must find a way to continue to provide basic services day in and day out.

We need to all strive for idealism but in the end, unfortunately, we must be pragmatic as we can’t control the many outside forces that shape a municipality such as Manteca.

Even so, we need modern-day Don Quixotes to poke holes in the absurdity of it all to inspire us to try to right whatever wrongs we can whether it is with government finances or through the laws and regulations we adopt.
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