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Providing five more sets of eyes on Manteca RDA

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POSTED July 8, 2010 1:59 a.m.
The Doyle Ranch back in the 1980s was perhaps the most prime piece of real estate along the Interstate 80 corridor east of Sacramento.

Its 1,400 acres of rocky outcroppings that was proving difficult to develop due to infrastructure costs. Even so, Shuggart - the makers of the then revolutionary floppy disks - did manage to build two manufacturing buildings on the property’s edge near the freeway.

Roseville’s elected leaders also were facing the potential flight of its A to Z list of new car dealerships that for years had been drawing consumer dollars from large segments of neighboring Sacramento County.

The city teamed with AKT Development headed by the Angelo Tsakopoulos who rose from the ranks of a laborer in the vineyards of Lodi as a teen to become the biggest land developer in Sacramento to develop the Doyle Ranch. It includes the site of the Roseville Auto Mall that still stands today as the largest concentration of new car dealers in the world.

To make the Roseville Redevelopment Agency deal work, the city had to include the then Southern Pacific railroad yards into the agency boundaries to make the undeveloped land eligible for RDA funds under state law to develop infrastructure including six linear miles of streets. Critics were told, with a wink of the eye, that ultimately it could help pay for redevelopment of the SP marshaling yards now owned by Union Pacific. No one, of course, believed that would ever happen although you could argue correctly the RDA helped prevent blight from overtaking Roseville as the railroad’s employment and economic value faded.

What no one expected - at least the five council members at the time - was an RDA deal that included $80,000 in RDA tax dollars to fund a large steel sculpture dubbed “The Cosmos” that Tsakopoulos commissioned for a public access part of the project that is visible even today from eastbound Interstate 80.

The five council members - who had literally pored over the RDA documents in numerous public meetings to make sure everything was aboveboard and no one was being mislead - were none too thrilled to find out that a controversial sculpture had been funded with RDA property taxes.

Tsakopoulos didn’t benefit directly unless you consider his affinity for public displays of striking art a personal coup. The council went from being livid to tongue-tied as they had given their blessing to the final RDA package after combing through it to justify their votes.

Nothing was done illegally and the political fallout dissipated as the massive RDA project proved extremely effective at not just lifting Roseville’s economy but making the city a domineering force in the Sacramento area second only to the City of Sacramento at the time.

Now fast forward to Manteca today and the city’s own RDA.

Manteca’s general fund is at $29,600,533. It is part of the overall municipal budget of $201,482,901 that includes water, sewer, and refuse enterprise funds; development fee accounts; and the RDA.

Of all the major budget pies, the biggest by far with $76,885,340 is the Manteca RDA. It dwarfs the general fund that pays for services such as police, fire, parks, and streets yet it has no second set of layman eyes on the money.

The smaller general fund has a fairly robust list of citizen committees - both permanent and temporary - as well as commissions appointed by the City Council including the planning commissions, parks and recreation commission, building appeals board, Measure M Oversight, library task force and more.

It seems the time has come - especially with the city seriously considering adding upwards of 11 neighborhoods to the RDA boundaries due to blight and economic decay caused by foreclosures - for the council to appoint a free-standing RDA commission.

The attention needed to oversee the $76 million in RDA funds is entirely different than watching the general fund. The RDA requires long-range thinking, innovation, and a commitment to stick to a course of action once it is adopted.

This Is no means is a reflection on how poorly or how good the City Council is doing in its double duty as council members RDA commissioners.

It is just as the more money is spent the chances of something going awry such as the Cosmos in Roseville will pop up.

City Manager Steve Pinkerton is either heaven sent or the devil in slacks depending upon your take of the value of an RDA to give communities an economic boost as well as providing amenities.

There is little doubt the assets of the Manteca RDA are well-managed and that the city staff involved is competent in executing directives of the council serving overseers of the RDA.

But as the RDA’s role in shaping Manteca’s future growth it would seem prudent to expand the number to citizens overseeing its operations,

If for no other reason but to provide the community with five more lay people well versed enough versed in the workings of an RDA to help spread the good news of how the agency is impacting Manteca.

At the same time it would provide another check and balance to make sure RDA dollars are spent to the maximum benefit of improving Manteca’s economy and ultimately the lives of its residents.
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