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Manteca spending $250K to fight state
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Manteca is getting ready to fight the State of California.

Anticipating the legislature this week might embrace Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to seize 400 plus redevelopment agencies up and down the state that were authorized under a law California enacted in 1945, the Manteca City Council Monday sitting as the RDA commission voted to authorize legal counsel to take on the state if necessary.

The commission was unanimous in setting aside $250,000 toward future billings for the services of the law firm of Richards, Watson, and Gershon.

The move to fight the State of California in the courts comes after years of Sacramento commandeering in excess of $10 million from the Manteca Redevelopment Agency to help cover excessive state government spending.

This time around the state wants it all.

Mayor Willie Weatherford pointed out that there are serious questions as to the expectations of bondholders who invested not to pay down state debt but to fund economic projects based on each RDAs’ track record. In Manteca’s case, it has a high bond rating because of its success over the years of delivering RDA projects which in turn makes it possible to pay off bonds. The state, Weatherford noted, has a significantly worse bond rating than Manteca.

The RDA law was established by the California Legislature in a bid to give cities and counties the tools to fight blight and stimulate economic growth. They are the only remaining economic investment tools of California governments since the state eliminated its economic development department years ago.

RDA loans were key to the success of two pivotal projects in Manteca - the conversion of the shuttered Spreckels Sugar plant into a vibrant retail center and business park as well as the transformation of the burned out shell of the El Rey Theater into downtown Manteca’s marquee business - Kelley Brothers Brewing Co. In both cases the loans were paid back with interest and ahead of time.

Both projects had private funding but banks wouldn’t touch them as they considered poor investments due to the dilapidated condition of the property or obstacles that impeded development. Neither would have happed without the RDA loans as developers in both cases were turned down across the board by private sector banks.

The RDA also funds affordable housing. In Manteca that has included more than 150 units of low-income senior housing and close to $2 million worth of health and safety repairs to homes owned by low-income seniors.