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Tim Donnelly defends socialist record on property rights, redevelopment

By on April 28, 2014
Asm. Tim Donnelly

Tim Donnelly routinely frames the governor’s race as “an epic showdown between socialism and freedom.”

“This epic experiment in socialism under Jerry Brown has been an epic fail,” the Twin Peaks Republican Assemblyman said last fall. “We need to unleash California’s prosperity by getting government out of the way.”

But for all his talk of “getting government out of the way,” Donnelly has repeatedly voted to keep government in the redevelopment business, which property rights advocates describe as “a noxious combination of crony capitalism and bureaucratic control.”

In contrast to his carefully-crafted image as a supporter of free market capitalism and individual liberty, Donnelly’s position on redevelopment not only puts him at odds with the Tea Party, but makes him with the most “socialist” candidate in the area of property rights.

Donnelly voted to protect redevelopment agencies

In 2011, the state’s leading taxpayer groups and property rights advocates urged Donnelly and his Republican colleagues in the state legislature to back Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to end redevelopment agencies.

“Redevelopment agencies have been the biggest abusers of homeowners’ property rights in California,” Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said in a 2011 press release. “Immediate action is needed now and we urge all legislators, including Republicans, to reject the influence of politically connected developers and do what is right for ordinary California homeowners.”

Redevelopment headlinesBut, Donnelly ignored the advice of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, voting twice to keep redevelopment agencies. In March 2011, Donnelly voted against SB 77, the precursor to ABX1 26, which ultimately eliminated redevelopment agencies.

The conservative California Republican Assembly, which has endorsed Donnelly for governor, said in its annual scorecard that ABX1 26 “provided the first real opportunity in a generation to shut down local redevelopment agencies, which have proven to be the most abusive and corrupt examples of ‘crony capitalism’ and Soviet-style central planning. While flawed, this bill illustrates the difficulty of cutting Big Government.”

In addition to California’s leading conservative activist group, the California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights flagged the bills in its annual “Private Property Rights Legislative Scorecard,” which gave Donnelly a failing grade that year.

“All the while redevelopment agencies are using eminent domain to forcibly seize property from unwilling sellers, they have not fulfilled their promise of creating new jobs,” said Marko Mlikotin, president of the California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights. “Redevelopment has failed taxpayers and threatens private property rights. It is time for the Legislature to do away with these government boondoggles.”

Donnelly reaffirms support for redevelopment agencies

When asked for his current position on the issue and an explanation for his 2011 votes to maintain redevelopment agencies, Donnelly stood by his vote for, in the words of the California Republican Assembly, “Soviet-style central planning.”

“The redevelopment agencies that Jerry Brown killed were effective economic development tools that helps public private partnerships attract investment and businesses, create jobs, build roads,” Donnelly told CalNewsroom.com when asked about his redevelopment vote. “Now we’re losing investment and business, have the worst business climate and the worst roads in the country.”

Donnelly’s view of redevelopment as an “effective economic development tool” is contradicted by overwhelming evidence that the corporate welfare program fails to create jobs or stimulate local economies.

Just ask the residents of New London, Connecticut.

Kelo decision: Abusive government power in name of economic development

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that government redevelopment agencies can use eminent domain to seize private property in the name of “economic development,” “new jobs and increased revenue.” In Kelo v. City of New London, the court allowed the city to seize the homes and property of Susette Kelo and her neighbors in order to provide a corporate welfare package to the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Inc.

“While Ms. Kelo and her neighbors lost their homes, the city and the state spent some $78 million to bulldoze private property for high-end condos and other “desirable” elements, the Wall Street Journal observed in 2009. “Instead, the wrecked and condemned neighborhood still stands vacant, without any of the touted tax benefits or job creation.”

Nearly a decade after “the most universally loathed Supreme Court ruling of the new millennium,” the City of New London’s redevelopment plan has proven to be an unmitigated disaster. Pfizer, the corporate beneficiary of the redevelopment plan and supposed job creator, left town in 2009.

“The homeowners were dispossessed for nothing,” writes the Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby. “Fort Trumbull was never redeveloped. Pfizer itself bailed out of New London in 2009. Kelo was a disaster, as even the city’s present political leaders acknowledge.”

“The nationwide outrage that followed in the wake of the Kelo decision spanned from left to right and back again on the political spectrum,” The Weekly Standard Charlotte Allen recently wrote.

Similar Kelo-style abuses in California

Before Gov. Brown ended the program, California’s redevelopment agencies were no better than those in New London, Connecticut.

“California’s redevelopment agencies are some of the worst perpetrators of eminent domain abuse in the nation,” said Christina Walsh of the Institute for Justice in 2011. “Until state legislators abolish these agencies, no private property owner in California is safe.”

The InsInstitute for Justicetitute for Justice knows a thing or two about property rights. It’s the organization that represented Susette Kelo before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Steven Greenhut, one of California’s leading experts on redevelopment abuses, is baffled by Donnelly’s continued defense of the agencies that have undermined property rights.

“It has everything that Donnelly should hate: a) government bullying; b) uncontrolled debt spending; c) Ponzi-scheme-like repayment deals; d) a shift in power from individuals to bureaucrats; e) favoritism for the politically connected and the wealthy; f) the destruction of property rights,” said Greenhut, author of Abuse of Power: How the Government Abuses Eminent Domain. “Anyone who is serious about property rights and limited government should be there to help stop it.”

Greenhut says that California’s redevelopment agencies are among the worst abusers of property rights. A 2011 report by Controller John Chiang into California’s redevelopment agencies found “a breeding ground for waste, abuse, and impropriety.” In one case, Chiang’s report discovered redevelopment money used to renovate greens and bunkers at a 4 1/2-star golf resort.

“It’s a noxious combination of crony capitalism and bureaucratic control — with disturbing land grabs and fiscal shell games thrown into the mix,” Greenhut said.

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About John Hrabe

John Hrabe spends his time traveling the world as a freelance journalist. When he isn’t on an international flight, John writes about state and national politics for CalWatchdog.com, FlashReport.org, Huffington Post and the editorial pages of the Orange County Register. John’s most recent high-profile investigation uncovered the questionable labor practices of Goodwill Industries, the nonprofit organization famous for its secondhand clothing stores.

7 Comments

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  3. Bob Richmond

    May 4, 2014 at 6:47 am

    I have been against RDA’s for 10 years. I will vote for Donnelly any day over a person, who has voted for Hussein Obama. All the Republican incumbents that are running for the California Senate and Assembly have voted for RDA’s too, except Beth Gaines.
    Are all of these legislators less qualified, because they voted for RDA’s? Should we not vote for them? I don’t agree with my wife 100% of the time, so I have no problem with Donnelly being confused on the issue of RDA’s.
    Almost all of our legislators are confused by supporting RDA’s.
    Rino Alert! No real Republican would have EVER voted for Hussein Obama.
    Vote Donnelly for Governor, I sure will anyway.

    Past Chairman Riverside Republican Party
    Bob Richmond

  4. Pingback: Donnelly backed redevelopment exemption | CalWatchDog

  5. Pingback: Redevelopment leaders’ public thank you to Tim Donnelly | CalNewsroom.com

  6. C. Clifford

    June 8, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    What happened to the “five” comments?

  7. Pingback: Property Rights: Radio ads urge Brown to veto redevelopment return | CalNewsroom.com

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