A California Supreme Court decision last week on redevelopment agencies has added uncertainty to the already precarious financial situations of area cities.

Priorities for the new year have now shifted to getting answers and developing a strategy to get help from state lawmakers.

The court ruled Thursday that the state has the legal authority to dissolve redevelopment agencies.

"This is a huge cloud and a question mark," Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren said Friday.

Other states, like Texas, will probably reap the benefit from the plight of cities in this state, she said.

Companies that might have been thinking about relocating to California are likely to land in other states where policies are more settled, she said.

"I'm going to come out fighting, or rather working," after the New Year's holiday, she said.

One of the big unanswered questions is what will happen to the projects now overseen by city redevelopment agencies.

Warren expects the fates of city redevelopment agencies in California to be determined in the Legislature.

And the mayor, who presides over the state's fourth-largest such agency, said she has already been making calls to local legislators.

Warren was active in mobilizing local opposition to ABX1 26, which eliminated redevelopment agencies, and ABX1 27, which allowed agencies to remain in operation as long as they made a payment to the state.

The bills were passed as part of the 2011-12 state budget.


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The court struck down ABX1 27 but allowed the other to stand.

The California Redevelopment Association and the League of California Cities are focusing on urgent legislative action as well.

After the state Supreme Court's ruling affirming the right of the state to dissolve redevelopment agencies, Chris McKenzie, the executive director of the League of California Cities, said, "Redevelopment is indispensable to cities to spur economic development, create jobs and improve communities.

"We know legislators recognize that and we hope they're willing to work with us to reinstate redevelopment. We want to work as partners with state lawmakers to revive this tool in an accountable manner."

Warren said that many formerly blighted sections of Fontana have been turned into vibrant economic corridors because redevelopment funding made projects there attractive to developers.

Warren said Fontana and other cities in California should not be penalized because a few redevelopment programs in the state ran amok.

Rialto Councilman Ed Scott said, "City leaders (across the state) are going to find a way to survive without the help of Gov. Brown and the state."

Legislators that decide not to help the state's cities should be voted out by the electorate, he said.

The state will be able to save more than $1 billion in this year's budget by eliminating about 400 redevelopment agencies, but it will not get an estimated $400 million a year thereafter from money that would have been set aside by agencies to continue operating.

The ruling "guarantees more than a billion dollars of ongoing funding for schools and public safety," Gov. Jerry Brown said after the state Supreme Court ruling.

Kathy Binks, a 24-year member of the Fontana Unified school board, said she is "caught between a rock and a hard spot."

"I love this city, so I am disappointed," she said. "With my other hat on (as a school board member) I am treading lightly. I have learned not to get too excited by promises from the state of California. My question is, `When do we get the money?"'

jim.steinberg@inlandnewspapers.com

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