I rarely read Tom Barnidge's column in the Times but his Aug. 4 column lauding the $12 million bridge over Treat Boulevard caught my eye. Unfortunately, Barnidge missed the real story about this unneeded bridge.
The real story is that the bridge was built with county Redevelopment Agency funds. Where does that agency get its money? It siphons off property tax dollars that should be going to schools, fire, police and other necessary government agencies.
Redevelopment Agencies (RDAs) control about 30 percent of urbanized land in California. And 12 percent of all property taxes are seized by these agencies. Statewide that amounts to $65 billion annually in funds diverted from counties, cities, school, fire and police districts.
Now let's go back to the Treat bridge. I was a member of the 2002-03 grand jury where we did an investigation of the Pleasant Hill BART station county redevelopment area. Please take time to read that report at http://www.cc-courts.org/_data/n_0038/resources/live/0306rpt.htm.
Among the conclusions was: "The expenditure of some $4 million for a bridge over Treat Boulevard is improper. Whatever the increase in pedestrian or bicycle traffic, the building of the bridge is not an appropriate use of redevelopment dollars." And, of course, the grand jury recommendation was, "Do not proceed further with plans to build the bridge over Treat Boulevard."
The stated reason for the bridge back in 2003 was that it would increase bicycle and pedestrian traffic into the BART station and increase BART ridership. The agency admitted that it had a consultant's report that said the bridge would not do that. When queried why they were building the bridge in the face of that report, the response was, "because we can."
That comment illustrates the arrogance of RDAs. They are largely unsupervised and can do whatever they want with impunity.
According to Barnidge, the final cost of the "bridge to nowhere" is $12 million. Just think what schools or fire or police districts could do with that.
Unfortunately there is Proposition 22 on the November ballot masquerading as a "protect local revenues" measure. If passed, the only thing Prop. 22 does is codify RDA protection into the state Constitution (preventing the state from taking RDA money for other things like schools). The county Board of Supervisors voted in July to oppose it.
With the miserable performance of RDAs and their seizing of billions of property tax dollars that should be used for essential services, we can't let that happen. Those dollars should be available for those essential services, not unnecessary and expensive bridges.
Barnidge closed his column with this comment about the bridge, "A government project that the public likes." Too bad he didn't follow Paul Harvey's lead and tell the rest of the story.
Ken Hambrick is chairman Alliance of Contra Costa Taxpayers and a resident of Walnut Creek.