Because an agency handled something poorly, the solution isn't to necessarily eliminate it. Sometimes you just need to fix it.
Isn't the PRA the agency that's empowered to do eminent domain and land assembly? I agree it's mismanaged but that seems like an ability you would want to hang on to.
Someone needs to do the work the RDA does, but its not exactly a new discovery that state-empowered authorities like this - where they are an independent agency not directly accountable to but appointed by local elected officials - have a consistent problem with transparency.
Keep the RDA, but it sure would be great for it to be compelled to follow transparent, uniform standards of why it acts lightning quick in one instance and endlessly collects properties the city can't maintain in the the other 20 instances. I'd love ideas for how it could be made to be more transparent and accountable to the public for its performance.
Ooooh I have an idea.
Every single communication between City Council, and its staff, and the RDA and its staff, needs to be logged and subject to Right To Know requests. No informal back channel chatter. If a member of Council wants to kill a sale or stop or start an eminent domain proceeding, they have to own the influence they tried to exert and explain why they tried to intervene. Sometimes they can be representing a valid community concern but if we don't know when and why they are intervening, they can be micro-managing only to help Developer X (who is a campaign contributor) and to screw Developer Y (who is on the district councilperson's personal pooplist for whatever reason).
In theory the RDA are supposed to professionals following specific stated urban planning procedures, not changing directions willy nilly every time a member of Council calls on the phone.
Last edited by seand; 09-20-2012 at 11:59 AM.
Abolish it might be a little bit too much, but it definitely needs sweeping reforms. Not just transparency, but actual performance goals. You can be as transparent as you want but if you just sit on amassed properties and do nothing with them you haven't accomplished anything. They should have time limits on how long they can hold on to a property before it has to be auctioned off or something. I don't know what the best approach is, but there has to be some way to increase their turnover. Also, this ridiculous political wheeling and dealing associated with it is despicable. If someone shows interest and has a solid plan to develop that is shovel ready within 6 months it should be sold to them with little fuss.
*Purely hypothetical. Obviously, this would never really happen.
Also, in regards to the accountability issue, the PRA is completely accountable to the Mayor. They are not independent. The buck does stop with the Mayor. (And in reality, no government agency is independent. That is a myth elected officials tell so they don't get blamed for things.)
Because Council pays for the RDA budget and because although the mayor appoints the chair of the RDA and a new chair brings in a lot their political allies and by extension usually the mayor's political allies to patronage jobs, the patronage at the RDA and other agencies (at least as I've been led to understand it) is spread out a bit amongst local political players in the local Democratic Party. The mayor can hire a new chair or tell the chair to fire someone (within limits, some are union though not civil servants) in the RDA, but by tradition and by the fact of controlling the RDA's budget, district council is given a huge amount of "councilmatic perogative" over what the RDA does in their district. Also for new eminent domain there is a piece of enabling legislation required, beyond various legal actions by the RDA law department, at least as I understand it. So council and the RDA are mutually interdependent.
The reason the person at the RDA doesn't tell Kenyatta Johnson to **** himself is because its been long established that "councilmatic perogative" includes telling the RDA what to do and it usually turns into a big pissing match between the mayor and council. Something along the lines of "Tell me to **** myself, tell the mayor that he can go **** himself over any land consolidation or eminent domain enabling legislation he wants done in the future."
Any experts on the legal fine points of eminent domain who know better please feel free to chime in here.
So the Authority is de jure accountable to the mayor but de facto accountable to Council. In which case, does it really matter whom the mayor appoints to the Authority's board, if whoever it is will just have to comply with Council's horrifically stupid demands?
I'm really not clear on this. I buy your argument (raider.adam) that the people are the problem more than the organizational structure, but what people specifically? If the Redevelopment Authority wasn't run by morons, they'd still have to answer to a mayor that would expect moronic things from them. And if the Authority and the mayor were united against Council, they'd get their asses whupped.
Also, any real estate lawyers out there please correct me about the enbling legislation for eminent domain but as I understand it, Council has to first pass a bill declaring the lots proposed to be seized as part of a "blighted" area for eminent domain to go forward. Its usually pretty cut and dry stuff but it means anything the RDA wants to do in order to do its job has to go through Council first. Which combined with the power to cut their budget means what district council says it wants, district council gets.
Last edited by seand; 09-20-2012 at 03:19 PM.
Here is the definition:
1) Unsafe, unsanitary, inadequate or overcrowded conditions;
2) Inadequate planning;
3) Excessive land coverage;
4) Lack of proper light, air and open space;
5) Faulty street and lot layout;
6) Defective design and arrangement of buildings; and
7) Economically or socially undesirable land use.
Last edited by palvar; 09-20-2012 at 03:50 PM. Reason: Providing definition.
Of course in real practice its more likely that its District Council is urgining the RDA/PRA to declare some area eminent domain-worthy, not vice versa.
I'm not sure how you fix this without disturbing the ballance of power between the Mayor and Council. Eminent domain should be hard, a last resort, even more so than it is now.
But making every request, every contact between Council and the RDA/PRA public information you do get a big benefit from the disinfecting quality of sunlight.