Word on the street is we’re once again raising the specter of redevelopment as the end-all-be-all solution for what ails downtown Martinez. Never mind redevelopment’s other name.
Corporate welfare is defined as: government programs that provide unique benefits or advantages to specific companies or industries. Redevelopment, in this context, burdens taxpayers with the costs of building retrofits and special projects but absolves landowners of their fiscal obligations while protecting their financial interests. Pretty sweet deal if you can get it. That’s like buying a historic landmark for half the price of a modest home then getting money to fix it up. Wait, I forgot…
Redevelopment is also touted as a revitalization tool, dressed up, trotted out and fed to citizens as a way to grow personal income. Yet when the census bureau compiled figures from a ten-year study (1979-1989) two bay area cities lend an interesting perspective; Benicia, which had no redevelopment agency, saw its citizens’ personal income grow 122 percent versus 114 percent in Alameda, which did have an
Lastly, redevelopment is looked upon as Ivory Soap’s answer to cleaning up blight. But what is blight, exactly? Ask ten different cities to define it and you’re likely to get ten different answers. Is it accurate to say our downtown retail district falls into the category of blight? Maybe, or just maybe the empty storefronts would be thriving businesses if the buildings themselves were modernized and up to code. However, should that financial burden be borne by the very same taxpayers likely to become patrons? I remember something about a tea party held for similar reasons.
Interestingly enough, I am not saying that change or growth should be summarily dismissed. If the city was considering creating a walkable community like those highlighted in a July 7 Wall Street Journal article, we could on to something. The headline read: “Sacramento’s ‘Blueprint’ for Growth Draws National Attention” and spoke to the issue of smart growth.
This so-called ‘Blueprint’ is a computer-based model that allows ordinary citizens, city officials and developers alike the hands-on experience of designing a community, then seeing the results specific buildings have on issues Martinez is already talking about.
In addition to the other drawbacks redevelopment presents there are solid concerns about the impacts to traffic, pollution and job growth Martinez’s current specific plan could impose. But imagine having a tool that allows the common man about town the ability to see fifty years into the future and see the impacts these decisions will have on our city. Well, according to the creators of the software Sacramento is using to plan for their growth, we can.
In my opinion it would be prudent of our new city manager to look into hosting town hall type events utilizing the Blueprint model to either make a case for Martinez’s specific plan or conclude the plan is flawed and make the necessary modifications.
Finally, and this is more a pet peeve than a final point: this referring to the downtown retail district as a town, while pitting the residents against the rest of the city needs to cease. Martinez is not a splintered, backwater town amidst an otherwise jewel of a city. But I appreciate the clout this message affords those who benefit most by perpetuating it.