By Tim Hunt
Federal redevelopment funds? Be seriousUploaded: Dec 5, 2013
Check Rep. Eric Swalwell (15th Congressional District) and you can see just how hard he's working to prepare for the primary challenge from state Senator Ellen Corbett.
One of the billboards on his official web site touts 250,000 miles flown, 800 meetings and events and co-sponsorship of 172 bills with the note that 71 percent were bipartisan.
During Thanksgiving week, he joined the mayors of Union City and Fremont to announce legislation designed to make it easier for California cities to obtain federal redevelopment funding. The two mayors were present to point out how projects in their cities had been stalled when the Legislature and Gov. Brown abolished redevelopment agencies in 2012.
The Legislative action was correct because agencies had been abusing the intent of redevelopment and diverting billions of dollars in revenue from the state and other local agencies. Building theaters, arenas, convention centers and the like in hopes of generating private investment have resulted in white elephants across the state (look no farther than Stockton and its arena).
Redevelopment was used well in Livermore for its downtown facelift as well as in San Ramon and Danville. However, using redevelopment funds for the 2,000-seat theater is exactly the type of grand over-reach that the Legislature was targeting.
It will be interesting to see if Swalwell can move the legislation through a Republican-controlled house because it is really difficult to understand why the federal government should be in the local redevelopment business. If he is successful, it could be another lifeline for the Livermore performing arts center.
Notably, Dublin, where Swalwell cut his teeth in public office, never has had a redevelopment agency despite plenty of opportunity to establish one. The city has been content to rely on the private sector.
Swalwell is doing all he can to raise money to prepare for next year's primary. The 20-term member he defeated, Pete Stark, declared that he is supporting Ellen Corbett and will contribute money from his own fortune to defeating Swalwell. He told CQ Roll Call in November, "I remember Eric, during the campaign against me, suggested that I was too old and inept to be of any value in the political process, so I am going to see if I can prove that to be wrong."
Swalwell's fundraising email cited the piece and indicated that Stark was planning to spend up to $15 million against him.