At the Culver City Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Thursday March 3, the Radisson Hotel was a backdrop for a almost a hundred chamber members who came to hear California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer speak. With more than 50 years of government service on his resume Lockyer was candid and blunt about the state of the state’s finances, offering that “The redevelopment fight is over, it’s done. What we need to be talking about is what comes next.”
Angela Gibson, the chamber president, opened the meeting by introducing City Manager John Nachbar. As he concluded his comments with a joke; “teamwork is important, it gives you someone to blame,” the laughter that rolled through the room gave off a faint but pervasive aroma of cynicism.
As Gibson introduced Lockyer and he began to rise from his chair at the head table, he paused to acknowledge and motion for a waiter bearing a tray of empty plates to pass, and then proceeded to the podium. A very small moment, but for the featured speaker to offer such a simple gesture to a worker was a small snapshot of respect. Before he even began to speak, Lockyer had introduced himself.
Lockyer told the crowd that during lunch, his dining companion Nachbar had made a strong case for redevelopment that was nevertheless unsuccessful. “All the state can do, legally, is blow them up,” noting that redevelopment funds could not be shifted without closing the agencies.
Referring page by page to a handout with graphics illustrating the state budget, Lockyer took an “Economics 101″ approach with the chamber. Like his moment with the waiter, it was a way of being respectful, presenting information without any assumption of status. While some of those in the audience could teach the class, and some might need remedial tutoring, the handout explained the mess we are in, and why.
Saying that Governor Jerry Brown’s budget resembled former governor Pete Wilson’s approach, it was a “half and half combination of spending cuts and new taxes, with internal borrowing making up the rest of the difference.”
The recession devastated State revenues, with income down almost 30% from 2008. The short term solutions that California had relied on, such as loans from special funds, sale of state buildings, and the deferral of state mandates have all served to make the future deficit worse.
“K- 12 schools have taken a disproportionate amount of cutting over the last few years, and the redevelopment money is going to be the school money,” Lockyer stated. “That’s how that works.”
At the conclusion of his remarks, Lockyer took some questions from the audience, and both former mayor Ed Wolkowicz and current council member Scott Malsin attempted to talk about Culver City’s redevelopment situation. They were no more successful than Nachbar had been over lunch. “The redevelopment fight is over, “ Lockyer emphasized again, “ and we need to shift out attention to what we do next.”