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'Stopping Sports Terrorism'

October 23, 1987

I commend The Times for its investigation and revelation of the questionable financial dealing going on in the Irwindale City Hall and its news coverage of the Irwindale-Raiders deal.

I strongly agree with your editorial observation ("Irwindale and the Raiders," Oct. 4) that while Davis, in pursuit of a better deal, needs only to follow the laws that control commercial enterprises, "Irwindale's response, involving public funds and public lands, is subject to the laws that protect the public interest--an interest that extends beyond the public as constituted in the population of Irwindale itself."

I filed a taxpayer lawsuit against Irwindale because I believe that Irwindale broke "the laws that protect the public interest." The lawsuit was my only means of protecting the interests of the taxpayers of Los Angeles County, myself included, who would have to subsidize the $175-million Raider deal.

The deal made an illegal gift of public funds to a private, highly profitable organization. This included $10 million in cash and $10 million in escrow, with no strings attached, and the commitment for a substantial indebtedness for a football stadium that will be privately built, privately owned and privately operated.

The maze of complex redevelopment laws enables Irwindale to conceal the truth from the eyes of L.A. County taxpayers. The fact is that when the Irwindale Redevelopment Agency spends tax increment funds, it really is spending L.A. county property tax dollars, dollars taken from the county and other public service agencies. This results in either reduced services by these agencies or higher county taxes for everyone.

The court has put the project on hold until Irwindale complies with the California Environmental Quality Act. It will rule on the issues of misuse of public tax dollars and the potential conflict of interest abuses in subsequent court proceedings.

No matter how the lawsuit turns out, though, it is clear that reform of the state redevelopment law is long overdue. The law was intended to give urban areas a financial assist in improving socially and economically blighted areas, but, repeatedly, that's not how it's being used.

I believe that Irwindale is just the tip of the iceberg. Year after year, across the state, hundreds of millions of public tax dollars are siphoned away for questionable redevelopment uses. In L.A. County alone, last year, this amounted to $227 million.

The problem is that the state redevelopment law permits a city or county to declare any area under its jurisdiction "blighted" through a simple majority vote of the city council or board of supervisors. This means that revenues from future increases in property taxes in that area go to the redevelopment agency for the questionable project instead of to the county and other public service agencies.

Reform of the law, not repeated trips to court, is the best solution for such continued misuse of public funds and abuse of the public trust.

ERNANI BERNARDI

Councilman, Seventh District

Los Angeles

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