PD Editorial: Choosing sides: School kids or a football field

  • A model of the football stadium now under construction in Santa Clara for the San Francisco 49ers. (JEFF CHIU / Associated Press)

The teams: Santa Clara schools and the San Francisco 49ers.

The contest: politics.

The venue: Sacramento.

The stakes: $30 million.

When state legislators return from their summer vacation Monday, their agenda includes deciding who gets the money. Will it go to public schools or the football stadium rising alongside the Great America amusement park?

Given the NFL's recent track record in the halls of the state Capitol, you probably shouldn't wager much on the schoolchildren prevailing.

But if you harbor any doubts about the flaws of California's fading redevelopment system, this episode ought to allay them once and for all.

In 2010, Santa Clara voters approved a ballot measure that, among other things, pledged up to $40 million in redevelopment money for the 49ers new stadium. Aside from giving voters a say, the deal was standard redevelopment fare — using public money to entice an investment by private developers, in this case the 49ers.

About $10 million was spent before the state eliminated redevelopment, a program that allowed cities (mostly) to divert property taxes from counties and schools to finance economic development and affordable housing in “blighted” areas.

The law eliminating redevelopment agencies allowed them to fulfill enforceable obligations. But a committee charged with unwinding redevelopment agencies in Santa Clara County determined there wasn't an obligation to spend more on the stadium. The committee voted to turn the money over to local schools.

The 49ers sued. The case is pending, but state Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-Santa Clara, is making an end run. She gutted a teacher credentialing bill that already cleared the state Senate, inserting language reallocating the $30 million to the stadium.

The bill cites “unique circumstances.” In her own comments, Alquist points to tax revenue and jobs for Santa Clara. Of course, Candlestick Park, the present home of the 49ers, produces taxes and jobs, too. Just not in Santa Clara.

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