Ever since the Democratic governor proposed eliminating redevelopment agencies to help balance the state budget, cities have been outraged, some going so far as to push projects out the door in emergency meetings in an effort to thwart Brown's plan.
But the few hundred city leaders gathered Wednesday at the Hyatt Regency in Sacramento were respectful when Brown spoke at their luncheon, never mind the table outside declaring, "Stop the State's Redevelopment Proposal."
"I've been reading all those blog entries; they're all riled up," Brown said at the outset. "Actually, you look pretty good to me. You know, you look relatively benign."
Brown made his case for eliminating redevelopment agencies by asking city officials to sacrifice for the sake of California. He said most government programs were facing a reduction and that it was necessary to cut redevelopment to pay for schools and public safety, as well as allow the state to provide a safety net.
"I know they're good," Brown said of redevelopment activities. "But it's also good that a family can support themselves when they've been thrown out of work, when they're on relief. Or an elderly person who can no longer work and gets SSI, that's important. All of the parts of the budget are equally good, and that's why we have to make the tough choices."
Brown asked city leaders not to get territorial. "I don't see this as the time for turf wars or state fighting local or different groups all vying for a diminishing pie," he said.
Brown later invited city leaders to visit his office and discuss his budget if they'd like. He ended on a happy note, saying the "state's coming back" and that California has survived economic downturns before. It was enough to win him a standing ovation from the League of California Cities crowd.
Speaking to reporters afterward, the governor took a pass when asked for his opinion on cities that are fast-tracking redevelopment projects before his plan takes hold.
"Well, I think everybody wants to tie down whatever they can get their hands on," Brown said. "I think there's some legal question if it isn't a real valid redevelopment project with an outside entity. It may not hold."
Cities are particularly concerned that the Legislature will move immediately to freeze redevelopment projects, as the state's nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office suggested to avoid a mad rush like the one that has occurred in the past week.
"I'd like to take a look a that," Brown said. "I just came out with all of those happy faces. I'm not going to advocate anything too specific yet. But I'm open to different ideas."
PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown talks to the League of California Cities about his budget plan on Wednesday, January 19, 2011 in Sacramento. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee