The City of Hercules will have to form a new organization to succeed its Redevelopment Agency, according to civic leaders, one of whom decried the timing and legality of yesterday's decision by the state Supreme Court.
"The Agency is going to be dissolved," Vice Mayor John Delgado said of Thursday's ruling that upheld the state's right to eliminate community redevelopment agencies. "The most important question so far is whether we (the City Council) will become the successor agency."
Both Delgado and Mayor Dan Romero said city leaders and its redevelopment attorney are "still digesting" the 83-page decision, but Romero predicted, "I think we might still be in a good situation."
The mayor based that contention on a belief that the state would be responsible for $34 million owed the city by its Redevelopment Agency, a debt that prompted the city to take over ownership of the agency's four parcels: Sycamore Crossing, Sycamore North, Victoria Crest and the so-called Parcel C.
A report in March by the state Controller's Office criticized the Hercules Redevelopment Agency for being more than $10 million in debt and allegedly misappropriating housing funds.
Romero said that he favors creating a successor agency whose board would consist of not just the City Council but includes community representation, possibly including a school board trustee and members of the public.
"There's nothing in writing that says it has to be just councilmembers," said the mayor, suggesting a board of seven or nine directors.
Delgado stopped short of describing who the board should be until more is known about the decision, adding, "At least now we know the parameters."
Romero criticized the timing of the court ruling and said it conflicts with the intent of voter-approved Proposition 22 to keep a fair share of tax revenues in the communities where they are generated.
"The public's vote is being taken out of their hands by the state Supreme Court," charged the mayor. "This supercedes that Proposition and the court is going along with it.
"This is not a decision that should be made by the select few. This is a decision that should be made by the voters ... I'm surprised that we have the Supreme Court making up the laws now, rather than interpreting them."
In questioning the timing of the ruling, Romero noted that it was due Jan. 15 rather than during the last week of the year, when many smaller jurisdictions like Hercules are closed.
"Why do it now when there's no city staff to answer anything? That's not normal," he said, asking, "Who pushed this early to get this decision out like this?
"It's going to make for an interesting 2012, doesn't it?"