Delta Urban Renewal Authority
It’s no secret that I am not a fan of the Delta Urban Renewal Authority (DURA). And here’s why.
DURA is monopolized by the City of Delta
During the most recent DURA meeting (where it was publicly stated that there was "no plan B"), a noticeable Freudian slip kept occurring. The projects being proposed were continuously attributed to City of Delta. Somebody in attendance thoughtfully clarified that City of Delta was not the sole proprietor of what was being presented; this was supposed to be DURA, which includes representatives from the various taxing districts.
But that's the problem: City of Delta monopolizes DURA. Of its nine members, DURA's board consists of five City of Delta council members. With a simple majority, whatever the city wants, the city gets. It is painfully clear that our cash-strapped and deeply-indebted city sees this as a revenue-generating activity.
Countywide economic development demands a fair and impartial arbiter—something which DURA is far from. If Delta County is going to be responsible for financing 40% of the hotel project, they should get more than one member on the DURA board. That only seems fair.
Taxation without representation
It's also interesting that Earley references mill levy votes. And her reference begs the question: When did we vote on DURA? (Spoiler alert: We didn't.)
An urban renewal authority doesn't have to jump through the same hoops, such as a public vote, that a taxing district does. Even if a taxing district, which was approved by voters at some point in time, boldly asserts that they are not going to give up their increment, DURA has the legal authority to challenge that decision in court and still get money out of the deal. This will only create ill will between the City and other special districts who provide vital public services.
When you voted for a fire district mill levy, did you intend for that money to go toward developing a hotel? No, you intended that money to go toward the fire district.
If this isn't "taxation without representation," I don't know what is.
Urban renewal authorities are traditionally tasked with addressing blighted properties. However, with a broadly defined URA district, many non-blighted properties can get erroneously lumped in with blighted parcels. For example, the City’s Blight Study states that 10 of the 11 conditions to qualify for blight can be found within the “study area.” (A parcel needs at least four to be deemed blighted.) This is how the current site for the potential riverfront hotel, which is far from blighted, has become ground zero for DURA. Meanwhile, the West Building has mushrooms and mold growing in it, but plans for it remain on backburner. This is blatant mission creep and a fundamental abuse of power.
URAs have the legal power to use eminent domain. Our current city council members promise that they will never use it. But that promise's shelf life is only as long as their elected terms. Once created, power will be used in the future, and it is best that we don't create that authority in the first place, because it will be abused by future boards.
How can this riverfront hotel be seen as anything more than a government handout to a private company? Will existing hotels and motels within City limits get the same million dollar tax-funded benefit as what is being offered to this yet-to-be-named hotel chain? Do we really want to be in the business of picking winners and losers in the marketplace?
There is more bad than good when it comes to DURA.
I’m calling upon City leadership to:
Reduce the size of DURA’s district map
Immediately halt any mediation with non-consenting special districts
Renegotiate all MOUs with districts who did not originally consent to be a part of DURA
Abolish DURA’s ability to leverage eminent domain
When all else fails, abolish DURA