When I saw the article in the Record Gazette about the CRIA program, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. What a wonderful, glowing article.

But wait, weren’t any of you around 15 years ago when Banning was using the CRA (Community Redevelopment Authority) program?

Do you not remember the absolute failure, as well as corruption that ensued?

Oh, don’t get me wrong, that CRA program gave us a really nice looking few blocks here downtown (that unfortunately still has an unacceptably high vacancy rate), but it also gave us a number of empty lots, unfinished buildings (that attracted homeless and burned multiple times), and worst of all diverted a lot of money — millions in fact — away from our general fund and gave it to a lot of people who should never have been given a dime.

People with criminal records who defaulted on loans and even several then-sitting councilmembers and their spouses for their own little personal pet projects.

This was a program that was so ripe with corruption and abuse, throughout the entire state, that then governor Brown himself ordered it to be ended and dissolved 10 years ago. But guess what? It’s back.

CRIA is nothing more than a rebadged CRA.

It is literally the exact same program with the exact same problems.

You designate an area for improvement.

Any increased property tax revenue from that area is used to issue bonds to improve those areas. But there’s a dirty little detail that Kosmont Companies conveniently left out of their slick presentation: those property tax “increments” that go into the program would normally have gone into the general fund.

Think about that; you are actually taking money away from the general fund, and last time I looked, Banning didn’t exactly have an overabundance of money there.

Those increases in property taxes will instead go into this program to issue bonds (that will last for 45 years), increasing the city’s long term debt.

You are literally reducing the city’s income and increasing it’s debt load at the same time.

And unlike money in the general fund, you will not have the choice of what to do within the city with this money; it will be locked in to just those areas that you’ve designated in this program.

There are only three reasons for any one of our councilmembers or citizens to support this reincarnation of such a bad program:

1. You weren’t around here 15 years ago to witness the CRA debacle.

2. You were around, and you want to get a piece of that pie this time around, just like a few select people did back then.

3. You’re just stupid. And not one of those reasons are good for this community.

This new CRIA is wrong for Banning.

It is nothing more than fresh lipstick on an old corrupt pig.

The Council needs to wake up and tell Kosmont Companies to take a hike and stay the hell out of our city.

Gary Hironimus, Banning

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