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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Comments in Raycraft article don't jibe with reality


The El Cerrito Wire report on Gerry Raycraft’s parting remarks contains several statements that do not jibe with reality. Most of those have to do with what he said about Redevelopment in El Cerrito. Let’s take a look at the record.

He did not say in so many words but he implies that Home Depot is an Agency accomplishment. In fact, it was strictly a market-driven project begun well in advance by negotiations with the Adachi family and other property owners, of which there were several. The assembling of those parcels somehow took place without the need for Redevelopment action, a main reason he cites for the Agency’s existence.

As to “blight”removal, a major such area is one owned by the Agency on Eastshore. It is a leftover from a failed Agency project from 1987. The current hope is that the expansion of the hotel at Potrero will resolve that problem, but Agency involvement would be minimal.

As one who has served on the Project Listen group which studied Redevelopment, the Redevelopment Advisory Committee, and the present Committee of the Whole, I feel qualified to comment. The results of the findings of those groups are available in reports at City Hall, and they are far from laudatory.

Raycraft showed arrogance by denigrating the hard-working volunteers I have served with as being “non-professional", saying they “usurped analysis and decisions normally left to city staff”. In point of fact, a highly skilled professional accountant was deeply involved in the studies. I hold a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, and I view myself as professional. There would have been no “usurpation” if the analyses and decisions of city staff had passed muster, which they did not.

Raycraft seems given to these kinds of put-downs. In still another matter he characterized a volunteer person, whose profession is traffic analysis, as “amateur" in the case of an analysis regarding traffic in the Del Norte area.

As to the use of Redevelopment funds (that’s our money, by the way), the Agency is so deeply in debt that it has little or no money to further subsidize anything. That debt includes nearly $1 million it owes the city for staff services rendered over several years. That is the main reason the Council decided to accept a recommendation from still another “non-professional” group (The Committee of the Whole) to place the Agency in hiatus until debt to the city is repaid. There remains some $13 million in Agency bond and note debt that must be repaid over time with our tax dollars.

Based on careful accounting, it was learned that NONE of the Agency’s projects would ever pay for themselves via increased property tax receipts, the Agency’s main income. The Target store analysis showed a deficit over time of some $9 million. Del Norte Place is also in deficit and so is Del Norte Market Place. All were subsidized with our tax money.

Raycraft’s claim of a $250,000 sales tax benefit to the city from Target comes just from an estimate based on the store’s square footage. In fact, the total sales tax received by El Cerrito after the store had been in operation for a year were slightly less than for the prior year.

If Raycraft carries with him the attitude shown in the article to his next job I say, “Good luck, Manteca!”

George Amberg

El Cerrito

Editor's Note: Raycraft made it clear in the interview with the Wire that Home Depot was not a Redevelopment Agency project.
Run dates: 2000-07-06 - 2000-07-20

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