Saturday, April 23, 2011

Montebello Needs a Little Less Conversation, a Little More Action

According to the LA Times, the San Gabriel Valley city of Montebello could become the New Vallejo as early as June. Compounding the difficulty, it's starting to sound like at least one of Montebello's problems is city officials' confusion as to how much money they actually owe their creditors.

One part of the problem concerns a series of loans the city made to a restaurant developer named Hank Attina. Since the city used two off-books bank accounts to funnel the money to Attina, no one's really sure how much money they actually gave him. Attina says $1 million, but some, including the city's police chief, Kevin McClure, and its recently departed city manager, Peter Cosentini, believe the total is closer to $2 million. (Note to California Republicans: This is why libertarians pray for a quick death to the state's redevelopment agencies.)

Another part of the problem involves a loan the city took from its own redevelopment agency last year in order to fix its budget. Aside from the fact that the loan was almost certainly illegal, it's also not clear how much money was borrowed. Cosentini's estimate of $17.3 million is probably the most credible; Councilman Bill Molinari says $14 million, while Councilwoman Christina Cortez says it's closer to $19 million. (Note to California Republicans: Please listen to us clearing our throats each time redevelopment agencies and corruption occur in the same sentence.)

So far, it sounds like everyone's saying the right things. Molinari downplays the possibility that anything illegal has taken place, but says he wants to know the scope of the city's problems, while giving us this slightly redundant quote: "We've been self-policing ourselves". Cortez says, "We can't even agree on the numbers in front of us. How can we move forward?" But this sounds to us like foot-dragging; as Elvis once said, all this conversation ain't satisfactioning me. If Montebello can't get this figured out quickly, it will be broke in 2011. According to Cosentini, if the redevelopment agency is not repaid the $17 million (or whatever) that was borrowed by the end of June, the city could face "bond default or other difficulties". And the city could still run out of cash by September. Stay tuned; this is getting interesting.


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