The mayors of Monterey-area cities are joining together to fight what they describe as the ransoming of redevelopment, one of the few tools that continues to effectively create jobs in their communities.

At a Monday morning press conference, Monterey area city officials gathered in front of Colton Hall, the site of the first state capital and the location where the first state constitution was written.  Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue, Scotts Valley City Council Member Stephany Aguilar joined Monterey Mayor Chuck Della Sala and announced their intention to join with the League of Cities and California Redevelopment Association in challenging AB 1x 26 and 27. Those two laws, passed as part of a whirl-wind budget package, effectively ended a six decade run of redevelopment.

“These bills are unconstitutional, plain and simple,” said Mayor Della Salla. “They violate numerous provisions of the California constitution… Unless overturned, these bills will destroy one of the strongest local tools we have as cities to generate jobs and to revitalize older, downtrodden neighborhoods in need.”

Mayor Donohue made the case even more concrete. “The elimination of redevelopment will destroy approximately 386 construction jobs and 100 new permanent jobs in our city,” said Donohue.

Under the new laws passed, redevelopment agencies face a choice: they can either cease to function or they can make voluntary payments to the state. Across the state, those voluntary payments are equal to approximately $1.7 billion this year, and $400 million in subsequent years.

“These required payments are extortion and are unlawful, illegal, and unconstitutional,” said Donohue.

The lawsuit, which is being filed directly with the State Supreme Court, alleges that the change in redevelopment was in direct violation of November 2010 Proposition 22.  That ballot initiative, colloquially known as Stop State Raids, was officially titled by then-Attorney General Jerry Brown “(Prohibit) The State From Borrowing Or Taking Funds Used For Transportation, Redevelopment, Or Local Government Projects And Services. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.”

Under that reading, it is clear to see the basis of the argument being prepared by the League of Cities and CRA’s legal team.

“Proposition 22 couldn’t be more clear. But the politicians in Sacramento aren’t listening,” said Scotts Valley Council Member Stephany Aguilar. “So now cities are forced to sue in the Courts to uphold the constitution and the will of the voters.

A press release issued last week said that “Unless overturned, AB 1x 26 and 27 will result in the elimination of many redevelopment agencies and/or forced “ransom” payments by local agencies to fund State obligations to schools. The result will be the elimination of many critical local job-creating revitalization projects throughout the Monterey Bay.”

The issue of protecting and reinstating redevelopment agencies has brought together odd bedfellows, including local elected leaders, business organizations, and organized labor, all of who were present at the press conference.

It is widely expected that the League of Cities and California Redevelopment Association will file injunctions against the bills, to stay their implementation until the courts have a chance to rule on the issue. Without the injunctions, the first round of so-called “ransom payments” will be due in January.