Ryan Hagen, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/08/2010 05:13:23 PM PDT

GRAND TERRACE – The mayoral race has been split by a simple litmus test: pro- or anti-Tom Schwab?

The question gets at the heart of the more complex debate about the role of the redevelopment agency, which consists of the mayor and members of the City Council.

Many running for those positions say the agency was mismanaged during Schwab’s 20 years as city manager, while others – particularly those who support Schwab’s campaign for City Council – say the accusers don’t understand the agency. A third group criticizes the emphasis on the past.

Mayoral candidate Walt Stanckiewitz said members need to actively check that city staff use agency funds correctly.

“Tom Schwab systematically borrowed $4.6 million from redevelopment that he shouldn’t have and used it to balance the general fund,” Stanckiewitz said. “I blame former councils … that pretty much handled this with a hands-off approach.”

Doug Wilson, who is also running for mayor, said Stanckiewitz was stirring up confusion when nothing was done wrong.

“I don’t believe in what he’s trying to make out as intrigue,” Wilson said. “It’s always been in a public hearing. Nothing’s `borrowed.’ It’s used on public projects.”

Such transfers are common statewide, according to Douglas Johnson, a fellow at Claremont McKenna College’s Rose Institute of State and Local Government.

“Cities do borrow from the redevelopment agencies fairly often, probably more than they should,” he said.

When property values rise, redevelopment agencies keep a greater share of money that would otherwise go to the state. That money is intended to refurbish blighted areas, with courts usually bowing to a city’s determination of blight.

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