11:00 PM PST on Monday, January 24, 2011

By DUANE W. GANG
The Press-Enterprise

State Controller John Chiang launched a review Monday of 18 redevelopment agencies, including Riverside County’s.

The audit is intended to gather facts and determine how well local redevelopment agencies comply with the law, Chiang’s office announced.

“The heated debate over whether RDAs are the engines of local economic and job growth or are simply scams providing windfalls to political cronies at the expense of public services has largely been based on anecdotal evidence,” Chiang said in a statement.

As lawmakers debate Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to phase out redevelopment, Chiang said it’s important to provide “factual, empirical information about how these agencies perform and what they bring to the communities they serve.”

Tom Freeman, a spokesman for Riverside County’s redevelopment agency, said the county has been notified of the inquiry.

“We welcome the review and have already advised the state controller we will gladly cooperate,” Freeman wrote by e-mail Monday.

Brown has proposed phasing out redevelopment agencies and using $1.7 billion in redevelopment money to help balance the state’s fiscal 2011-2012 budget. Some of the redevelopment money would go directly to schools and local governments to pay for basic services, such as law enforcement.

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