Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis said Thursday he wants to reform the city's Redevelopment Agency - under fire from several quarters - to give him more power over the board, composed of the seven-member City Council.
Although DePaulis called the proposal, "very preliminary," the move is certain to spark a power play between the mayor and council members, who are increasingly at odds with each other.Currently, DePaulis is the RDA's chief administrative officer but has no vote and no legal authority to influence RDA decisions. The council sits as the RDA board and has sole voting power in the agency.
DePaulis said the reformation could include giving the mayor voting privileges and veto power, calling both mechanisms preliminary recommendations. In any case, the mayor said he wants an increased role.
"I should have more administrative say" over the RDA, he said. The RDA administers $8 million annually in revenue generated from its 100-acre tax- increment district to help redevelop blighted areas of the city.
RDA Chairmwoman Florence Bittner said the proposal will be closely scrutinized by the RDA.
"I have never heard of this before," she said. "I think there would be some very significant resistance."
Reformation could require action by the Legislature, which approved creation of RDA boards throughout the state. Bittner said tampering with Salt Lake City's RDA would be interfering with others.
"We're not solely a Salt Lake City operation. He (the mayor) would be talking about other municipalities," she said.
"I wouldn't expect them to give up power," DePaulis said. "I would expect them to defend their power," he said, adding that he would simply share power with the RDA board members, leaving them in a policy-making position.
Bittner said that arrangement already exists. "The mayor has been involved in just about every decision the RDA has made, so I really don't understand what the problem is," she said.
DePaulis said, however, a change in RDA structure is necessary because of the "bruising that has taken place in the community."
Recently, the RDA has been criticized by architects and local developers. At a March RDA meeting, local architects criticized the board for hiring a designer for a new Jazz arena too quickly, reducing a field of 13 architects to one in four days.
Additionally, some developers have contended the RDA has skewed the site-selection process for the new Jazz arena in favor of a northern downtown site.
And the RDA voted last month to investigate itself to discover the source of a rumor that some members cut a deal with a local bank awarding it a bonding package worth $40,000.