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PROBE: May 18, 2001

May 18, 2001

QUESTION: Why did El Centro spend so much money on the facelift for downtown when the rest of the city looks horrible compared to cities in the Coachella Valley? Shouldn't the city as a whole be beautified? — Unimpressed, El Centro

Which cities in the Coachella Valley are on your mind when you compare them to El Centro?

El Centro stacks up very well against Mecca and Coachella and is not all that far behind much of Indio. But we concede it doesn't fare as well against Palm Springs and other towns in that glitzy area.

It would be nice to spruce up the whole town but the makeover downtown cost a pretty penny — or a lot of pennies, $5 million worth.

None of the money came from the city's general fund, according to El Centro City Manager Abdel Salem.

It was redevelopment money, Salem said. The city Redevelopment Agency, downtown merchants and the city hope the sprucing up will result in more sales and property taxes.

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We're not sure we buy the argument that redevelopment money doesn't cost a city any money. The way it works is that the city keeps the property tax money generated by the tax evaluation before the improvements.

Any increase in taxes as a result of higher property values goes to the Redevelopment Agency to plow back into new projects. We assume even higher property values from inflation go to the agency.

QUESTION: Why didn't you talk to the youth director at New Mount Olive Baptist Church in Brawley? Is she still going out raising money in the church's name after the church shut its doors? Those people lied to you. — Angry, Brawley

The church didn't shut its doors. The doors are shut because your group changed the locks and walked away with the new keys.

Let's put this in context for our other readers. The pastor of this church is 76 years old. Most of the leadership is in its 70s and 80s. There are 20 or 30 active adult members.

We don't know who is telling the truth but it sounds like a family fight to us.

QUESTION: How can I get in touch with Richard Lucy and Christine Koziel? I remember them from years ago. — Long Subscriber, El Centro

We just e-mailed Richard. In a day or two, we'll get in touch with Christine. If they agree, we'll put their addresses in PROBE.

Richard has a funny story about his experience in Las Vegas. Apparently the experience was more traumatic than it seemed when he told us. Vegas might have been a little racy for Richard.

Another former I.V. Press staffer told us later that one morning, Richard got up, left the office and never came back.

Reporters have their ways. About three months later we heard that Richard was working for the state of Arkansas in Little Rock.

It will be interesting to hear his take on Bill Clinton. We'll keep you posted.

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