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If you have ever attended a SANDAG meeting, you can see merit in something Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher said in a statement published in a Voice of San Diego story. She says, "I’ve never been impressed by SANDAG. It’s a staff-driven organization that thinks its purpose is to build roads. I think a regional agency should do more than that."
To say SANDAG is a staff-driven organization is an understatment. The behemoth entity which controls the use of Transnet funds (the county gasoline tax used for transportation infrastructure) is responsible to a Board of Directors appointed from the 18 regional jurisdictions but runs mostly on its own.
AB805, the bill introduced by Gonzalez-Fletcher, makes changes to SANDAG and the other two regional transportation agencies - Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) and North County Transit District (NCTD). While the attempt is a well-meaninged, the results would not be beneficial.
In the language of the new bill, SANDAG would become permanently chaired by the Mayor of San Diego. This is a huge mistake. SANDAG is a regional organization which has international and county-wide ramifications. To make the Mayor of one city - albeit the largest of the 17 cities within the county - is to reduce the impact of the other cities and the fairness of the distribution of funds. San Diego already is the largest beneficiary of SANDAG attention and Transnet fund spending; to add the role of Chair permanently to the Mayor of San Diego is insulting to the other 17 cities.
Also, AB805 seeks to make the 17 mayors sole representative to the Board of Directors from each regional city. While the Board of Directors is mostly comprised of mayors, there are others who sit on the Board who are not the mayor of their city and who have been appointed by their council. Perhaps the person has a particular strength in transportation, etc. To remove a city's right to appoint its own representation to a regional board is shameful.
The bill does require the appointment of an audit committee and the hiring of an independent auditor for SANDAG; but those are the only good points the bill offers. The bill requires weighted voting for SANDAG which already exists. The weight of a city's vote on the Board is reflected in its size. San Diego being the biggest in the room with two-seats and a heavily-weighted vote. Chula Vista is next, followed by Oceanside and Escondido as the second, third and fourth largest cities in the county.
There are many ways in which the State legislature and local officials can make SANDAG better. AB805 unfortunately isn't the bill to do it.
All opinions expressed are those of Don Greene and not necessarily his employer.