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By Miriam Raftery

June 4, 2017 (San Diego) – By a 49-25 vote, Assembly Bill 805 by Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher (D-San Diego) was approved by the state Assembly. 

The measure has been touted as a bill to “reform” the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) by making transportation planning and funding more accountable and transparent.  But critics contend it shifts power away from East County cities to San Diego and Chula Vista, which together would control agenda-setting and have a majority vote.

“The biggest concern for us all is the super majority that's to be given to San Diego and Chula Vista,” Lemon Grove Councilman Jerry Jones, a Republican, told ECM.  “Let's take the sugar coating off this. It's pretty clear that the Assemblywoman has made this a partisan issue by the Assembly votes I saw.” (Local representatives’ votes split down party lines.)  Jones adds, “It’s a sad day when one party believes it's okay for their party to decide what's best for individual cities and takes steps at the state level to make that so.  I used to say I couldn't change the world but maybe my little corner of it. Apparently, I need the Democratic party's permission to do that now.”  He called that “scary” no matter which party is in control.

But Gonzalez-Fletcher says SANDAG is “failing to do its job on public transit, greenhouse gas reduction, and meeting even the most basic standards of accountability and transparency.”

Her measure was introduced after news reports revealed that SANDAG substantially underestimated costs of Measure A, a failed transportation ballot initiative.  Gonzalez-Fletcher claims SANDAG knew the ballot statements contained false statements and further notes that SANDAG’s regional transportation plan has been challenged in court, with the state Supreme Court finding it inadequately addressed greenhouse gas emissions and short-shifted mass transit.

“Our legislation would require SANDAG to hire a full-time auditor that reports to an audit committee and it would change the voting structure so that’s its more representative of our diverse region.” She contends that since San Diego and Chula Vista have the highest population, they should have votes commensurate with their size—even though that enables them to dominate the SANDAG board.

 The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) was established in state law to administer transportation planning and funding in San Diego County. 

AB 805 also requires SANDAG to hire a full-time auditor to monitor spending and financial decisions. Additionally, AB 805 allows North County Transit and the Metropolitan Transit System to seek revenues directly from the voters to fund transit projects.

The bill now advances to the state Senate.

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