By Jerry Jones, Council Member, Lemon Grove; Jennifer Mendoza, Council Member, Lemon Grove; Bill Baber, Council Member, La Mesa; Kristine Alessio, Council Member, La Mesa; Bill Wells, Mayor , El Cajon, and Ben Kalasho, El Cajon Council Member
May 2, 2017 (San Diego’s East County)--Assembly Bill AB 805 is moving through the legislature and threatens our quality of life, self-determination and identity in East County. Among other things this bill would restructure the voting system at SANDAG and give a weighted super majority veto, as well as the Chair, to the cities of San Diego and Chula Vista.
“So what does that mean to me,” you say?
SANDAG is a planning and transportation agency that affects decisions on regional transportation systems and how federal, state and local transportation money is distributed throughout the county. We already know that transportation spending in East County is disproportionately low. Projects like state Route 52, Bradley Avenue, state Route 67, and the missing links of state Routes 125 to 94 have been hard enough to get considered. In an AB 805 environment they would be impossible. In this proposed AB 805 environment, every discretionary dollar in the region will get directed to San Diego and Chula Vista with no way for anyone to stop it.
Contrary to what some believe, SANDAG is not just a transit agency. As we move to a world that is designed to deal with climate change, the voice and equitable participation of the incorporated cities at SANDAG will be more critical.
There is a reason SANDAG includes representatives from the incorporated cities and not just county Supervisors. Each of us in our cities have the right under the law to determine our own quality of life. Transportation, including transit, has a lot to do with that, and climate change laws that will guide future integrated-planning patterns will make a SANDAG that recognizes the authority and rights to city self-determination essential. What we bring to the table as a city is our land use authority and that is what AB 805 fails to recognize and respect.
The current weighted/tally and simultaneous voting system at SANDAG recognizes the self-determination of our cities much the way Congress recognizes states’ rights in the form of the Senate. The tally vote reflects cities’ rights with the weighted vote their population size. The size and influence of both the city of San Diego and the County have been recognized and respected by adding an additional seat for each. This would be similar to giving California and New York a third Senator.
That in itself is a huge concession.
It is a rare situation that there is a significant split vote as the atmosphere at SANDAG has been one that places a high value on compromise and consensus. The current voting system has a lot to do with that and has been working for many years. Without it, the two proposed “Super Cities” would have no incentive to work toward the consensus that we've known for more than a decade.
If the state removes the right of our cities to a meaningful defense of our quality of life, identity, and self-determination at SANDAG, it is the beginning of the end for all of us. Voters in our cities do not vote for the City Council members or Mayors of either Chula Vista or San Diego. At some point we will be nothing more than another Community Planning Committee of the “Super Cities” that are only accountable to their own voters.
Where is the accountability in a system where our voters have no say at all in who is making decisions for them? Their votes become worth nothing and holding decision makers accountable is only granted to those voters in the “Super Cities.” At least in a weighted/tally system our voters have a collective say through their own elected city representatives.
A lot has been made of the needs and rights of communities of color and concern and low income by the author, Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher. The real numbers show that there is just a 12 percent difference in people of color between the cities of San Diego and Chula Vista and everyone else (cities and San Diego County).
AB 805 fails to recognize that by giving a super majority to Chula Vista and San Diego it denies a voice and vote to 49.5 percent of the people outside of the “Super Cities and 44 percent of the county's people of color -- 1,621,045 and 762,135 respectively in 2015. It fails to recognize that there are five cities with a Hispanic majority outside of the proposed “Super Cities.” Two of those are in North County, two in South Bay and one in East County. It also fails to recognize that East County has a city with the highest level of poverty in the county.
Do our communities of concern not have place in the accountability equation? Does their vote not count at all? Shouldn't every voter in every city have their vote count for something? Shouldn't all cities have the right to collectively defend their self-determination and quality of life for their citizens?
The views in this editorial reflect the views of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. If you wish to submit an editorial for consideration, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.