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Shifting Sands:
Mandated Changes At SANDAG
Terry Sinnott | Mayor Del Mar, Vice-Chair, SANDAG

Editor’s note
AB 805:

AB 805’s enactment follows a major SANDAG scandal that unfolded when investigative reporting by Voice of San Diego disclosed that financial forecasts made by SANDAG in support of Measure A, a sales tax measure on the Nov. 2016 ballot, included significant forecasting errors that were known to SANDAG well in advance of the election but were not disclosed to voters These errors projected significantly more revenue than would have actually been produced by Measure A (which failed at the ballot), and resulted in representations to voters that many more projects could be funded by the measure than was in fact the case.

Read more here: http://bit.ly/sandag-scandal

Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation on October 11th that will make various changes to the SANDAG governance structure, and impact the powers and duties of the agency. Assembly Bill 805 sponsored by Democrat Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher will take effect on January 1, 2018.

Existing law provides for the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) to be the consolidated transportation programming, planning and implementation agency for the San Diego region. It is governed by a Board of Directors, consisting of elected officials from all 18 cities plus the County of San Diego.

Here are the most significant changes:

  • Voting Structure: Existing law provides for a dual-threshold-type vote for passage of most measures at SANDAG. This means items must simultaneously pass both a tally vote and a weighted vote threshold. The tally vote is one vote per each member agency (city or county). The weighted vote is proportional to each jurisdiction’s population of the San Diego region. Together, this dual threshold system has provided the smaller cities with a meaningful seat at the table while also protecting the interests of the larger cities. AB 805 changes this. It provides that all acts of the Board require an affirmative vote of the majority of the members present (tally vote). However, after a vote of the members is taken, a weighted vote based on population may be called by the members of any two jurisdictions. Approval under the weighted vote procedure requires the vote of the representatives of not less than four jurisdictions representing at least 51% of the total weighted vote to supersede the original action of the Board.

  • Election of Officers: Currently the Chair and Vice Chair of the Board are elected annually under the dual threshold vote process by a simple majority. Under AB 805, these two positions will be elected for two year terms and by weighted vote only. It further requires that the Chair and Vice Chair cannot come from the same subregion of the County.
  • Public Contracts: SANDAG uses a Labor Compliance Monitoring Program (LCMP) to ensure that prime and subcontractors working on SANDAG construction projects meet the federal and state prevailing wage requirements. AB 805 will require that all SANDAG contractors and subcontractors use a skilled and trained workforce, as defined by law, or that a project labor agreement be in place that covers all SANDAG work.
    Long-Range Planning: Every four years SANDAG produces a long-range transportation plan - a federally and state-mandated document that presents the overall vision for how the San Diego region will grow through 2050, including all transportation-related investments that will be needed to support that vision. The plan represents a consensus of all members, and helps the region compete for State and Federal funding. It also includes environmental mitigation efforts and a Sustainable Communities Strategy that demonstrates how the plan will address the reduction of Greenhouse Gases (GHG). Typically, this has been achieved by outlining a variety of strategies and mobility choices that could be used to reduce GHG. The new law stipulates that strategies to provide for mode shift to public transit specifically be included.
  • Member Reporting: AB 805 requires Board members to make an annual report to their agencies at a public meeting that includes a summary of the activities of SANDAG, program developments, project updates, changes to voter-approved expenditure plans, and potential ballot measures.
  • Performance Audits: Currently SANDAG is subject to numerous independent financial, compliance, and performance audits. The TransNet funds are currently audited annually by an independent auditing firm that is overseen by the Independent Taxpayer Oversight Committee (ITOC). This is a committee of seven citizens who provide performance and financial oversight on the use of TransNet funds specifically. The new law requires that SANDAG appoint an additional independent performance auditor to conduct annual performance audits of all departments, offices, activities, and programs of the consolidated agency.
  • Local Election: Previously, under State law (SB 1703) passed in 2002, SANDAG had the authority to call for a local election on matters related to changes to the governance, powers, privileges and duties of the agency. AB 805 restricts that authority and requires that any measure put before the voters must be consistent with what already is in state law.

Moving Forward: In February 2017, the Board of Directors approved the Data Accuracy and Modeling Work Plan to strengthen the transparency, accountability, and accuracy of SANDAG modeling and forecasting processes. Next month, the Board is scheduled to hear an update on its execution, as well as a plan to implement the recommendations from the Hueston Hennigan LLP report regarding improvements to SANDAG operations. The Board hired the firm last spring to perform an independent examination of the communications surrounding the Measure A revenue forecast.

Meanwhile, SANDAG has continued to perform its functions as the region’s council of governments and chief planner and implementer of transportation infrastructure. The agency currently is in construction on a variety of major improvements, including the Mid-Coast Trolley Extension to UCSD and UTC, South Bay Rapid bus service, and the North Coast Corridor Project – a transformational program of rail, active transportation, highway, and environmental projects along Interstate 5.

Impact on SANDAG: The SANDAG Board welcomes any provisions in AB 805 that improves transparency and data accuracy of its forecasting activities. This will only benefit SANDAG and the region. But the governance changes made by this new law will defeat our efforts as a region to come to agreement on transportation priorities. Small cities will now compete with San Diego and Chula Vista. And the region as a whole will be less competitive in seeking State and Federal funds for transportation projects. It is bad policy for our region.

Impact on Del Mar: AB 805 does not help Del Mar. We are the smallest city in San Diego. Our voice has been diminished and we lose a meaningful voice at the table. Our efforts to achieve our City’s goals of improved transportation and a cleaner environment will be harder.

 

 

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