The real SANDAG scandal

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The real SANDAG scandal
by Councilmember Jerry Kern

On February 24, SANDAG’s board of directors voted to initiate an “independent” investigation of false promises made to voters during last fall’s campaign to pass a sales tax increase. Those promises included a list of infrastructure projects throughout the region they said would be constructed if voters approved the tax increase. It was only after the November election that it was revealed SANDAG executives knew well before the election the sales tax increase wouldn’t generate anywhere near enough money to pay for the promised list of infrastructure projects. SANDAG officials perpetrated a classic “bait-and-switch” on San Diego County voters.

If the so-called independent investigation is legitimate, we may eventually find out who knew what, and when they knew it. What is less certain is whether anyone will be held accountable for this attempt to deceive local voters. This scandal highlights a much bigger problem: We’ve got a giant government bureaucracy making major decisions that impact every resident of our county, with very little direct accountability to taxpayers.

In theory, the SANDAG bureaucracy is overseen by a board of directors composed of elected members of area city councils and the board of supervisors. But in practice, the board of directors mostly rubber-stamps the staff recommendations, and when was the last time a city councilmember won or lost a local election because of their voting record on SANDAG?

The San Diego County Republican Party rightly called out SANDAG board members who supported this tax increase. They rightly saw the tax increase as a boondoggle that failed to address the very real traffic congestion issues we face, particularly here in North County. Instead, Proposition A dedicated tens of millions of dollars to bike paths and subsidies for the City of San Diego’s under-utilized trolley and bus systems, while ignoring some of the most critically-needed freeway improvements, particularly in North County.

I opposed Proposition A and spoke out against it during the campaign because I don’t think SANDAG, under its current leadership, is accountable or responding to the real needs of North County. As a candidate for county supervisor, I’m going to make issues of accountability and responsiveness the foundation of my campaign, and to that end, I’m asking members of the SANDAG board to ensure the investigation of this incident is truly independent and thorough.

Kern is an Oceanside City Councilmember and a candidate for Fifth District County Supervisor.

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  1. I’m not sure how your council works Councilman Kern but mine (all five of us) made the decision and gave direction to our representative on whether to support or oppose Measure A, as did most East County Councils. I call that accountability and five elected officials that have a better sense of what’s best for the cities they represent.

    The problem with Sandag is not in it’s leadership or configuration. The problem is that it is a no-win organization with 19 jurisdictions all pulling in their own direction. I was not a fan when I was first elected 15 years ago. As an alternate I quickly came to realize that for my little city, Sandag was one of the few places where we had a chance for our community’s voice and interests to be heard on a level playing field. Without Sandag and it’s ability to find consensus and it’s equitable voting system (thank you Mayor Murphy), cities like mine will have it’s future determined by outside interests controlled by partisan politics, big money, and big city politics. If you feel that your city’s interests aren’t being represented right now then I suggest that you have that conversation with your colleagues, unless you put party over your constituents.

    Measure A failed and two polar opposite interests are taking credit and looking for blood. This is what I would expect from a poor looser not a winner. The failure was clearly on the board but not because of some conspiracy. It failed because it was too close to the middle and the two polar opposite interests allied for vary different reasons to defeat it. Changing Sandag won’t necessarily change future outcomes in either interest’s favor but that’s a longer conversation I’m sure is in our future. As they say, be careful what you wish for.

    The work to be done at this point is to answer the allegations of deception, who knew what and when. I think we pretty much established that the error in the projections was a product of a cut and paste mistake and the unexpected “great recession” that exposed it’s flaw. There’s a lot of arm chair quarterbacking going on, whipping up a virtual lynch mob. It is my responsibility to my constituents and to the region to move this along in an unbiased manor. You may judge my actions at the end of the process. You may make suggestions on the process but you may not dictate the outcome. This will be determined though proper due process and not a series of articles in an online publication. With that said nothing is off the table.

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