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.