by Robin Joy Maxson
From SANDAG’s website: “SANDAG is governed by a Board of Directors composed of mayors, councilmembers, and county supervisors from each of the region’s 19 local governments. Supplementing these voting members are advisory representatives from Imperial County, the U.S. Department of Defense, Caltrans, San Diego Unified Port District, Metropolitan Transit System, North County Transit District, San Diego County Water Authority, Southern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association, Mexico, and the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.
These members hold unchecked and unequal power over the planning and funding of the unincorporated communities without providing a balanced voice for a population of approximately 500,000 residents — which comprises the second largest community in the County.
The unincorporated communities cannot lead nor effectively participate in their own future without a seat at this table of regional power.
Currently, two San Diego County Supervisors represent County interests on the SANDAG Board. In theory this is where the unincorporated communities find their representation; however, County Supervisors also represent their urban and suburban populations.
The assumption that unincorporated communities are represented through this structure and do not need “additional” representation is flawed as all SANDAG Board members and Advisory Board members are within the County of San Diego and, therefore, are already provided such a dual overlay of jurisdictions and representation. The exception is the two Advisory Board Members from Imperial County and Mexico.
I propose that the unincorporated, and predominantly rural, communities of San Diego County be recognized and admitted as an Advisory Member on the SANDAG Board of Directors. The new “San Diego County Unincorporated Communities” Advisory Board Member would represent the unique needs of our geographically disadvantaged populations including their health, safety, housing and work opportunities, the concerns of the agricultural industry, the development of the agritourism industry, the growth of the outdoor recreational industry, and the protection of our vast Open Space Preserves which are a County treasure.
I propose that a selection of a “San Diego County Unincorporated Communities” Advisory Board Member and their Alternate should come from among one of the 28 elected Community Planning Groups Chairs and appointed Community Sponsor Groups Chairs. These 28 Community Planning and Sponsor Group Chairs would select a representative and alternate every two years beginning with January of 2023.
SANDAG’s “Commitment to Equity” is on the line. This new “San Diego County Unincorporated Communities” Advisory Board Member requires a seat at the table of regional power and we expect that a chair will be waiting for us.
Maxson is chairwoman of the Ramona Community Planning Group