The investigation will attempt to determine who in the agency knew its forecasts were wildly overestimating how much revenue an existing sales tax, and another proposed one, would generate for regional transportation projects – and when they knew it.
SANDAG told voters that Transnet, a sales tax hike passed in 2004, would bring in $14 billion. The agency’s new forecast, which fixes a fatal flaw, shows it’s on track to bring in only $9 billion. Measure A, if it had passed in November, would have brought in $14 billion, not the $18 billion sold to voters.
Seven board members say they weren’t told SANDAG’s Measure A sales tax estimates were wrong – an error that led to voters being sold a false promise – and are calling for an independent review.
The saga involving the San Diego Association of Governments can get convoluted pretty quickly. First, there’s the fact that SANDAG is not too familiar to many people. Then there’s the fact that the scandal centers on some complex stuff, namely economic forecasts and what goes into them. The fundamental issue at hand, though, is not complex: A powerful government agency knowingly misled the public. And that’s worth understanding.
SANDAG is claiming it did not know a forecasting error staffers discovered in 2015 would ultimately lead to voters being offered a false promise in 2016. But the agency’s own staffers made clear to SANDAG executives the two went hand in hand.
The longer it takes for the truth to come out about SANDAG’s massive revenue shortfall, the harder it will be for the agency to regain the public’s trust. If too much time passes, that goal may become impossible.
We put in the California Public Records Act request that netted the explosive emails revealing SANDAG officials knew Measure A would not generate $18 billion, as they claimed, before Election Day. Only when we threatened to sue did the agency release the records — two months later. In the meantime, the public voted on a false number.
Andrew Keatts gets super fired up in this week’s podcast as he and cohost Scott Lewis distill the big SANDAG news. Plus: A nonprofit exec says San Diego leaders aren’t doing enough for refugees, and Lewis is in awe of the budding pot industry.
SANDAG needs voters’ trust in order to succeed. It lost that trust, and only sweeping changes can restore it.
County Supervisor Ron Roberts, who chairs the SANDAG board and who was one of the public faces of the effort to sell Measure A, said the agency needs to rebuild public trust after Voice of San Diego revealed executives there knowingly misled voters about how much money the measure would have raised.