SANDAG’s board of directors last week chose an Orange County firm to investigate its forecasting scandal, in which agency leaders ignored warnings from panicked staff that a tax increase wouldn’t raise nearly as much as voters were promised on November’s ballot.
The firm is, by all accounts, well-respected nationally – it played a high-profile role in the Enron investigation. It even has done recent work on actuarial forecasting.
But it’s unclear the firm will be able to investigate all of the issues Voice of San Diego has uncovered related to the agency’s existing tax measure, TransNet, and the proposed tax increase voters rejected last year, Measure A.
SANDAG has structured its investigation into itself in a way that could leave issues uninvestigated.
A SANDAG board member who has taken a lead role in the investigation says he wants everything to be on the table. And the investigator himself said it’s possible his work could be expanded beyond the agency’s explicit request, but emphasized that it’s too early to say.
Here are three big questions about the investigation that could be clarified as more details into the probe come available.
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
Independent investigation! I have seen that expression before and have seen the results too. The nature and content of published results will depend on who pays for it; the investigation.
Disband SANDAG! How is it even remotely possible to spend $2.1B to build a 19th-century trolley, 11 miles mostly on an existing rail corridor? How is this possible? Double track the Coaster line and take a few of those Sprinter trains and run them on the existing track with a few new stations. Sprinter trains run on standard track, they are independent diesel units. These people don't think, all they do is spend, the money isn't theirs. Kaiser Permanente' built a huge new state-of-the-art hospital for $850m and SANDAG/MTS can't build a trolley extension for more than twice that??
@Jay Berman It would be good if the $2.1 billion had been spent on building a tunnel under Miramar Hill and adding COASTER stations at UTC, Balboa Avenue, etc.
What is the estimated cost of this new investigation? Where does the money come from? Is there a time line for completion or can it go on past, e.g., the next several elections? Will the resulting report be a completely public document or allow SANDAG to cherry pick factoids to feed the public that make it look less incompetent?
"4. If we stopped furiously spending taxpayer money on new infrastructure to accommodate projected population growth, will population still grow to meet projections, or will we have less population growth and more money freed up to fix potholes?"
@Derek Hofmann --Interesting question. But then the response (from people like SANDAG) would be, "if we have less population growth, there will be less taxes, and we still won't be able to fill those potholes."
@David Crossley So we would save money in two ways (by building less infrastructure and then by having less infrastructure to maintain) but we would lose money in one way (less total tax revenue). That sounds like a good deal to me!
Amazingly, we actually agree. But as I said before, those agencies like SANDAG will say that theory won't work--losing that extra tax revenue isn't an option. They will say they NEED it desperately.