After weeks of inaction following the revelation of SANDAG’s deceptive use of faulty revenue projections, two weeks ago the SANDAG board of directors approved an “independent examination” into the agency’s economic forecasting scandal. SANDAG’s board suggested it should self-select the so-called “independent investigator” candidates through a private internal selection process. No mea culpa was issued at the board meeting, and SANDAG’s executive, Gary Gallegos, and the board failed to own up to their role in the $4 billion deception.
On Friday, SANDAG’s executive committee will likely finalize its decision about who should conduct the investigation.
While an investigation is a small step in the right direction, it is not enough. SANDAG has lost the trust of the community and an examination alone, performed by a person of the board’s choosing, will not restore that trust. It is only through an exhaustive independent investigation with an investigator chosen by outside stakeholders, an apology issued by the board for deceiving San Diego families and meaningful reform to the agency’s governing structure that the agency can restore that trust.
The Quality of Life Coalition, a diverse collection of working families, businesses and community and environmental organizations that we’re part of, opposed Measure A for several reasons. The deceptive plan failed to provide the quality transit options, good-paying local jobs and climate solutions for our community needs. And the 100,000-plus members of the group were justified in their hesitancy to trust this agency that has consistently failed to deliver meaningful transportation options.
We are living in precarious times when it comes to faith in public institutions. “Alternative facts” and incessant lies are being pumped out of the White House. San Diego cannot afford to see SANDAG follow a similar path of deception. We need SANDAG to start doing better for San Diegans right now so we can improve our quality of life, grow a vital local economy and sustain our environment. Unfortunately, we will never get to a place where the public can approve a SANDAG initiative so long as it chooses the easy route over full transparency and community involvement that will prevent future public deception.
Credibility and trust are not things one can bestow upon themselves. Criminals don’t choose their own prosecutors, and an untrustworthy governmental institution that deceived the public to the tune of $4 billion should not choose its own investigators.
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This will end up like the "Independent Analysis" of SDPD biased-policing practices; an outcome with fingerprints on the scale; the fingerprints of they who paid for it.
Not a bad idea, but here’s what leads to inertia and makes this unlikely: The problem happened because the board of SANDAG was asleep at the switch, rubber stamping staff recommendations (as usual for this body). The board is made up of representatives of every municipal political body in the region. Would they propose to investigate, thus ultimately embarrass themselves for their negligence? Unlikely. Would their peers at their own municipal bodies recommend an investigation that would create embarrassment? Seems unlikely to me because it will cost political points and the general public is mostly unaware and unconcerned about all this. That is the problem with shadow governments, like the Port District, Airport District, SANDAG, etc. There is no accountability because most people just don’t understand or care much about how they operate.
Using the City of San Diego as an example, the SANDAG representative is supposed to be the Mayor, but he mostly delegates to Councilmember Zapf. If he makes an issue of the problem he draws attention to the fact that he doesn't bother to attend the meetings and he implies failure on the part of his chosen representative. Not likely to happen. Now consider you are another member of the City Council. Do you want to make a recommendation for an investigation aimed at your peer when the general public doesn't seem to care about the issue?
Agreed. Apathy of the general public allows this to blow over.
@Mark Giffin @Chris Brewster Mr. Brewster raises a very legitimate point.This investigation is not likely to produce anything useful, but that has already been taken care of. Don’t forget the public rejected the ballot measure for new money to carry out programs already planned, and did it quite decisively BEFORE it learned of the shenanigans. What chance will a new tax measure have for the foreseeable future? SANDAG might just collapse of it’s own ineptitude and failure to generate money for it’s stated mission. It doesn’t appear that “public apathy” will save SANDAG.
Our other “shadow” governments may be reaching the limits of their usefulness. An old attorney friend of mine used to describe the Port District as a government unto it’s own, accountable to no one. When it morphed into two organizations and stayed that way long after the excuse for forming a separate airport authority (creating a new, relocated airport) was abandoned, his description was validated. But these two entities, unlike SANDAG, have independent sources of revenue that don’t require them to go to the public periodically for money, so they are likely to survive until the public gets a lot more involved.