Morning Report: SANDAG Still Has a Major Liability on Its Books - Voice of San Diego

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Morning Report: SANDAG Still Has a Major Liability on Its Books

A meeting of the SANDAG Transportation Committee / Photo by Megan Wood

As SANDAG leaders come to terms with a shortage of sales tax money needed to complete regional transit projects promised to voters, another part of the agency’s books are also looking bleak.

VOSD reporter Ashly McGlone revisited a liability on SANDAG’s books that worsens as interest rates drop. With news of a federal interest rate tax cut last week, the multimillion-dollar liability caused by three interest rate swap deals made in 2005 may get worse.

Records show SANDAG has already sunk more than $25 million into the deals, separate from normal bond debt payments, and is poised to lose more money to big banks. Money lost on swaps is money that could have been spent on sorely needed projects.

SANDAG officials say there are no plans to exit the swaps, and they’re not having a negative impact on projects. The agency has also benefited from low interest rates in more recent bond sales, without swaps attached.

Lorena Gonzalez Has Got a Lot Going on

Republican Assembly leader Marie Waldron’s bill requiring SANDAG to seek public approval before re-directing sales taxes away from highway projects will face a steep uphill climb in a Democratic-led Legislature. It’ll first have to get through the Assembly Appropriations Committee, which is chaired by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who led the charge in Sacramento in 2017 to overhaul SANDAG’s governing structure. 

Gonzalez also joined the podcast to talk about San Diego’s shifting politics, anti-vaxxer antics inside the Capitol and AB 5, which attempts to stop the misclassification of gig workers. It was one of the most high-profile pieces of legislation this year and earned the governor’s signature last week. 

In a video profile of Gonzalez, CALmatters explains why the Appropriations Committee is a big deal and talked to her about her roots in the labor movement and the vitriol she receives on Twitter. And the Los Angeles Times has the inside story over all the behind-the-scenes wrangling to get the vaccine exemption bill across the finish line, something Gonzalez played a major role in.

In the meantime: Her husband, Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, tells us that he’s staying out of the 53rd Congressional District race to replace Susan Davis. Instead, Fletcher said he’s looking to do more on the Metropolitan Transit System board now that Georgette Gómez is expected to step down and run for Congress. 

San Diego County Has a Jail Inmate Death Problem

The Union-Tribune dropped a series of stories showing that the rate of jail inmate deaths in San Diego County far exceeds other large California counties. Since 2009, the year Bill Gore took over as sheriff, more than 130 people have died — an average of one per month, every month, over a decade.

The reporters found that some inmates died of treatable conditions like diabetes, pneumonia and stomach ulcers. Dozens took their own lives, and officials have been slow to make fixes to their care and facilities. The county has wound up paying out millions in legal settlements. 

An SDSU professor and consultant who’s been retained by the Sheriff’s Department in lawsuits argued last year that San Diego’s jail suicide rate wasn’t an outlier at all. But the formula she used — which takes racial makeup into consideration — differs from the one widely used by experts, oversight groups and federal agencies such as the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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