At the SACOG Board meeting this morning, the board passed the staff-recommended agreement that authorizes Executive Director James Corless to negotiate an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the transportation sales tax measure proponents and SacTA (Sacramento Transportation Authority) to include elements of the agreement in the MOU and in the ballot measure statement of support.
There was a lot of controversy over this issue, more than I have seen at any board meeting. Representatives of the other five counties (Yolo, Yuba, Sutter, Placer, El Dorado) and the cities within expressed great concerns about the agreement. Some voted no, some voted reluctantly yes, but there was no enthusiasm. The only really enthusiastic voice at all was from David Sander, representative of Rancho Cordova, who is also conveniently the board chair of the Capital Southeast Connector JPA. Even James Corless who supports the compromise expressed considerable discomfort that the agreement was even necessary to keep SACOG in the discussion.
The agreement implies that each new project (not in the current MTP/SCS) will have to completely mitigate all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the reduction. Left unanswered is how that can be accomplished. How can a project like the sprawl and VMT inducing Capital Southeast Connector be mitigated? Will the project fund all mitigation, or will the project proponents come back to SACOG or SacTA begging for funds for mitigation? Are all the other projects expected to pick up the slack in order to meet the required reduction in GHG? Will projects in the other five counties be expected to pick up the slack? Nothing in the agreement says the proponents of these capacity expansion projects will help to meet the regional target of 19% GHG reduction.
Don Saylor of Yolo County asked some very pointed and relevant questions of Corless and SACOG Counsel Kirk Trost. Trost confirmed that it is unlikely that any signatories to the MOU could be held legally accountable, that the MOU would be worthless if it continued the same vague language in the agreement, and that the whole thing was dependent on the good will of all the players. All players includes Sacramento County and each city in the county, and by implication, the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District. It is not at all clear whether they will all sign on, or that they will fulfill their agreement. The commitment to the 1970s model of transportation (the dark side), which the measure proposes to continue for 40 years, is very strong among many of the entities in the county, and it would not be surprising if some decided to back out on or just ignore the commitment to mitigating ALL GHG impacts of each project.
The original motion to adopt the agreement and delegate to Corless was modified to include a review (not approval) by the board chair and the chairs of the SACOG committees. A second motion to include formal representation on the review by the other five counties failed, but Corless promised to reach out to them.
Most board members just held their nose and voted yes.
My comments were directed at the mis-information that was being provided by signature gatherers, talking about fixing streets, support for bicycling, and “it’s all for transit”. There was never mention of freeways, interchanges, or capacity expansion, which is largely what the measure is really about. The measure proponents clearly intended to fool the public into signing by not telling the truth about the TEP (Transportation Expenditure Plan). Of course many ballot measures have the same dishonesty, but it is significant in this case because these are the people that Mayor Steinberg and Corless were negotiating with ‘in good faith’. There is no good faith with the proponents.
I think the transportation advocacy community can see a small victory here in that many people are now coming to understand how bad the proposed measure is and specifically how it will harm the region. And they saw today how the proponents intended to bully SACOG, in the measure language, and in this agreement. We lost on this particular vote, but board members can’t really deny anymore that the transportation future of the county and the region has been hijacked.
For more on the measure, see Measure 2022 posts. The use of this category is not meant to confuse. A lot of people are referring to this as Measure A, but the measure letters are assigned by county elections after they have qualified, so this is in no sense Measure A at this time.