by San Diego County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar
(Above Photo: Supervisor Gaspar speaking at the May 6th Press Conference. Others from left to right: County Supervisor Jim Desmond, San Marcos Mayor Rebecca Jones, Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey, Poway City Councilwoman Caylin Frank, Former Sheriff Captain Ed Musgrove, Rebecca Conley-Solutions Real Estate, Marjorie Camp-Encinitas resident.
In 2004, 67% of voters thought they were collectively taking on a higher tax burden for the next 40 years in exchange for much needed highway and road improvements including the 5, 8, 805, 78, 52, 56, and 67. In 2019, SANDAG, the very body they put their trust and confidence in, is now trying to shift those precious tax dollars intended for road improvements into a transit-only plan for our region. To date, 14 of the 15 promised projects remain incomplete and unfunded.
Let me be clear about one thing – this is not a roads vs. trains debate. In fact, in our own City, you will notice improvements happening today to provide a balanced transportation system that will better serve all! You’ll see double-tracking of the railroad, addition of HOV lanes on the I-5, and the restoration of the beautiful San Elijo Lagoon. These projects are taking place in conjunction with improved bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Balance CAN be achieved while meeting all state mandates and this single corridor is a shining example of what a balanced transportation future looks like for San Diego.
TransNet is the voter approved half-cent sales tax for San Diego region transportation projects. It is administered by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). During the 60 year life of the program, funds will be generated and distributed among highway, transit, and local road projects in approximately equal thirds.SANDAG, on their TransNet webpage
The problem is that the SANDAG board doesn’t see it this way and after collecting millions of dollars in TransNet taxes – they are now trying to divert all of those funds – without any further voter input. This new Regional Transportation Plan completely ignores the will of the voters and further balloons an already bloated budget.
Voters beware … in addition to the money SANDAG continues to siphon from your wallet … a new tax to cover the costs of this mass transit only plan is on the horizon.
Unfortunately it gets worse. Fearful of voter distrust stemming from past broken promises, the SANDAG board is even trying to lower the voter threshold required to pass it. On February 22nd the SANDAG board approved seeking legislation that would ease the countywide 2/3 requirement to pass a special tax. Surprisingly, the very same day, AB1413 was introduced by State Assemblyman Todd Gloria. Instead of countywide approval of a special tax, this piece of legislation would localize the vote so that 2/3 of voters in a specific part of county could approve.
When I expressed my concern at a public meeting about the rising cost of living in San Diego, the Executive Director of SANDAG curtly replied, “Supervisor, if San Diego residents have to give up their latte to make this plan work, I think that’s a small price to pay.”
The audacity of that statement still shocks me today. Especially after taxpayers have already given up much more than that in support of the original plan…the very plan that is now being scrapped.
Meanwhile we have half a million food insecure San Diegans and don’t even know where their next meal is coming from. Should they give up feeding their children to give more money to a project they will likely never use?
The proponents of this new plan have repeatedly said that we need flexibility from the 2004 plan because things have changed. But, interestingly, the only part they want changed is the money for highway improvements. The SANDAG Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata has made his intentions quite clear in the Union Tribune; “I believe San Diego County building the state of the art transportation system is going to be heavily dependent upon whether we do congestion pricing on the local roads and highways. This is going to be the only way left to tackle traffic congestion so long as you have a good transit option.”
Congestion pricing is a new track and tax scheme that involves a black box installed in your car to monitor and log your travel, reporting information about your whereabouts back to Sacramento. When you travel on roads that are deemed “congested” during peak hours, you are tracked and then sent a bill from the government. An alternative is license plate reading cameras spread throughout the city to track and tax you.
Despite claims of robust public comment, very few residents have weighed in on the new bait and switch Regional Transportation Plan. Who has weighed in? Special interest environmental groups, bicycle advocates, and labor unions.
San Diego residents can make their voices heard by visiting: STOPTRANSNETRAID.COM.
In the meantime, I am calling on SANDAG to keep its promises and create a BALANCED vision for our future.
Author: San Diego County Supervisor and Encinitas resident Kristin Gaspar
- Encinitas Mayor supports SANDAG’s new direction
- From the Editorial Board of the San Diego Union-Tribune
- In 3-2 Vote, County Supervisors Tell SANDAG to Focus on Highways, Not Transit