By Hugh Moore / Special to the OB Rag
San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) voted this morning to approve the 2050 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). This planned 214 billion dollar transportation infrastructure is funded by local, state and federal funds that are granted to SANDAG as long as certain environmental goals are met. Unfortunately the required goals will most likely not be met.
In the meeting this morning SANDAG presented the proposed plan and had many organizations that had worked on the development of the plan try to show that the goals and requirements mandated by accepting the funds would be met.
After the presentation the floor was opened up to comments from the floor where the first speaker was Representative Bob Filner. Rep. Filner started his comments by stating that he had worked with SANDAG in the development of the plan and had assisted in the procurement of millions of federal dollars that would be part of the funding of the plan. However, he then pointed out that the current RTP does not meet the required environmental standards that must be met in the completion of the plan which may result in the local governments being sued for spending SANDAG funds inappropriately. Rep. Filner pointed out that the California Attorney General Kamala Harris had actually written a letter to SANDAG pointing out the deficiencies in the plan and her opinion was that going ahead with the plan as written may lead to multiple lawsuits.
There were over 50 people who had requested to speak to SANDAG so speakers were limited to 1 minute apiece. Many organizations were represented speaking against the RTP including the Sierra Club, Duncan McFetridge of SOFAR, the San Diego County Green Party, Masada Disenhouse of San Diego 350.org and many others. Some of the concerns of the speakers against the RTP were that the plan calls for adding lanes to north Highway 5 (increasing sprawl), doesn’t decrease green house gas emissions as its required to and continues to leave increased particulate pollution in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
There were some organizations that spoke in favor of the RTP such as San Diego building associations and some local unions as the RTP will create local jobs and open up new areas for building houses.
In spite of the multiple concerns raised by many speakers at the meeting SANDAG did take a vote and it passed almost unanimously. I hope that members of the San Diego community will remember Attorney Harris’ below words years from now when the goals of the RTP are not met and hold the political officials that voted for the RTP accountable:
“What the DEIR (draft environmental impact report) shows is that the suite of strategies relied on by SANDAG, which include a heavy reliance on roadway expansion projects, does not deliver GHG (green house gas) reductions that are sustainable in the long term. In fact, infrastructure land use decisions made in the early years of the RTP may lock in transportation inefficiencies and preclude any realistic possibility of meeting the Executive Order’s goal of an 80% reduction in GHG emissions.”
On another topic, Occupy San Diego (OccupySD) was raided by the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) early Friday evening before the SANDAG meeting. SANDAG is made up of representatives (Mayors or City Council members) from nearly every city council in San Diego County and members of the Board of Supervisors of San Diego County. This past week the San Diego City Council meeting was disrupted by members of OccupySD protesting the Council’s refusal to take action on a proposal that the Council support the occupation. Many members of OccupySD has planned to attend the SANDAG meeting and express their concern that the current RTP seemed to serve the 1% (highway expansion helping to increase builders profits, increased pollution to disadvantaged communities) and did not protect the 99%. As far as I’m aware there was no planned protest to disrupt the meeting but doesn’t it seem likely that the timing of the raid was done so to protect this extremely high profile public meeting?
I find it hard to believe that the SDPD decided on its own to raid OccupySD so who does make that decision? The Mayor, perhaps (a member of SANDAG and he was present at the meeting)? Even if OccupySD was not able to attend the SANDAG meeting if my assumption is correct OccupySD has altered the political climate of the county and will continue to do so as long as they occupy the Civic Center.