The San Diego Association of Governments should provide more focus for the voluminous information it releases to the public, while its board members need to report back to their agencies more often on what the regional planning body is doing, according to a report released Tuesday by the San Diego County Taxpayers Association.
The report was the product of a working group formed to look into SANDAG operations after it was revealed that financial projections for a failed ballot measure were incorrect, and that while staff discovered the problem, neither the public nor board members were informed.
SANDAG recently retained an Orange County law firm to investigate the issue over Measure A, which would have raised the sales tax countywide to fund infrastructure and environmental projects. It received a majority “yes” vote, but not the two-thirds required by the tax increase.
The SDCTA found SANDAG releases so much data that it’s difficult for taxpayers to sift through everything and make reasoned judgments on issues. The government jurisdictions that make up the SANDAG board — the county and its 18 cities — generally don’t provide their representatives with enough opportunities to report on their activities or seek direction, according to the study.
“It’s disappointing that some of our elected leaders do not engage in the back-and-forth dialogue between the constituencies they represent and SANDAG’s board,” said Haney Hong, SDCTA’s president and CEO.
“SANDAG member cities should consistently give direction to their representatives, and these same member cities also should consistently demand reports back from their representatives,” Hong said. “That’s how it is supposed to work.”
Among the six recommendations made by the taxpayer’s association:
— SANDAG staff should provide simple and graphical summary presentations to the board of directors that individual board members may use to communicate back to their local councils and/or constituents;
— SANDAG should engage the public by having board members go through their own governments’ established processes;
— SANDAG should adopt a policy requiring member representatives to at least annually report to their respective agencies on program developments, project updates, changes to voter-approved expenditure plans and potential ballot measures;
— member jurisdictions should communicate local priorities and community concerns on issues subject to SANDAG funding or policies at least every year; and
— jurisdictions that receive SANDAG funding should report back on how the money was used.
The other recommendation is to strengthen a section of SANDAG bylaws related to providing guidance on general plans to committees and member cities.
—City News Service
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