San Diego

SANDAG Directors Order Investigation Into Measure A's Financial Projections

Directors of what critics see as a "shadow government" have just approved an outside investigation of revenue numbers used in a big ballot measure last fall.

The furor surrounding the San Diego Association of Governments – abbreviation: SANDAG – started even before the November election.

Since the 1970s, SANDAG has served as a clearinghouse for federal and state funding going to the county and its cities.

The agency’s $18 billion ballot measure failed at the ballot box – even while it was way too bullish on financial projections.

"Our credibility lives or dies on our accountability,” Poway Mayor Steve Vaus, a SANDAG director, told NBC 7 in an interview Friday. “We need to have an independent examination of all the facts. Who, what, when, where, why? And we're gonna do that. We're gonna get answers and provide them to the public."

SANDAG's Measure A projected that a half-cent TransNet sales tax hike would collect $14 billion for local transportation projects.

But current tax growth trends indicate the proceeds would be $5 billion less.

SANDAG's staff blames a "human error" involving a missing "data slide" to that effect.

Although the ballot measure fell 10 points short of the needed two-thirds countywide majority, suspicious minds wonder whether the lower revenue figure actually was withheld – so as to boost the chances of passage.

SANDAG directors are elected officials from the county and its 18 cities, and voters don't directly cast ballots for members of the board.

That's a concern to some, because California is among only a few states with multi-billion dollar metro clearinghouses for federal and state funding.

Even so, the situation isn’t alarming to political observers such as Voice of San Diego’s Andrew Keatts, who’s extensively covered SANDAG.

“It's the entity that goes out and competes for federal and state dollars,” says Keatts. “So if you have one agency that focuses on that and disburses that money around the region in certain ways, you could just as easily see that as a benefit."

In the wake of the controversy over Measure A, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher is working on state legislation to reform the way SANDAG governs.

As two directors noted in their remarks, without confidence in the information SANDAG gives, there could be risks for the county and the agency’s 18 municipal members.

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