Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What Should Come After Plan Bay Area? by Richard Hall

What Should Come After Plan Bay Area?

Plan Bay Area hit really stiff resistance – the opposition is now mobilized and highly organized – and primed and ready for Plan Bay Area 2.0. Some might argue that some kind of revolution is needed; instead I strongly suggest ABAG and MTC incorporate new thinking into future regional transportation plans:

1) Build Bridges & Involve Opponents
bridge-buildingABAG and MTC need to build bridges and connections with opposition leaders – to commence genuine engagement that never occurred with Plan Bay Area 1.0.
Plan Bay Area 2.0 admits that this was a grave mistake.  It should not repeat this same error in the latest version of the Plan.

2) Amend Senate Bill 375 so it does not Selectively Reduce Emissions for Cars
Senate Bill 375, a Steinberg Bill, needs to either be thrown out or amended so that instead of solely focusing on reducing the emissions of cars and light trucks, it reduces emissions from all forms of transportation. Since 2010, market forces, aided by government regulations, have resulted in the sharp decline of car emissions. Car emissions in Marin are now far lower than ferries and lower than buses. Given likely SMART train ridership the train will likely achieve have lower passenger emissions than cars.

3) Allow Residents to Vote for their ABAG Representatives
There is insufficient accountability for ABAG representatives. ABAG representatives are effectively distanced from their electorates. In Marin there are three seats on ABAG (of 110). More populous areas are better represented, so if Marin and other suburban and rural areas have different needs, representatives from more urban constituencies typically trump them.
Bay area residents should be able to vote for their ABAG representatives. The choices offered might still be limited to those already serving on city councils or county boards of supervisors, but all residents should have a say in this. ABAG should divide its decisions into three subgroups representing urban, suburban and rural areas. Otherwise the representatives of urban residents will dominate decisions.
However if such voting is instituted it is vital that district boundaries respect urban boundaries. For instance Marin should not be combined into a district like San Francisco with a system based on one representative for say every million residents.
Likewise Marin should not be combined with Sonoma which appears to have a massive appetite for growth (there are 24,010 new housing units in Sonoma County SMART Train station area plans) and that got us into the economically burdening, traffic congesting, greenhouse gas increasing mess that is the SMART train.

4) Review the Role of ABAG & MTC Committees
MTC and ABAG committees wield immense, misproportionate influence
ABAG General Assembly representatives have relatively little influence on the final product. Typically they attend an annual budget rubber-stamping exercise or endorsement of a near finalized plan, rejection of which by them would create challenges such as missing mandated deadlines or exceeding budgets. Beyond this, they have little influence. The real challenge is that members of ABAG and MTC committees, especially the executive committee, have disproportionately large influence – and this is where the representation of suburban counties and small towns can be squelched.

A good way to solve this would be for the ABAG General Assembly representatives to perform the work of the ABAG executive committee.

Marin Supervisor Steve Kinsey is in a very safe seat.  He serves on highly influential MTC committees. His jurisdiction, Marin District 4 is perhaps one of the lowest electorate populations of any supervisor in the Bay Area.  It is a highly gerrymandered district with tentacles stretching into Corte Madera, Larkspur, San Quentin and small parts of San Rafael. He won his seat with just 4,739 votes in his most recent 2012 victory – equivalent to the votes needed for election to a mid-sized town council.

Kinsey’s jurisdiction is practically insulated from Plan Bay Area as it is almost entirely off limits for development. While his district is insulated from growth Kinsey serves on multiple MTC and ABAG boards that serve to set policy that directs where growth should occur. No one in Marin, bar the small number living in West Marin who are insulated from overdevelopment, can vote Kinsey out. In his district Kinsey can appear a saint – where existing land protection legislation prevent growth from even being considered. 

Article continued HERE

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