Recently, voters in the 9 Bay Area counties approved Measure AA, a regional parcel tax intended to restore Bay Area wetlands and other worthy-sounding goals. (5 counties approved the measure; 4 did not. The parcel tax applies to properties in all 9 by virtue of the 69% approval rate of votes tallied).
Measure AA is just the most recent example of a regional effort with the stated interest of achieving broad-based improvements across many of government’s jurisdictional lines. The concept of joint powers between jurisdictions has existed since the 1920’s, and has produced beneficial results such as fire management, water management, and bridge construction. However, the vast expansion of these powers, especially in California, has produced downsides that should be of concern to all of us.
The downsides are of concern to taxpayers, and these concerns are increasing as the number of regional organizations increases. You have no doubt heard the outcry over the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s (MTC) use of transportation tax monies to build a headquarters building in San Francisco. What you may not have heard was that also housed in that facility are Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), Bay Area Air Quality Management District committees (BAAQMD), Joint Policy Committee (part of ABAG), and the new San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority (SFBRA) to implement Measure AA. ABAG pursues the initiatives of Plan Bay Area and One Bay Area Government, as well.
All regional organizations and initiatives tend to have attractive mission statements and reasonable-sounding goals, but they share a common set of downsides that can be problematic.
- The thrust of many regional organizations and initiatives is to significantly reduce local land use decisions and alter public expenditure priorities without the involvement of established governmental authorities – cities, counties, and the State.
- The governing bodies of the organizations are not elected by the public, but are rather appointed by other, sometimes un-elected, bodies. Once created, regional governance is on its own, operating without little or no influence from voters or elected officials.
- Regional governance has the authority to tax without any input from voters or any say at the ballot box. Regional governance can sell bonds at will, without voter approval.
CoCoTax met with representatives from the 9 counties in the Greater Bay Area before the June primary election in an effort to coordinate opposition to Measure AA. Many of the individuals in the room have met regularly for the last 4 years as part of a loose-knit group called simply, The Nine-County Coalition (http://nine-county-coalition.squarespace.com/). They have asked whether CoCoTax would like to attend their quarterly meetings with an intent to share information, provide and receive alerts regarding upcoming regional measures, and, in general, exchange suggestions and strategies. The overall goal is to assist all attendees advocate on behalf of taxpayers and property owners to retain local decision-making by our elected representatives whom we can hold accountable through our electoral process.
Tell us what you think. CoCoTax will plan to attend the Coalition meetings and report what we learn. We encourage your input on issues and articles shared.