Recently, we introduced CoCoTax to a discussion forum called the Nine-County Coalition. The NCC seeks to inform members of the Greater Bay Area Community about issues related to the increasing existence of regional governance authorities in our lives. In our last article, the case was made that Regionalism is indeed an issue of concern for CoCoTax because:
- 1. Appointed regional boards can reduce local land use decision-making authority and alter public expenditure priorities without the involvement of established governmental authorities (cities and counties.)
- 2. Regional governance can raises taxes for expenditures not authorized by local voters (recent Measure AA.)
- 3. Regional bodies can act on their own, reducing accountability for policy decisions affecting the electorate.
The Nine-County Coalition met in September to exchange information and perspectives on issues in each of our counties – especially fall election measures. Prominent in the discussions were basic principles that we might keep in mind when considering how we want to live and the role of government/governance in our lives.
These important principles of effective government include:
- 1. We live in a representative democracy. We directly elect others to represent us in creating laws and adopting regulations within which we agree to live.
- 2. Our government is organized into city-county-state-national levels, so that issues are dealt with by directly-elected governing bodies closest to the people most affected.
- 3. We define the issues important to our communities and our lives. Through our vote, we elect individuals and approve measures intended to create the society in which we choose to live. If we are not satisfied with our representatives, we can elect others or change the laws through referendum.
Consider, then, the “regional” measures placed on our ballots by the unelected regional authorities created by the California Legislature. These measures can supersede the authority and discretion of our elected county government. These “authorities” can place measures before voters across the Greater Bay Area that may not have been addressed by our own elected representatives, but which we are obliged to implement regardless of the Contra Costa County Electorate vote. The recent Measure AA is such a measure. Defeated in our county, Contra Costa County voters are still obligated to implement it, at taxpayer expense, despite our opposition.
How do we recognize the encroachment of the “Regionalism” form of governance into our system of local control government?
- 1. Look at the individual representatives in the organization’s controlling body. Did you elect a representative to serve on the organization’s governing board, or were the board members appointed to their position to serve interests beyond what you elected them to do?
- 2. Look for the scope of impact for the decisions made by the board. Are the goals and objectives something that you’ve had an opportunity to address in a public forum, or were they created by other interests from outside your community and your established government organizations.
- 3. Look for code words such as “sustainable” and “green.” Are the policy choices made with an interest to serve the constituencies, balancing economic interests with other community priorities, or are judgements made to achieve goals set beyond the local constituents, regardless of the local economic cost-benefit analysis?
- 4. Look for the words “planning” and “coordinating” as the primary responsibility of the new organization. “Planning” and “coordinating” organizations have no accountability for results. They are not focused on specific issues raised by the community, nor are they limited to a charter given by government authorities. Their mission is usually to create a model future driven by ideology, rather than reality.
These points are directly visible in the largest regional authority in the nine Bay Area counties, Plan Bay Area. According to its website, “Plan Bay Area is a long-range integrated transportation and land-use/housing strategy through 2040 for the San Francisco Bay Area. On July 18, 2013, the Plan was jointly approved by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) Executive Board and by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC).”
The website goes on to say that “Plan Bay Area marks the nine-county region’s first long-range plan to meet the requirements of California’s landmark 2008 Senate Bill 375, which calls on each of the state’s 13 metropolitan areas to develop a Sustainable Communities Strategy to accommodate future population growth and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks.”
Why is this of concern? Plan Bay Area was not on our ballot, we have no mechanism to hold the “planners” accountable, and our participation is limited to periodic “community input” meetings.
The Nine-County Coalition meets again on Saturday, December 3, in Alameda.