For those that may not have read the prior articles on Regionalism, the movement is generally characterized by a shift from our local forms of government (cities and counties), led by our elected officials whom we can hold accountable for local decisions, to a system of regional governance, led by appointed officials that carry out regional priorities, regardless of local decisions. These entities and officials have no electoral accountability. Last June, 5 of the 9 Bay Area counties approved a parcel tax, Measure AA. Contra Costa did not approve this, yet we’re obligated to pay it. The dollars are small, but the point is that we now have an unelected regional body with the ability to put measures on our Contra Costa County ballot and implement a tax we did not approve.
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) was created in 1970 by the State Legislature to coordinate transportation services across the Bay Area. MTC is designated a regional transportation planning agency (RTPA) by the State of California and a metropolitan planning organization (MPO) by the federal government. MTC administers state-provided money through the Transportation Development Act (TDA) and has decision-making authority over the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). MTC administers federal funding through various grant programs, including the Transportation for Livable Communities (TLC) Program, Low Income Flexible Transportation (LIFT) Program, and Innovative Climate Grants Program. MTC has overseen administration of toll revenue collected on the seven State-owned bridges in the Bay Area through the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) since 2005.
MTC has now evolved into an authority over several other agencies, including ABAG, and is responsible for a host of financial, open-space, insurance, land use, green business, energy, water, and hazmat training programs. The MTC 16-member board is appointed by other agencies across the nine county Bay Area region. We have no way of holding the members accountable for decisions that affect our county. Remember the flap last year over the purchase of a $250 million office building using BART fare monies? That’s the new MTC headquarters building in San Francisco, which houses 9 other regional governance authorities we did not elect. Through a financial ploy, MTC now has authority over ABAG, giving the organization unprecedented power over our lives.
The overall plan (for which you did not vote) for the nine-county region is contained in Plan Bay Area 2013. The recently updated draft, Plan Bay Area 2040, is now in circulation for comment. The plan outlines land use for “Primary Development Areas” (think mixed use, high-rise “stack and pack” housing facilities (with insufficient parking) growing up in our downtown areas and along transit lines. The plan also outlines the designation of “Primary Conservation Areas” where development is not allowed.
Read Plan Bay Area 2040 and let your local elected officials know what you think. The plan can be viewed at: http://www.planbayarea.org/ Check out more information at the Nine-County Coalition’s web site: http://nine-county-coalition.squarespace.com/ From the NCC web site: “There are times we must make extra efforts to be hear. The continued proliferation of a phenomenon called "Regionalism" is one such time. Therefore, a group of ordinary citizens from all political and professional bents and backgrounds formed Nine-County Coalition. The group's objective is a simple one: present facts about the downsides and dangers of unfettered regionalism."
The next Nine-County Coalition meeting is June 17, 2017. Call for directions.
Dan B. Walden