ESCONDIDO — Mayor Sam Abed stood before SANDAG headquarters on April 14 to voice opposition to California Assembly Bill AB 805.
AB 805 was introduced to California legislation by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher on Feb. 15. Julio Rivera is a representative from Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher’s office. “The assembly member is essentially trying to accomplish three things,” Rivera said. “She’s trying to provide new authority to our transit districts in the North County, and at NTS, to raise their own sales tax to be able to fund their own priorities, to provide some new powers to those areas.” Gonzalez presides over District 80, which runs from the Tijuana border, up through Chula Vista and north into City Heights.
AB 805 is designed to address greenhouse gas emission reduction rules and regulations and identifying disadvantaged communities, but Abed’s umbrage stems from the proposed changes to the voting structure of SANDAG.
SANDAG, the San Diego Association of Governments, is the forum for regional decision-making in the San Diego region. It is comprised of mayors, council members and county supervisors from each of the region’s 19 local governments.
AB 805 is a multifaceted bill, and a hotly contended one at that. Supervisor Bill Horn from District 5 (along San Diego County’s northern border) expressed concern that the bill proposes to shift voting power away from North County San Diego. “This bill specifically disenfranchises most of North County,” he says. “As far as I’m concerned, this is a power grab for Chula Vista. It basically disenfranchises the corridors. I don’t think this can be amended.”
Seated next to him, Supervisor Greg Cox from District 1 (along San Diego County’s southern border) also voiced opposition. “What this bill does, in my opinion, is it throws out the idea of consensus,” he said. Cox explained that under AB 805, Chula Vista and the city of San Diego can swing a vote with “just one friend.” Alternately, the city and county of San Diego would have a majority rule by themselves. “They can do whatever they damn well want, because it’s just a straight population vote,” Cox added. “That would not serve this county well, it would not serve this cog well and I don’t think it would serve local government well.”
Rivera responded to criticism. “This bill is not designed to take away the voice of the smaller cities, it’s simply designed to give greater proportional representation to all residents in this county,” he said.
Under AB 805’s proposed redistribution of votes, Escondido is the only region that would lose a full vote. This sticking point in particular prompted Escondido Abed to host a press conference to voice his opposition: “(Rivera’s) just trying to deceive 18 mayors. He’s saying we aren’t going to disenfranchise. They are giving San Diego council members 42 votes, and Chula Vista eight, to make 50 percent of the votes. That is what’s wrong with the bill. If it passed we would lose the tally vote and lose the weighted vote.”
The board meeting concluded with a vote of 17-2 (with two abstaining) on a motion to oppose until (and unless) there are amendments. The board has declared they are amenable to discussions with Assemblywoman Gonzalez Fletcher.