Jeff Smith 11:59 p.m., Feb. 8
Supervisors Roberts and Horn Want SAFE to Stay
County Supervisor Ron Roberts is steadfast in his support for the San Diego Service Authority for Freeway Emergencies (SD SAFE).
Roberts has come out against a new state bill that would transfer management of the program to SANDAG, taking it out of the hands of the SD SAFE board, which Roberts is a member of. Assembly Bill 1572 will not only transfer management duties to SANDAG but also requires that any revenues over $4 million would go to cities and counties to be "used solely for motorist safety purposes, as prescribed."
At next week's Board of Supervisors meeting Roberts and fellow SD SAFE board member Supervisor Bill Horn will ask the board to join forces to oppose the bill.
In a draft letter to the state legislature Roberts and Horn say the newly revised bill will do more harm than good.
"Instead, the fee will continue being collected, with reserves in excess of $4 million distributed to local cities and the county, with no oversight mechanism to ensure the dollars are spent for region-wide motorist aid. The legislation also transfers SAFE management duties to the San Diego Association of Governments, which did not ask for this responsibility. The legislation could impact $750,000 in annual SAFE funding for Regional Fire and Rescue helicopters flown by the city and county San Diego, as well as Motorist Aid Grants provided to cities and primarily rural first-responders for rescue equipment and training."
But critics say the bill is exactly what is needed to ensure that the $2.5 million in yearly revenues be spent on motorist safety.
The number of people critical of the agency and program grew after CityBeat discovered that, under direction from chair Ron Roberts, SD SAFE was spending cash on a "flying fire-truck" and other pet projects as well as for stockpiling cash, approximately $12 million, from previous years.
After the article, and after protests from city councilmembers David Alvarez and Lorie Zapf, an effort to reform the agency and the program began.
Earlier this year, Assemblymen Nathan Fletcher and Marty Block drafted Assembly Bill 1572. The bill was introduced in response to "a reckless disregard of taxpayer money" by the SAFE" for hiring contractors "without once having a fair and competitive bid process" and stockpiling cash.
Of course, Roberts and Horn disagree.
"AB 1572 is an attempt by Sacramento lawmakers to dictate operations to a regional agency with broad regional representation on its board. For that reason, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors should officially oppose the ever-evolving Assembly Bill 1572.
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