After lengthy public comment attacking the proposal, a Friday (June 24) meeting of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) resulted in the regional board voting to move forward with a plan to place a half-cent sales tax on the November ballot.
At issue is a longstanding argument from some environmental groups that SANDAG prioritizes freeway improvements over expansion of public transit, resulting in an expected level of emissions that fall short of statewide goals laid out by the legislature as well as governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown via executive order.
Several speakers, in a show of civil disobedience, intentionally continued speaking past their allotted public comment time, proselytizing until their microphones were cut off and sometimes until being escorted out of the chamber by police.
"SANDAG’s plan is going the wrong way — even jeopardizing the success of the City of San Diego’s groundbreaking climate action plan," warned Janina Moretti, a chemistry lecturer at Palomar College.
"Cars and light trucks produce nearly half of the greenhouse gas emissions in San Diego County, so there’s just no way we can meet state targets without a bold, forward-looking plan that dramatically reduces greenhouse-gas emissions," added retired high-school teacher Jean Costa.
While SANDAG has identified a number of projects to be fast-tracked under the new measure, including a number of freeway expansions, 42 percent of the funds for the new plan are allotted for public transit.
County supervisor and board vice chair Dianne Jacob, however, pointed out that many regions of the county are, and will remain, dependent on cars.
"The eastern part of the county does not have transit. We rely on roads," said Jacob of her county district.
"I appreciate the comments on climate change," Jacob continued. "Let's remember the future also is electric cars, and those electric cars are not going to run on rails. They will need roads."
Other boardmembers, before agreeing to move the ballot proposal forward, reminded those still in attendance that executive orders issued by governors did not constitute official law, creating a justification for continuing to push a regional transit plan that does not expect to meet goals. It was also noted that no other county in the state currently has a plan in place that expects to hit the ambitious targets.
The tax, which would require a two-thirds approval from voters countywide to pass, is expected to raise $18.2 billion over the next 40 years. Final language for the measure is expected to be presented to the board for approval at the group's next meeting on July 8.