Roundtable: SANDAG’s New Math; Mexican Pride; Nearby Nuclear Waste
Friday, February 10, 2017
SANDAG Math, Border pride, Nearby Nuclear Waste
Andrew Keatts, reporter, Voice of San Diego
Andrew Bowen, metro reporter, KPBS News
Sandra Dibble, writer, The San Diego Union-Tribune
Jeff McDonald, Watchdog reporter, The San Diego Union-Tribune
It's deja vu all over again.
In 2004 voters approved the San Diego Association of Governments' (SANDAG) TransNet sales-tax hike, expecting it to bring in some $14 billion for transportation projects over 40 years.
First there was the timing issue.
The county began collecting TransNet revenue in 2009, in the middle of the big recession, which translated into a very bad year for sales taxes.
Revenues never caught up because of issue number two: SANDAG's aggressive projections did not take into account national trends in declining sales-tax revenue or even average sales-tax revenues in San Diego County.
SANDAG staff now project TransNet revenues will probably total $9 billion.
Fast forward to the 2016 election and Measure A, another SANDAG sales-tax extension measure on the November ballot, which, was defeated.
SANDAG used the same faulty revenue model of 2004 to predict that Measure A, a sales-tax hike for transit projects, would bring in $18 billion over 40 years.
Emails obtained by Voice of San Diego show SANDAG staff discovered revenues from TransNet would be much lower than projections and that their economic forecasts had significant errors. What was true for TransNet would be true for Measure A.
Staff presented their findings on the errors to SANDAG management.
Management did not inform its board of elected representatives or the oversight committee. Nor did they adjust projections for TransNet revenue for the public.
But SANDAG did rely on the faulty forecast, based on the premise that sales-tax revenue would increase annually by 1.3 percent, (when it historically had increased just .69 percent) to craft 2016’s Measure A.
The big question now: Can SANDAG recover its credibility with voters?
Since Donald Trump became president, Mexicans have experienced a wave of nationalism which extends from Cancun to the northern border.
Many Tijuana residents who routinely cross the border to shop, work, go to school, visit family have been surprised and offended by the aggressive threats of wall-building and deportation issued frequently by the Trump administration.
Ninety percent of sales in San Ysidro stores come from Mexicans, some of whom called for a boycott of cross-border shopping last Sunday. That was the first such action since the 1994 protest of California’s Proposition 187 which denied health care and education to immigrants in the county illegally.
NEARBY NUCLEAR WASTE
SONGS has ended, but the problems linger on.
Many SONGS-related issues are unresolved, including a criminal probe of the California Public Utilities Commission and how the deal to pay for the closure will be renegotiated. But perhaps the most concerning is the disposal of the plant's nuclear waste. There is famously no authorized storage facility for nuclear waste in the United States.
Edison has begun transferring waste into steel-and-concrete canisters and burying them just north of the reactors on the coast, a job scheduled to be finished in 2019.
The transfer and burial are happening now in spite of a bill introduced in January by Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Vista) to relocate the waste away from San Onofre.
A lawsuit has been filed by Ray Lutz of Citizen’s Oversight against the California Coastal Commission, which permitted the storage in 2015. Lutz maintains that the commission didn't look at other places to store the waste and while the present burial plot is convenient for Edison, the ocean, salt air, tsunami risk, earthquake faults, the freeway and train tracks make it anathema for everyone else.
Eight million people live within 50 miles of San Onofre.
A hearing on the Citizen Oversight suit is scheduled in March.
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