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Faulconer Will Vote No On SANDAG Tax Increase Measure

Photo caption: San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer shakes the hand of Council President Todd Glo...

Photo by Tarryn Mento

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer shakes the hand of Council President Todd Gloria at a press conference unveiling the mayor's climate action plan, Sept. 30, 2014

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer will vote Friday against a SANDAG ballot measure to raise the sales tax by 0.5 percent across San Diego County to fund transportation projects, his office confirmed on Wednesday.

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San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer will vote Friday against a SANDAG ballot measure to raise the sales tax by 0.5 percent across San Diego County to fund transportation projects, his office confirmed on Wednesday.

Environmental leaders have pressured Faulconer to withhold his support for the $18.2 billion measure because they say the spending plan from the San Diego Association of Governments favors highways and roads over public transportation, which prevents the city from reaching the goals laid out in the city's Climate Action Plan passed last year.

San Diego Councilman Todd Gloria, who also sits on the SANDAG board, disagrees with Faulconer's position. In a statement released Wednesday night, Gloria said:

"Elected leaders from across our region have worked together in a bipartisan fashion for years to develop this measure. I continue to support SANDAG’s funding measure because our City’s Climate Action Plan cannot be implemented and our transportation infrastructure cannot be improved without substantial new funding. Voting against this plan means turning down $7.5 billion for transit, $2 billion to repair San Diego’s neighborhoods, and over $500 million for bike projects. San Diegans want these improvements and leaders should take action to get them done.”

San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts, the SANDAG board chairman, also backs the measure, a spokesman said Wednesday.

Nicole Capretz, head of the environmental advocacy group Climate Action Campaign, worked with Faulconer to get the Climate Action Plan passed and is involved in drafting a strategy that lays out how the city will achieve the plan's goals.

Capretz said on Wednesday the mayor intended to hold a news conference this week to announce the implementation plan and wanted her to attend the event. She said she told the mayor's office she wouldn't unless she had Faulconer's promise to vote against the SANDAG ballot measure.

"I said, 'Here are the conditions for that happening,'" Capretz said. If Faulconer didn't meet those conditions, "Then I would be saying on the record that he’s not fulfilling his obligation to implement the Climate Action Plan, that I would not stand with him, that I would say on the record that he’s not doing enough, because it’s that important."

Faulconer was scheduled to release in April his strategy for the Climate Action Plan's implementation. His spokesman said Wednesday that the plan would come out on Monday.

"The mayor’s office has been working closely with environmental advocates ahead of the release of the Climate Action Funding and Implementation Plan, and schedules allowed for it to be released Monday," said spokesman Matt Awbrey in a statement. "Implementation of the Climate Action Plan is on schedule."

SANDAG's board, which is made up of elected officials from every city in the county, is scheduled to vote on the ballot measure Friday.

The latest draft said the funds from the 0.5 percent sales tax increase would raise $18.2 billion over 40 years. More than 14 percent of that money would go to highways, managed lanes on highways and high occupancy lanes. Almost 42 percent would go to public transit, and 3 percent would go to walking and biking projects. Another 30 percent would be given as grants to cities for local infrastructure projects.

Capretz said SANDAG's ballot measure is meant to fund the regional transportation plan the agency's board passed over environmentalists' objections in October.

"All it's doing is funding the existing backwards expansion plan," she said. "It's just a continuation of the same conversation, and it definitely undermines the climate plan's goals."

The Climate Action Plan calls for cutting the number of San Diegans who commute by car from 87 percent to 50 percent by 2035. That goal applies to people who live within a half mile of existing or planned transit stops, which is predicted to be about 60 percent of the population by 2035.

To accomplish this goal, the plan calls for increasing the number of people who commute by public transit from 10 percent to 25 percent, by bike from 1 percent to 18 percent and by foot from 1 percent to 7 percent by 2035.

Faulconer is one of 21 SANDAG board members. Every city in the county has one elected official on the board except the city of San Diego and the county, which both have two.

The mayor did not attend the October meeting when SANDAG approved its regional transportation plan, sending Councilwoman Lorie Zapf as an alternate. She voted for it.

Capretz said she hasn't seen the final draft of Faulconer's plan to carry out his climate action goals but so far is pleased with what she's seen.

"But one of core bottom lines, in addition to what he’s going to do with his own city's budget and plans, is making sure the regional transportation plan does not get funded," she said.

KPBS reporter Andrew Bowen contributed to this story.

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