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San Diego’s Regional Transit Board To Have Bi-Partisan Leadership In 2019

The SANDAG logo is seen surrounded by the logos of other transportation plann...

Above: The SANDAG logo is seen surrounded by the logos of other transportation planning organizations in California.

San Diego’s regional transportation planning agency, SANDAG, will have new bi-partisan leadership next year.

Two North County mayors will serve as chair and vice chair of SANDAG's Board of Directors: Poway Mayor Steve Vaus, a Republican, and Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear, a Democrat.

Vaus was the vice chair this year and is in line to be chair in 2019. Blakespear said she gives Vaus credit for reaching out to her.

“When he called me and said, ‘I think you and I could be a good team in leadership at SANDAG, and I want to encourage you to apply.’ I said, ‘Well that’s an interesting idea, let me think about it,’ and I did.”

Photo credit: City of Poway

Poway Mayor Steve Vaus is seen in this undated photo.

The San Diego Association of Governments budgets billions of dollars for new roads, trolley lines, train tracks and bike lanes. Planning involves prioritizing future projects.

Blakespear is a relatively new member of the SANDAG board, which includes representatives from all 18 cities in San Diego County. Blakespear has served since she was elected mayor of Encinitas in 2016. She won a second term as mayor with more than 80 percent of the vote in this November’s election.

“We do have a strong relationship, we like each other, we get along,” Blakespear said of her working relationship with Vaus. “Neither of us is an ideologue and I think that’s useful on these types of big policy boards.”

Vaus, a country-western music star, produces Carols by Candlelight, a Christmas Concert, and was unavailable for an interview this week. He was elected to the Poway City Council in 2012 and became the city’s mayor in 2014.

Blakespear said having bi-partisan leadership could help the rifts that have divided the SANDAG board.

“It could change a lot because we sometimes get locked into a ‘transit versus roads’ mentality which can sometimes break down on party lines, and we need to be thinking about ‘how do people get to where they need to go?’" she said. "We need all modes of transportation to be highly functioning, we need transit and roads and biking and walking, so we need to be thinking more broadly.”

Photo by Katie Schoolov

Encinitas city councilwoman and mayoral candidate Catherine Blakespear, Oct. 20, 2016

Blakespear said she hopes the board will tackle issues like connecting the airport to public transit, a goal that has eluded officials.

“I’m excited to jump into that with Steve in the chair position,” she said. “And with the other board members and the new director who’s coming on.”

SANDAG has hired Hasan Ikhrata as its new executive director. He headed the Southern California Association of Governments for a decade. He succeeds Gary Gallegos who stepped down last year after an investigation showed the agency misled the public by overestimating future tax revenues.

Ikhrata is due to start work next month. Vaus and Blakespear have already started to attend meetings with Terry Sinott, the current chair, in preparation for taking over the leadership roles in 2019.

Two North County mayors will serve as chair and vice chair of the board of San Diego’s regional transportation planning agency: the Poway Mayor Steve Vaus, a Republican, and Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear, a Democrat.

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