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Politics

10 cities demand SANDAG scrap weighted vote to get representation

Hasan Ikhrata, incoming executive director of SANDAG, speaks during a press conference after his hire was announced, Sept. 14, 2018.
Matthew Bowler
/
KPBS
File photo of Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of SANDAG, speaking during a press conference after his hire was announced, Sept. 14, 2018.

A group of leaders representing some of the county's cities Thursday demanded the San Diego Association of Governments reconsider the weighted system the body uses to vote at its meeting next Friday.

The group makes up 10 of the 19-member SANDAG board, representing a majority of the votes but a minority of the weighted votes. The board is heavily weighed in favor of the city and county of San Diego, which represent 57.4% of the county's population and 57% of the board's vote and which did not sign a joint letter released Thursday demanding the item be placed on Jan. 13's board meeting agenda.

"We need to set the weighted vote aside and listen to each other again. Overriding a tally vote disenfranchises the smaller cities — collectively 50% of the region," said Terry Gaasterland, Del Mar councilwoman. "Let's pursue balanced planning that treats the needs of all residents equitably and fairly."

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The 10 signing members include the representatives for some of the largest cities, such as Oceanside and Escondido, but also some of the smallest — Del Mar, Coronado and Poway among them. Weighed out according to the certified Jan. 1, 2022 population, the signees of the letter represent municipalities making up 23.5% of the county's population and 24% of the weighted vote.

According to the joint letter, the municipalities concerned — the majority of which are Republican-controlled — want a more "collaborative" county policy strategy. Under the current system, if just the city and county of San Diego and the next largest member — Chula Vista — agree on an item, the remaining members would be forced to go along with them, regardless of how they voted.

"The weighted-vote system has created a situation that is effectively 'taxation without representation' and must be corrected," said Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey.

Prior to 2018 and the passage of Assembly Bill 805, a measure could only be passed at SANDAG if a majority of cities AND cities representing a majority of the county population both agreed.

The weighted system allows for larger populations to get more say, akin to the U.S. House of Representatives, while the proposal for the Jan. 13 SANDAG board meeting would be more like the U.S. Senate in terms of how power is shared.

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It is unclear in the letter why the joint letter was released at this time or why those larger populations should have their representatives lose voting power.

The representatives for Chula Vista, Carlsbad, Encinitas, National City, La Mesa, Lemon Grove and Solana Beach also did not sign the letter.

Request for comment from SANDAG Vice Chair and San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria went unanswered, while SANDAG leadership said they were preparing a response.