Last week I attended a town hall meeting hosted by State Senator Steve Peace. The dialogue, for the most part, was focused on RITA, the proposed Regional Infrastructure and Transportation Agency, which would, for the first time, bring regional planning to San Diego County. Let's just say local officials are not big on the idea.
The meeting was held in the community rooms at Oceanside City Hall, and other than the chairs being placed in a circle, this gathering looked like a SANDAG meeting, with it's usual cast of characters. Only this time, someone who can see beyond city borders was calling the shots. Steve Peace is a witty, articulate man with an incredible command of state politics. However, this did not impress local elected officials who were there to protect their own turf- which is why we were there in the first place.
Senator Peace spoke miles of truth when he flat out said the current system is designed to fail- which is what residents have been telling their elected officials for years. SANDAG is an agent of growth, and no matter how much those who currently benefit from the lack of comprehensive regional planning would spin otherwise, regional planning has yet to be attempted in San Diego county, other than to plan the over-development of the region.
One might ask, why RITA,and why now? Senator Peace laid out the reasoning behind RITA in frightening detail, with sobering statistics that only the foolish or power hungry would ignore. Thanks to NAFTA, Tijuana is the fastest growing industrial city in the world. It needs world class ports to move products manufactured there. Considering that San Diego does not have one, our county is nothing more than a corridor in which to move freight between Mexico and Los Angeles.
Currently, there are five entities regulating transportation. They are: San Diego Association of Governments, North County Transit District, San Diego Metropolitan Transit Development Board, San Diego Unified Port District, and the San Diego Air Pollution Control Board. The only problem is that none of these agencies communicate with each other. Oh sure, they attend meetings- meetings that consist of representatives talking at each another about what they want, with listening going no further than their own myopic agendas.
The fact that there is no trolley service to the airport is just one example of how thinking in a vacuum is a disservice to the millions of people living south of Camp Pendleton. As things stand now, it is not in the Port District's best interest to connect mass transit to Lindbergh Field because of a potential loss of parking and taxi revenue. Hence, no trolley to terminal one. Another example is the North County Transit District wanting to piecemeal double-tracking through coastal cities without doing a comprehensive environmental impact report. Under RITA, those overseeing the anticipated increase in rail and freeway traffic will be accountable to voters, which the NCTD board is not.
The main lesson I took away from the town hall meeting, and I use that term loosely out of respect for Senator Peace, was that our elected officials abhor change. We are talking about the shaking-in-our-boots sort of fear that is more about being human than any political orientation. The old paradigm is failing us yet still we cling to it like a life preserver, refusing any alternatives that go beyond merely treading water.