Roy Reynolds is a Fountain Valley-based pollster with a bug up his ass about the Southern California Association of Governments.
For those who have never heard of SCAG, it is, as Reynolds puts it, "an unelected, unrepresentative pseudo-government-like group" that "we must tolerate in our once free, democratic society."
Based in Los Angeles and funded mostly with federal and Caltrans dollars, SCAG is the largest "metropolitan planning organization" in the nation, covering Orange, Riverside, Imperial, Ventura, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties with 187 cities, more than 18 million residents and the combined 15th largest economy in the world.
If you thought Democrats and the unions run California, think again. Pro-toll roads, pro-homebuilding and pro-ever more sprawl and the nastiness that comes with it, SCAG conducts meetings, writes reports and generally lobbies governments to ensure climate change, transportation and population controls mesh with its own regional growth plans.
Someone who sat though a city council meeting overtaken by NIMBYs probably dreamed up SCAG. The idea of a regional planning body making bold decisions for the betterment of all does have merit.
But you'd like that such an entity at least have accountability so it is not perceived to be granting the wishes of the few. Making unpopular decisions behind closed doors will not make them any more popular. That's the wound festering under the SCAG scab of Reynolds, the CEO of web-based polling and survey firm Polling Strategies.
Reynolds previously exposed it in a May column for Fountain Valley Patch, which fell in line with a 2009 Orange County Register editorial that pointed out there is no judicial oversight or electoral accountability for SCAG. In a new article for California Watch, Reynolds takes his ire wider, noting that SCAG is representative of similar groups "under equally Orwellian acronyms" such as SANDAG and KCOG.
Regional planning associations join regional transportation planning authorities and business councils in creating "independent" report circle jerks that eventually justify the decisions of members who sit on all the same fucking panels. If you think no skin off my tamale, think again: the Orange County cities that pony up tens of thousands of dollars annually to be part of SCAG can even get burned. In Irvine, while City Councilwoman Beth Krom also sat on the SCAG council, she had to suffer the indignity of SCAG mandating her city build 35,000 new housing units, of which 21,000 had to be "affordable," by 2014.
Eleven of Orange County's 34 cities--including Costa Mesa, Aliso Viejo and Reynold's beloved Fountain Valley--do not belong to SCAG, and yet they, too, are bound by its regional planning decisions.
This year, SCAG has two "public outreach workshops" scheduled in member-city Anaheim and non-member-city Orange to seek "a vision for transportation investments." They also wish to "reduce greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles ... through integrated transportation, land use, housing and environmental planning" via a "Sustainable Communities Strategy."
Isn't this the job of the Orange County Transportation Authority? Or the County Board of Supervisors? Is SCAG going to tell us how to spend citizens' money from Measure M, a local tax increase voters passed? Is SCAG to enforce CARB's onerous AB32?
Who are these guys?
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As troubling to Reynolds as who is what. Currently, the what would be SCAG's ongoing $1.8 million study of the Pacific Electric Right-of-Way, the old Red Car route that runs from the Watts Towers to just shy of the Santa Ana Civic Center. The association is recommending six alternatives that would run "at-grade" bus rapid transit, streetcars or light rail along the right-of-way through Garden Grove, Stanton, La Palma, Cypress, Buena Park, Santa Ana and Anaheim.
Fair enough and about time--until you discover SCAG's ground-level route cuts through more than 60 streets in residential neighborhoods of these seven cities--and Stanton's not even a SCAG member. If this all has a familiar ring to it, it should: the OCTA already rejected the same route for light rail or rapid-transit buses in 2008.
Thanks to laws that mandate pre-notification and elections that allow you to throw the bums out, we at least have a fighting chance against the whims of cities, counties, school boards, water and sewer district boards, transportation authorities and state and federal agencies.
When your foe is invisible? Not so much.