On October 24, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) did something that not only threatens successful implementation of Plan Bay Area, but also raises very serious concerns about process.
While the Commission was discussing an unrelated item, Commissioner Jim Spering made a motion to take $20 million in funds, which had been designated for grants to local governments with the purpose of engaging in community planning processes around transit stations, and redirect them to go to county Congestion Management Agencies (CMAs).
This significant change in funding priorities was not on the agenda for the meeting and there was no associated staff report on the item. In fact, the Commission voted to adopt this change without even seeing the motion in writing and without any clarity on what the CMAs would do with this money. Thanks to Commissioners Tom Bates, Sam Liccardo, Kevin Mullin, Adrienne Tissier, David Campos, and Scott Weiner for speaking up against this proposal.
Brown Act violation?
This action raises very serious public process concerns, and may even be illegal. The MTC vote likely violates the Brown Act, California’s public meeting law, because the item was not on the meeting agenda. It is absolutely unacceptable that a decision affecting $20 million happened without public notice and debate. This item also did not go through any of MTC’s own advisory committees.
The Commission should postpone action on this until it is heard and discussed at the Policy Advisory Committee, Regional Advisory Working Group, and Regional Equity Working Group. At a minimum, the Commission should put this item up on a future meeting agenda—with sufficient public notice—for a re-vote.
City funding at risk
The shift in funding places the implementation of Plan Bay Area, our regional transportation and land-use plan, at risk. Since all land-use decisions in California are made locally, implementation of Plan Bay Area relies on cities and counties to do their part. The planning grant program is absolutely essential as a resource for cities to genuinely engage communities in planning processes for the future of their neighborhoods.
We believe these funds should remain at MTC in the planning grant program. If the Commissioners do decide to devolve this money, it is critical that every penny of the $20 million be used by the CMAs for planning grants to cities.
So much for regional planning…
MTC’s decision goes against the fundamental spirit of Plan Bay Area. Our cities and communities are all interconnected—how can we improve the region as a whole? By investing dollars in the places that will have the greatest positive impact on the entire Bay Area. Transferring the money and responsibility to the individual counties is a step backwards, discourages working together as a region, and undermines the purpose of Play Bay Area.
On November 28, MTC will take up this issue again to clarify their intentions.
Let the Commissioners know that making decisions about millions of dollars without public notice is absolutely unacceptable and urge them to protect the regional planning grant program.