Escondido mayor removed from SANDAG board


ESCONDIDO – The mayor of Escondido has been stripped of his role as the city’s representative on the SANDAG board of directors after council members expressed frustration with the mayor’s recent vote in favor of the city’s 2021 regional transportation plan. the metropolitan planning agency.

Mayor Paul McNamara, who was elected to the Escondido City Council in 2018, was removed from office by a 3-2 vote at the body’s meeting on Wednesday. The vote means that Escondido currently has no members serving on the SANDAG board, as the board did not vote to confirm a member in place of McNamara.

Council members Tina Inscoe, Joe Garcia and Michael Morasco, all Republicans, voted in favor of the resolution to remove the mayor as the city’s SANDAG representative, while council member Consuelo Martinez and McNamara himself even, both Democrats, voted against.

The removal of the mayor was partly a symbolic rebuke to the vote of the board of directors of SANDAG last month to approve his controversial transport plan, which aims to overhaul San Diego County’s transit systems and help the county meet state-mandated climate goals.

McNamara was removed from office not only because he voted in favor of SANDAG’s plan, but also because the city council wanted to signal its displeasure with the direction the organization as a whole is headed, Morasco said.

“This vote was part of a bigger picture, it has to do with what SANDAG has done historically…how Escondido for many years has had one broken promise after another, and that has impacted our frustration with the direction SANDAG is taking,” Morasco mentioned.

Morasco added that he believes McNamara’s votes as a SANDAG board member demonstrate that the mayor’s views are not in line with those of a majority of Escondido citizens, who Morasco said , are frustrated by SANDAG’s repeated policies that have harmed the interests of North County residents.

” The mayor [removal] wasn’t specifically because of his last vote, but it was icing on the cake,” Morasco said. “We had the impression that the seated representative of SANDAG [McNamara] didn’t have the same philosophical outlook and vision as the majority of those…with the city.

McNamara said he was disappointed with the council’s decision, which he called a “partisan maneuver”, arguing that his removal was a futile move that would have no significant political impact.

“The decision was disappointing…I felt that even though the board disagreed with our [SANDAG’s] decision matrix on what’s best for the city, we’re basically inserting a partisan element into our decision-making with the vote that’s not good,” McNamara said. “In the grand scheme of things, with me not being part of SANDAG…I wonder why the board thought it was necessary, like what did it accomplish?”

Inscoe said Wednesday’s vote was meant to remind SANDAG leaders that they cannot continue to ignore the frustrations of Escondido residents, the majority of whom oppose the regional transportation plan.

“It has nothing to do with the mayor and the service he provides…it’s about a philosophical difference in how SANDAG goes about raising taxes and finding ways to collect huge money to create this transportation corridor in San Diego but does nothing for North County,” Inscoe said.

Since its approval by the board last month, SANDAG’s plan came under fire local elected officials from across the department. Critics argued that one of the plan’s main funding mechanisms – a proposed mileage rate for each driver – would impose a high cost on county residents.

In November 2021, the council passed a resolution declaring its opposition to SANDAG’s proposed road user charge, or kilometer charge. Although the mileage tax was eventually dropped from the approved proposal, it is unclear what funding scheme will replace it.

Many also took issue with the plan’s proposal to install more than 800 miles of managed lanes on county highways, where drivers would be charged a toll for accessing special lanes available for buses.

In addition to echoing those concerns at Wednesday’s meeting, council members also criticized the transportation plan for allocating the vast majority of its funding to transit projects outside of North County. .

“I’ve looked at the plan and I see a majority of taxpayer dollars going into more urban areas…it certainly looks like Escondido, which is one of the high-income producing towns in our county, doesn’t get anything close to covering for the amount of investment the city would make in the plan,” Garcia said. “It doesn’t look like North County and Escondido are going to get better with this plan… I think that it’s time we had a new lawyer on our board to represent Escondido and be the voice of our constituency.”

The regional transportation proposal will cost $162.5 billion, according to county estimates, and will be implemented in stages over 30 years.

According to Morasco and Inscoe, SANDAG has also demonstrated its lack of concern for the interests of Escondido residents through its allocation of funds provided by TransNet, a countywide tax introduced in 1987 and renewed in 2004 that funds various transportation projects throughout San Diego.

SANDAG repeatedly promised to use TransNet dollars to fund projects that would benefit Escondido, such as expanding freeways throughout North County, but failed to deliver on those promises, council members said.

“The situation with TransNet dollars is just more or less the same…it’s what it is, take it or leave it, well, we don’t want to take it anymore,” Morasco said.

Noting that the regional plan would not begin implementation until 2030, McNamara said many of his fellow council members’ arguments against the SANDAG plan were moot, as there would be ample opportunity to modify the proposal through contribution from county residents.

Additionally, the mayor said the argument that the plan would raise taxes was inconsistent because the tax increases funding the plan would have to be separately approved by California voters.

“What people don’t see is that the RTP (Regional Transportation Plan) is a plan…the details of that plan need to be worked out, and SANDAG staff have until 2030 to do that, and there will be community feedback before anything is finally approved…any tax increases in the plan will have to be approved by voters, SANDAG cannot approve those taxes,” McNamara said.

McNamara also took issue with the notion that his removal from the SANDAG board was in line with the wishes of the people of Escondido, saying instead that the board “silenced the voice of the majority” by passing the resolution.

“I say this with respect, but I have more votes than all three of you combined,” McNamara told other board members at the meeting, referring to his total vote share in the 2018 election. “I represent the community, I am the voice of the community as mayor.”

In addition to voting to remove McNamara, the majority of the board also voted to reject the mayor’s motion to appoint Martinez — who was one of McNamara’s alternates for the job — as his replacement on the SANDAG board. McNamara adamantly condemned the decision not to confirm Martinez, arguing that she was the only qualified adviser to replace him.

“Why was Conseulo, my alternate, not allowed into my house – was it because she is a Democrat? What type of partisan insertion is this? She is more than qualified,” McNamara said.

McNamara declined to name another replacement after the board voted.

“I am not ready to nominate another candidate for SANDAG because none of the other candidates here have been to a meeting or understand what is really going on there,” the mayor said.

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