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Government Panel debuts to discuss new regional agency



Government: Commission Focuses on Airport Issue, Other Transportation Topics

An 11-member state-appointed commission charged with creating a consolidated, collaborative regional decision-making body has moved one step closer to reality.

The Regional Government Efficiency Commission, headed by San Diego City Councilman Byron Wear, recently met for the first time to create a plan for the region’s 18 cities and the county to find a better way to tackle infrastructure and transportation issues.

“We have a clean sheet of paper right now,” Wear said. “We’re looking at all alternatives.”

Wear said one of the issues before the commission is deciding which agency should operate the airport, which is under the jurisdiction of the San Diego Unified Port District. Wear said a new regional agency could be formed to operate Lindbergh Field, leaving the Port District as an independent agency that will have elected board members.

The commission also will consider land use and what role cities would play in the process.

The commission, created to satisfy demands by state Sen. Steve Peace, D-El Cajon, has until Aug. 1 to report to the state Legislature with a plan that could take away the power of some governing bodies.

If the plan is approved by the state, it could be on the ballot in March 2002.

In 1999, Peace pushed legislation to consolidate the San Diego Association of Governments, the Metropolitan Transit Development Board, the North County Transit District, the Air Pollution Control District and the Port District.

That measure was close to becoming reality until local elected officials stepped in and asked for time to work on the issues on their own.

Local officials then formed the Regional Government Efficiency Commission. Panel members traveled to Atlanta, Minneapolis and Portland, Ore., to study various models of regional government in effect.

Dan Howle, Peace’s chief of staff, said the senator is happy with the work the commission has done to this point, and has high expectations for the results.

Scott Barnett, executive director of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, is not so optimistic.

Barnett was a council member in Del Mar in the mid-1980s and represented the city on Sandag’s board. He said he has seen first-hand how regional decision-making has not worked here in the past.

“The bottom line is what we’re asking for is for government agencies to voluntarily agree to give up power,” Barnett said. “I don’t know of a case in San Diego County where that has happened.”

Barnett said the taxpayers association was disappointed when Peace pulled away from his original legislation to form one super-agency. He said it is unlikely the consolidation of the six agencies will occur.

“We support Byron Wear’s efforts, and commend his leadership, but we are not overly optimistic that significant reform will be able to occur.

“I think it will be tough enough to get these agencies to do what is so logical and has such common sense, and that is to have one regional agency looking at regional issues of transportation.”

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