Should SANBAG Expand its role as a COG?

Today the San Bernardino Association of Governments (SANBAG) held a workshop to evaluate and discuss SANBAG as a Council of Government (COG). The Board of Directors (BOD) at SANBAG initiated conversation to reinvigorate its role as a COG.  In preparation for this workshop, SANBAG staff and consultants gathered the following background information: a brief history of SANBAG as a COG, COG functions SANBAG has performed, staff and funding resources that are available, and some possible needs that SANBAG could address as a COG. See SANBAG Agenda and Discussion Paper (link, scanned into dropbox)

The role and activities performed by COGS variety greatly. COGs are formed at different times, created by different JPAs and may have additional contractual relationship with other government agencies, Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), and partnerships. The Western Riverside COG website provides a great introduction on “What is a COG?”:

Definition

COGs are voluntary associations that represent member local governments, mainly cities and counties, that seek to provide cooperative planning, coordination, and technical assistance on issues of mutual concern that cross jurisdictional lines. In this sense, COGs serve to develop consensus on many issues that need to be addressed in a subregional or regional context. If properly structured, COG duties complement and do not duplicate jurisdictional activities, and serve to unify jurisdictions and agencies on matters of mutual concern, but independent of the responsibilities traditionally exercised by the individual members within their own communities.

Jurisdictions typically agree to form COGs following discussion and negotiation on common goals and objectives, which are usually consummated by execution of a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA). In most cases, adoption of a JPA is specifically authorized by state law. In the case of California, JPA authority is granted under Section 6500 et. seq. of the Government Code.

In Southern California, the MPOs are Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and San Diego Association of Government (SANDAG), which are federally mandated and federally funded transportation policy-making organizations that consists of local government representatives and regional transportation authorities. Federal funding for transportation projects and programs are directed through the regional MPO to local transportation agencies, which comes in a variety of names: regional councils, regional commissions, regional planning commissions, planning district commissions, and development districts. The Southern California region has 11 COGS: Coachella Valley Association of Governments, Gateway Cities, Imperial County Transportation Authority, Orange County, San Fernando Valley, San Bernardino Associated Governments, San Gabriel Valley, South Bay Cities, Western Riverside, Westside Cities and Venture.

The National Partnership’s Southern California Team is committed to learning about the individual differences of decision-making bodies related to transportation and land use, including COGs, community transportation commissions, etc. This is the first of many posts about the COGs in the Southern California region.

SANBAG was created in 1973 as a Joint Powers Authority (JPA) to be the COG for San Bernardino. The initial focus of SANBAG was to provide a forum to collectively work on issues that crossed political boundaries and affected regions of or the whole of San Bernardino County. Its roles and responsibilities changed over the year as a result of legislation and voter measures:

  • State Assembly Bill 1246 (1976): Created County Transportation Commissions (CTCs) to coordinate Transportation Improvement Programs (TIPs) and to coordinate mass transit service. SANBAG was designated as the CTC.
  • Measure I (1989) is a half-cents sales tax approved by voters to fund countywide transportation improvements: SANBAG is the County Transportation Authority to administer and implement these transportation projects.
  • SB 375 (2009): This new law requires California’s Air Resources Board (CARB) to develop regional reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), and prompts the creation of regional plans to reduce emissions from vehicle use throughout the state. Here, the SCAG and SANBAG work together to integrate land use and transportation planning to reduce emissions from vehicle use.

The Wednesday workshop was the first step in soliciting discussion from elected officials, SANBAG BOD, stakeholders, and the public on the strengths and weaknesses of expanding SANBAG’s role as a COG.

Current and Pending SANBAG’s COG functions (more details in discussion paper):

  • Intergovernmental coordination
  • Countywide Vision
  • Greenhouse Gas Inventory (Sustainable Communities Strategies)
  • City/County Manager’s Technical Advisory Committee
  • Inland Empire Economic Quarterly
  • Growth Forecasting
  • Development Tracking
  • Air Quality Planning
  • Growth Mitigation (Congestion Mitigation)
  • Housing Policy/Regional Housing Needs Assessment
  • Traffic Modeling
  • Etc.

Other Possible COG Roles for SANBAG:

  • Countywide Vision Implementation – require collaboration with cities and the County, including water districts, school boards, and others.
  • Legislative Advocacy
  • Energy Leadership Partnerships

Activities of Other COGs:

  • Social Services
  • Economic Health
  • Environmental
  • Public Safety
  • Center for Demographic Research
  • Government Efficiency
  • Airport Issues
  • Electric Vehicle Infrastructure

The participants provided feedback on what they didn’t like about COGs: board not elected officials, another layer of government, Interference with local control, conflict for funding, anti-growth, and additional costs. Although, the audience was optimistic, when the moderator asked for tools and ways that a COG could be successful, and expressed a willingness to see positives in SANBAG expanding its function as a COG. The question of resources, funding, and staff were the major requirements for success. Additionally, elected officials and stakeholders wanted a clear vision, bottoms up approach, perseverance or stay the course attitude, effective and positive media, and limit conflicts with cities and other agencies in this potential expansion.

The BOD will take the feedback from the group to further explore the discussion. Future meeting dates will be posted here. We anticipate providing public comments verbally and written throughout this decision-making process. See SANBAG website, www.sanbag.ca.gov.

About Pauline Chow
I am the Southern California Regional Policy Manager at Safe Routes to School National Partnership. Living in the foothills of Pasadena, CA. Our mission is to advance safe walking and bicycling to and from schools, to build a diverse and inclusive movement of champions, to foster the creation of active and sustainable communities, and to improve the health and quality of life for all of Los Angeles County’s youth and families. Also, I think internets and people power go together and interested in using data science to explore social justice and civic engagement in the digital space.

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