Back in January, Becks wrote on Living in the O about a proposal from Alameda County Supervisor and MTC Commissioner Scott Haggerty that would add two seats to the MTC, one appointed by the Mayor of San Jose and one appointed by the Mayor of Oakland.
Right now, the MTC is consists of 19 members. There are three seats are for non-local agencies: HUD, US DOT, and the California Business, Transportation, and Housing Agency. These three members do not vote. Then there are two Commissioners from San Mateo County, two from San Francisco, two from Contra Costa County, two from Alameda County, two from Santa Clara County, and one each from Napa, Sonoma, Marin, and Solano Counties. Finally, there is one seat representing ABAG and one representing BCDC.
Each of the counties that get 2 representatives have one member from the Board of Supervisors representing the county and one member from the county’s Conference of Mayors, who represents the cities in that county. So most cities in the Bay Area have no member of the MTC representing their specific, individual interests. This is generally fine, since the point of the MTC is to make decisions for the whole region, so parochialism is not supposed to enter into decisions.
The chart below shows the 2010 population of each of those Counties.
The proposal to introduce two additional seats representing the cities of Oakland and San Jose would make the composition of the Commission more equitable in terms of the population, which is good on its own.
Since San Francisco is both a city and a county, it gets two representatives just on its own, and is currently over represented on MTC relative to its population compared with Alameda and Santa Clara Counties and also compared to every other city in the Bay Area, none of which currently have a dedicated, permanent seat on the Commission.
Nevertheless, San Francisco has objected to the notion of adding the Oakland and San Jose seats. In February, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a resolution (PDF) against the proposal on the grounds that it would dilute their representation, asserting that MTC representation should be based on a city’s “daytime population” which includes people who work and don’t live in the city, rather than “nighttime population,” or in the terms everyone else in the world uses, “population.”
I find this tremendously short-sighted on the part of San Francisco. The proposed change of the composition of the MTC isn’t about diluting the representation of San Francisco — it’s about ensuring the representation of urban areas where we need to plan for growth. In terms of regional planning and investment, San Francisco’s needs are clearly more closely aligned with those of the two other biggest Bay Area cities than they are with the suburban interests that dominate the Commission now. When this was discussed at MTC in January, Commissioner Scott Haggerty had pretty much the same response:
For me, this is a different issue, though. It’s not about population as it was reported I think in the Mercury either today or yesterday, a quote from me in which I’m referring with Commissioner Yeager, which I wonder if Commissioner Yeager actually said that quote because I didn’t even talk to the reporter. So I don’t know how I was quoted.
But it’s not really about population. For me, this is about what we’re embarking on with our sister agencies — the Air District, ABAG. And as we move forward with the implementation of SB 375 and AB 32, if we listen to what we’re voting on over these last six, seven months, eight months, this whole Sustainable Communities Strategy is really putting the population back into the urban cores. And really it’s discontinuing the notion of sprawl and growing outside of our urban limit lines.
So, to me, it seems like if we’re really going to embark on this discussion and we’re going to have a discussion that is meaningful, it’s really important that we have the three major urban cores — San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose sitting at this table as a voting member in a way in which they can help us not push the policy, but help us create the policy, and I think that’s really what’s important.
I think there’s this need to bring them together, to to get the knowledge and the wisdom that they have as big city Mayors as we start talking about infrastructure, land use, and how we’re going to really attack these Sustainable Community Strategies.
The proposal was approved by the MTC in January with a vote of 9 yes, 3 no, and 1 abstention.
So why am I writing about this now? Well, I just wanted to point out that the Oakland MTC seat is moving forward. As dto510 noted yesterday, the bill, AB 57, passed the Assembly last week and has now moved on to the Senate. So we’re one step closer to an Oakland MTC seat! Hooray!