[highlight] UPDATE: [/highlight] SB 1387 failed on the Assembly floor Wednesday with only 30 votes, 11 short of a majority.
By David Sander, Mayor, City of Rancho Cordova.
I am proud to be the mayor of a city that has the motto “City Life Reinvented.” My fellow City Councilmembers and I take the character of our city and that spirit of positive reinvention to heart every day in the decisions we make on behalf of our residents with our understanding of our community’s unique needs. That principle of locally elected officials working on policy solutions based on knowledge of their local residents and local conditions is essential to the functioning of our cities and of our democracy as a whole. Government works when leaders are accountable to their constituents – and government often fails when that accountability is lost. Accountability works best at the local level in local self-government. That is the strength of our system. Local self-governance is the cornerstone of democracy and our national strength lies in the unity of our diverse communities each with their own interests.
This foundational tradition is under threat this week, however, from a bill that is facing one last vote of the California State Assembly before going to the Governor if it passes. SB 1387 is a proposal that would significantly undermine the principles of local control and accountability in our state. The bill proposes to add three more state appointees to the Board of Directors of the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) in Southern California, for a new total of six appointees (40% of the Board).This effectively dilutes the influence of local elected officials on the SCAQMD in favor of Sacramento appointed board members, so that Sacramento can more easily impose their agenda on Southern California residents.
SB 1387 has the potential to threaten the local authority throughout our state. That is why I, as a city council member and Mayor from the northern part of the state, am speaking up on a Southern California issue. If passed, Sacramento Leadership could someday overrule decisions made by other important local government agencies like water districts, transportation authorities, school districts and many others – including those here in our county. These agencies typically have boards that are either directly elected or made up of local elected officials who are accountable to the people. SB 1387 sets a bad precedent by allowing the state to veto decisions made by these locally elected and accountable officials.
As is true of many of these agency boards throughout California, SCAQMD has been successful in performing its job. In the past 20 years SCAQMD has made tremendous progress with improving air quality for all in the South Coast Air Basin. That’s exactly the kind of result the people of California should expect from their local elected officials – effective government that balances local needs with statewide goals. Sacramento Leadership is being very disrespectful of local residents by sending a message that they no longer trust the great mayors, city council members and county supervisors of our state to make decisions that benefit their own cities and communities.
There is just no need for this bill. It sets a dangerous precedent by undermining the authority of local elected officials across our state, in addition to disrespecting the long years of hard work and investment in our communities put in by the good people who make our government work. I simply do not believe we should give more power to unaccountable Sacramento, especially when our local boards have a proven record of accountability and effective results.
It is my great privilege to be the mayor of a community reinventing city life. But I want no part of the reinvention the authors of this bill have in mind. Cities are vital to the strength of the California economy and the vitality of cities is dependent upon their fiscal stability and local autonomy.
I strongly encourage the State Assembly to vote “NO” on SB 1387 and protect local control, self-governance and government accountability for all our California communities.