MTC and ABAG have vast unrepresentative powers to control Bay Area future

MTC and ABAG have vast powers to regulate transportation matters and alter housing patterns. Yet not one member of MTC’s or ABAG’s board of directors has ever been elected by popular vote of the people. Is this democracy?

A famous American once wrote that a governmental entity “has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.” That writer could have been speaking about two San Francisco Bay Area regional governmental agencies: the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG).

On July 18-19, 2013, MTC and ABAG, at a joint meeting in Oakland, voted to adopt Plan Bay Area, a scheme to reduce the use of motor vehicles and attract people to high-rise, high-density (stack-and-pack) housing.

The chairperson of MTC is Amy Worth. Worth was not elected to her MTC position. Worth was elected by popular vote to her seat on the Orinda City Council.

Similarly, Julie Pierce, the current president of ABAG, was not elected directly to her ABAG job. Pierce is an elected member of the Clayton City Council. Contra Costa Supervisor John Gioia also sits on ABAG and chairs its finance and personnel committee.

ABAG bay area planning directorsAccording to Bay Area Citizens, an environmental group based in Lafayette, California, Plan Bay Area mandates “that 80% of all new Bay Area housing units over the next 30 years be high-density, transit-oriented developments in crowded urban and suburban city centers.” The Bay Area Citizens comments are contained in a press release dated May 9, 2014.

In its press release, Bay Area Citizens states that Plan Bay Area mandates “that 80% of all new Bay Area housing units over the next 30 years be high-density, transit-oriented developments in crowded urban and suburban city centers.”

Bay Area Citizens is suing MTC and ABAG. A trial date has been scheduled for Thursday, June 12, 2014, at the Rene C. Davidson (Alameda County) Courthouse at 1:30 P.M.

In a May 9, 2014, press release, Bay Area Citizens says that it is “opposed to corporate and financial interests using the power of regional, state, and federal government agencies to crush cities into submission to achieve uneconomic and unwanted goals and outcomes that the residents would not choose for themselves without this coercion and intimidation.”

ABAG-MTC-urban-sprawlOn March 26, 2014, the Associated Press, in an article about an MTC directive, reported: “San Francisco Area businesses with more than 50 full-time employees are going to have to start offering commuter subsidies as a way of encouraging their workers to use public transportation or other alternatives to driving alone.”

Where does MTC derive the authority to demand that employers with more than 50 full-time employees offer commuter subsidies?

In 2011, MTC’s directors decided to spend $180 million for a new headquarters to be located in San Francisco. The current headquarters is in Oakland. The San Francisco location is expected to open in 2015. In a February 2014 article posted on MTC’s Web site, MTC Chairperson Worth is quoted as saying (after visiting the new San Francisco site): “It’s wonderful to see how it’s transformed from an industrial space to a space that’s great for people. This building has such history.”

On March 24, 2014, the online edition of the San Francisco Chronicle reported MTC will tear down, after seven months of operation, a $9.4 million bicycle pathway for the Bay Bridge.

Bay Area residents have suffered enough of MTC’s and ABAG’s arrogance and abuse. It’s time to abolish both agencies.

And who was that famous American who complained about “a multitude of new offices . . . to harass our people?” He was Thomas Jefferson. His words can be found in the Declaration of Independence.

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