By Jim Miller
In weeks past, I have shared this space with colleagues from labor and the Climate Action Campaign, the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, the Sierra Club and SD 350, as well as the Environmental Health Coalition, all making the case against Measure A. This week, I am pleased to present the final guest column, this one from Mid-City CAN, yet another of the many labor, environmental, and community allies who are part of the Quality of Life Coalition opposing Measure A.
Deceitful and Deceptive: Why We Aren’t Buying Measure A
A letter from Mid-City CAN’s Improving Transportation in City Heights Team
For four years our team poured its heart and soul into transportation justice, fighting to ensure all of San Diego’s children have the opportunity to access internships, jobs, and school regardless of their parents’ income. We tried to work with SANDAG through the crafting of Measure A. We attended meetings, dialed in to community teleconferences, and called upon SANDAG to craft a healthier, environmentally responsible, and more inclusive vision of the future that San Diegans deserve. However, we quickly learned SANDAG was not as interested in hearing from the public as they were in polling numbers and the appearance that the community was heard.
The detrimental effects that Measure A will have on our communities is heavily documented, so we will focus only on what we believe is the most troublesome aspect of Measure A: the deceptive tactics used to sell this harmful measure.
Case in point: Measure A’s grandiose title makes claims of traffic relief, road repairs, and water quality improvement, but as these claims are tested they fall apart at the seams.
First, studies show that the Measure A transportation plan will not reduce traffic times at all, as the measure suggests. Second, a court ruled that Measure A’s water quality claims (claims made in Measure A’s ballot argument and in its title) were misleading and, as a result, ordered changes. Third, road repairs, specifically pothole repairs, have been promised to San Diegans for years.
Yet, here we are in 2016, twelve years after a sales tax hike which promised to use funds for road improvements just like potholes, but apparently did not prioritize this problem despite public demand. Perhaps, SANDAG wanted to wait until it was politically convenient to focus on repairing potholes.
Nonetheless, Measure A’s loose relationship with the truth did not become personal to us until SANDAG used Youth Opportunity Passes (YOPs) as a selling point for this measure.
To give some background, YOPs, no-cost transportation passes for youth, came about after school busing was severely cut in the years leading up to 2012. The grandmothers and mothers of City Heights worried about their children getting to school safely. These cuts directly affected hundreds of students in City Heights and countless more across the state. San Diego families faced increasing financial burdens to pay for their children’s transportation and children were forced to walk longer distances later in the day. Studies conducted by the Global Action Research Center (Global Arc), confirmed what these residents already knew, transportation insecurity was adversely impacting the health of their children.
One of our members, Roberto Torres, explains what these passes mean to him:
I am part of the Mid-City CAN’s “Improving Transportation in City Heights” (ITCH) Momentum Team, a group dedicated to improving transportation options for children in City Heights and throughout San Diego County. As a high school student, public transportation was my only mode of transportation. With that came freedom and independence, no longer having to rely on my parents to get around. I was able to volunteer at local events, canyon cleanups, community renovation projects, and even Rotary Club meetings with my Interact Club. Those events allowed me to develop a relationship with my community and a desire to give back, which is why I am involved with ITCH today.
This newfound independence also gave me the opportunity to achieve some of my greatest dreams. I am able to attend college, while still taking care of my family at home. I also got a job in accounting, something that I would not have been able to do if I limited my job search to the area where I live.
However, I am one of the lucky ones. Many students in my position are barred from accessing public transportation due to burdensome cost. This is why I advocate for YOP so that other children have the job opportunities, community-building opportunities, and hope for economic progress that I had.
Not only does Roberto’s story highlight the necessity for YOPs, but it adds context to the greater problem with Measure A’s sales pitch of YOPs. Measure A does not guarantee one dollar for YOPs or other policies and programs in this measure. To put it simply, many of these programs may never see the light of day, at least with Measure A money. Yet, because they poll so well, Measure A supporters use YOPs as a selling point, they even included reduced transit fares for students in their ballot argument.
Common sense tells us a ballot argument should include the best a measure has to offer. If shaky promises of reducing transit fares for students and senior citizens is the best Measure A has to offer, San Diego families should say No Way to Measure A in November.
The deceitful claims and tactics described above highlight the greater problem with Measure A; it cannot be trusted. Albert Einstein once said, “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” If SANDAG and their cronies were careless with the truth when they named Measure A, “San Diego County Road Repair, Transit, Traffic Relief, Safety and Water Quality,” can they be trusted with the responsibility of managing $18 billion of our dollars for the next 40 years?