The State Fair Political Practices Commission has just opened a new investigation of whether or not another set of Bay Area public agencies illegally used public resources for political purposes. This time the State’s action is directed at MTC, BATA and AC Transit for their behavior during last year’s Regional Measure 3 campaign. (Unless RM3 is struck down by the Courts, assorted Bay Area agencies will soon begin spending most of the $4.45 billion raised by bridge toll increases on 35 selected transportation projects, a few of which are worthwhile but most of which are either wasteful or counterproductive. The resulting RM3 mishmash would do little to either improve the Region’s currently-disjointed network of trains, buses and ferry boats or reduce highway backups)
Regardless of what the courts decide, the RM3 campaign provides further
substantiation of why so many people in the greater Bay Area no longer trust their local and regional agencies to behave ethically and in the public interest.
Below are few of the ethical and organizational standards that are too often ignored:
o As set forth in the Brown Act, all public decisions, including advance arrangements with assorted private and public stakeholders, should be made in public sessions.
o Initial capital and operating cost estimates should be developed honestly and not “low-balled” so as to suck in funding.
o Alternative Analyses should include all potentially viable alternatives, and the results should be published in an honest and straightforward manner.
o Project financial and scheduling updates should be prompt and consistently accurate. Putting off bad news for months and years is not acceptable.
o Projects and programs that are described and promoted before a vote as regional in nature should in fact be regional in nature.
o Last but not least, public officials should be using public resources solely for public purposes and therefore not out promoting tax-raising ballot measures.
To regain the public trust required to get fair and well thought-out programs through on merit, rather than be obliged to water them down to get votes by the spreading of pork, the offending agencies will need to clean up their acts.