Editorial: Effort to muzzle SACOG could hurt entire region

Published: Saturday, Apr. 27, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 10A
Last Modified: Friday, May. 17, 2013 - 8:07 pm

When it comes to land use and transportation, there's only one organization that can look out for the Sacramento region's interests, as opposed to those of individual cities and counties. That organization is the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, which is now the focus of an organized effort to limit its influence.

For the last several months, a group called Region Builders – which represents commercial developers – has demanded that the SACOG board adopt a policy preventing its staff, including Executive Director Mike McKeever, from offering opinions on development projects.

Region Builders quietly started this campaign in 2011, but it has gained steam since McKeever, at the invitation of Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna, appeared at a supervisors hearing in January and offered testimony critical of Cordova Hills, an 8,000-home development the supervisors ended up approving.

Two months later, Region Builders delivered a letter to SACOG saying it was "concerned about SACOG's opposition to projects." In April, it called for SACOG staff to provide only technical data to local governments on projects, not opinions or interpretations of that data.

McKeever, it should be noted, was the driver behind SACOG's nationally recognized "Blueprint," a collaborative effort to guide development and transportation in the region. Because of the "buy-in" the Blueprint has received from most localities, SACOG has ended up supporting the vast majority of projects proposed. At a March SACOG meeting, McKeever estimated that he and his staff have opposed only 5 percent of all projects in the region.

Joshua Wood, executive director of Region Builders, says his group's intent is not to undercut the Blueprint. Perhaps so, but you'd have to be naive to think otherwise.

McKeever and SACOG have been under assault for two years, ever since it balked at including Cordova Hills in the Metropolitan Transportation Plan. That assault was led by Dennis Rogers of the Building Industry Association. Wood appears to have picked up the baton from Rogers, who has since gone to work for Roger Niello at the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce.

The SACOG board, made up of local elected officials from around the region, has several newcomers who weren't on the board when the Blueprint was adopted. Regardless, this board should stand solidly behind its staff and reject the Region Builders' proposal for what it is – a brazen effort to muzzle SACOG and gut efforts at smarter regional planning.

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