SANDAG: To Be or Not To Be?

By Kyle Hermann

On a Friday morning in January, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) Board met to elect their new officers following the 2022 Elections. According to Mayor John Minto of Santee (as reported by KUSI), Mayor Terry Gaasterland was nominated for Vice Chair, then Second Vice Chair, only to be outvoted by the cities holding the weighted vote, which includes San Diego and Chula Vista.

In an interview with KUSI, Mayor Minto asked “when you can have 17 people vote no, and 4 people vote yes, and that wins, how is that democracy? That’s a totalitarian society.” Continuing, “last I checked, we live under a representative form of government. And that’s what I’m there for.” This begs the question then, what form of government is SANDAG? Should it be set up like the US House of Representatives, or like the US Senate? 

From a laymen’s perspective, the weighted vote would make sense. Why should smaller cities like Lemon Grove and La Mesa get the same vote as San Diego or Chula Vista? This would be undemocratic for the citizens of San Diego in the same way it impacts the citizens of Vista. Or, should all the cities have an equal vote, so that SANDAG essentially represents the totality of San Diego County? Or lastly, should the voting system be proportional altogether? 

It seems as if the simplest solution would be the best one in this case. SANDAG should either be entirely equal in its votes (like the Senate), or entirely proportional (like the House). But it can’t be halfway down the middle like it is now. One possible solution could be to take the smallest municipality in the County and make that the lowest common denominator. Based off some quick calculations, that would mean that Coronado (approximately 21,000) would be 1 vote, and San Diego would have 66 votes. There are cities smaller than Coronado, which would make the ratio even higher.

These questions are essential to maintain good governance in San Diego. It is not as black and white as saying that SANDAG is a democracy, because San Diego representatives are the voice for over 1.4 million people, while Lemon Grove is about 20,000. But realizing that the decisions of the SANDAG board are binding and impact the entire County, the city of San Diego should not be able to overrule the other cities, many of which share a border with it.

This is not a partisan issue, people of all political leanings should be interested in fair and excellent representation for the entire San Diego region through our duly elected bodies.


Photo courtesy of Kyle Hermann