Go Along to Get Along

by Livia Borak

It’s no fun to sit in traffic. We’d all prefer to be doing more useful things with those 47 hours a year. Damn the automobile gods! But who’s really to blame for all this congestion!? Pull down your driver’s side visor, look in the mirror and you’ll see clearly the reason for this mess. It’s you.

Your introspective and reflective self should first blame you for being in a car. Your next reprimand is for allowing it to get this bad. The pervasive lack of leadership on transit, coupled with the megastructure of doom we’ve enabled to flourish and squash all semblance of hope for a way out of freeway hell are a result of our bad decisions. Now, this isn’t the pizza man pundit type of self-loathing. It’s about civic engagement. We voted for the people that allowed this to happen (or worse yet, didn’t vote at all), and we have failed to hold them accountable.

Our apathy is bad enough when it affects San Diego County, but it’s much worse when all of California — perhaps even the nation — is watching what happens here to set the stage for addressing climate change through urban planning (SB 375). We’ve set a terrible example by approving a plan to invest over $200 billion in continued urban sprawl, more freeways, and little public transit. This plan, the 2050 Regional Transportation Plan, is SANDAG’s vision for addressing climate change and developing the “sustainable communities” envisioned in SB 375 through a transportation strategy for the next 40 years. It ensures freeway expansion continues to rein supreme, only allocating funds for public transit infrastructure at the back end of the plan. And right on cue, electeds are already pushing freeways even farther up the line.

Since even the Attorney General felt compelled to rip SANDAG a new one, one would perhaps expect a thorough debate and split vote on such an important, contentious plan. But this is San Diego remember? The plan passed 18-1. Even Lemon Grove, the only city in opposition, only voted against the plan because of pre-emption issues. Where was the City of San Diego in this battle? Lined up with everyone else. Lots of leadershipy folks that day.

And we can count on the UT to continue pushing the freeway/developer agenda: “Today’s toddlers, when they turn 40, will still be driving cars, albeit smarter, safer and cleaner cars. You can’t wish that fact away.” We adopt a 40-year plan that sets us up for failure and lacks foresight based on the same freeway-widening ‘build it and they will come’ strategy and the UT editorial board says, get used to it? Even some transit groups have given up on pushing for a real solution. We deserve better.

If sitting in traffic is no one’s dream, why can’t we hold SANDAG accountable for virtually ensuring this reality for everyone by failing to lead us out of the auto-centric system? Is it inherently American to be apathetic? No. Los Angeles gets it, and so should we. We have only ourselves to blame while foreign auto-makers amass more American dollars when we should be investing locally in new technology, and when Jerome Stocks gets rewarded for leading the go alongs, it’ll be our fault. If Stocks gets elected again, I know I’ll be blaming myself too.

“We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate” — Thomas Jefferson

Livia Borak is an attorney at Coast Law Group, LLP in Encinitas where she focuses on a variety of environmental issues representing various non-profit organizations. She’s a former San Diego Coastkeeper staff attorney and member of the third-place CityBeat Trivia night team By Rolland’s Beard. She serves on the board of League of Conservation Voters and is legal advisor to the environmental nonprofit Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation. She makes killer chocolate chip vegan cookies.

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