And just because they are immersed in the work of saving the world through exciting new trends in planning doesn't mean that they can't monitor the office tennis courts as well. When ones world view is as all-encompassing there is little that escapes your attention. So does that now include what your counterparts in other regions are making? This from San Diego's North County Times:
SANDAG exec's raise OK'd despite debate - Gary Gallegos, the head of the region's publicly funded planning agency, was rewarded Friday with a contract extension that will boost his $240,000 salary by $50,000 over the next five years ... The deal was approved 14-5 by the San Diego Association of Governments' board of directors despite strong concerns by some that it was rushed and will damage the agency's public trust.
Metropolitan Planning Organizations such as SANDAG, SCAG, and ABAG live predominantly off of our Federal taxes, with the balance augmented by money from Sacramento. They are most famous for cooking up housing allocation (RHNA) numbers designed to jam development into communities that do not want it. Something that forces cities to spend millions of dollars in scarce local revenue each year attempting to resist these draconian Sacramento and Washington generated demands. Originally conceived as groups that would give communities a voice in regional projects, MPOs have in recent years become little more than policy enforcers for the increasingly empowered central state and federal planning authorities.
So giving a $50,000 raise to the head of SANDAG is no small thing in some concerned circles. And their considerations were boldly stated at this meeting, and in no uncertain terms.
Still, several directors said without more review of Gallego's total compensation, they couldn't favor the new deal. No information was provided in an agency staff report about his benefits or the compensation of other top planning executives in California.
"This really indicates to the public that we don't give a damn what they think," Art Madrid, a long-serving SANDAG director and mayor of La Mesa, told his fellow leaders just before the vote held at SANDAG's downtown San Diego headquarters. "The reality is we're going to be losing credibility with the public. This is not the way you run an organization."
Mayor Madrid does have a point. Using tax payer money to give a raise to the head of a planning bureaucracy whose purpose and performance is something few are really all that crazy about, and during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, could be a problem for some.
And while the staff at SANDAG couldn't find it in themselves to do any research into what other MPO heads might be pulling down, North County's reporter for this story, Chris Nichols, made the calls and brought home the story.
A phone survey Friday found the heads of the Los Angeles-based Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and the Oakland-based Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) each make less annually than Gallegos does now, at $229,192 and $210,000 respectively. SCAG touts itself as the nation's largest metropolitan planning organization and covers six counties, including Los Angeles. ABAG covers nine counties, but has a more limited planning role than Gallego's agency, conducting only land use planning, its spokeswoman said.
So there you have it. As of this week the new president of ABAG will be the 16 year Mayor of Union City, Mark Green. His third place standing in the great MPO salary race must have come as an unpleasant surprise to this newest of the big three MPO heads.
And the President of SCAG is none other than our good friend and City Hall podium pounder Mr. John Edney. Now last December 5th we posted a laudatory article here on Susan Henderson's favorite blog The Tattler called "SCAG President Jon Edney Is Our Compass to the Future." In this article his many accomplishments were pointed to, including his work as a City Councilman in the troubled desert oasis known as El Centro. And that he has found so much busy work for our Joe Mosca there at SCAG is a good thing as well. Anything to keep him off the streets.
It will be interesting to see how Jon Edney reacts to this unpleasant news out of SANDAG. Hopefully it won't cost us too much.