Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher has unveiled the details of her plan to reform SANDAG.

But her bill, AB 805, wouldn’t just make changes at the regional planning agency that’s embroiled in a scandal. Voice of San Diego revealed the agency asked the public for a tax increase and wildly overestimated how much money it would bring in – even though the agency knew about the numbers long before it disclosed them to the public.

Gonzalez Fletcher’s bill would also make San Diego’s mayor far more powerful, as I wrote in a new story Friday.

The bill would make the mayors of the county’s two largest cities – San Diego and Chula Vista – the chair and vice-chair of SANDAG. They would alternate the roles. It would also make San Diego’s mayor the chair of the Metropolitan Transit System, the region’s largest transit operator.

That’s in addition to bringing in a new independent auditor for the agency, allowing MTS to levy its own taxes and changing the voting structure at the agency to give more sway to the county’s largest cities, instead of giving each city on the board a vote of the same weight.

“What’s been happening hasn’t produced a result that anyone who cares about transportation funding can be happy with,” Gonzalez Fletcher said.

Sacramento Report: Lawmakers Go Another Round With Human Trafficking

Lawmakers last year passed a slew of new laws to combat human trafficking – and the bills floating around the Capitol this year show they aren’t done taking on the problem yet.

As Sara Libby covers in this week’s Sacramento Report, San Diego legislators have five bills looking to combat human trafficking.

State Sen. Toni Atkins has bills that would create a foster family placement system for child victims, a bill that would let prosecutors treat offenders’ records the way they treat other sex crimes and another that would require hotel and motel employees to undergo training to identify signs of the crime.

Gonzalez Fletcher has a bill that would make it easier for victims to recover lost income from the state. And Assemblyman Brian Maienschein has a bill that would let victims and prosecutors to sue both Johns and pimps in civil court for up to $10,000 per unlawful act.

In other Sacramento news, a Riverside lawmaker is looking to close a particular popular loophole in the state’s landmark environmental law, and we’ve got more details on Gonzalez Fletcher’s SANDAG bill.

Reining in the Mid-Coast Trolley’s Rapidly Escalating Price Tag

One project SANDAG expects to finish in the next few years is a trolley extension from Old Town to UTC, mostly along the Morena Boulevard corridor. It’s called the Mid-Coast extension.

But that 11-mile project is now estimated to cost over $2 billion— up from estimates of $1.2 billion just seven years ago. At its current ridership estimates, that would come down to spending about $60,000 per weekday rider by 2030; a recent rail line in L.A. would cost about $40,000 per rider by the same time.

In a new story, transit writer Alon Levy proposes a way to rein in those costs: a German invention called a tram-train. It would use light-rail vehicles but run them on existing mainline rail tracks (like the Coaster) so SANDAG wouldn’t need to build a new rail line along much of the trolley route.

Earlier this week, I also wrote about the city’s plans to increase development along the route to take advantage of the transit investment – a plan that’s already facing stiff opposition from area residents.

VOSD Podcast: Vacation Rentals Are Now Illegal in San Diego

City Attorney Mara Elliott came out this week with an unequivocal change to the city’s interpretation of its own laws: whole-home short-term vacation rentals are illegal.

Councilman Chris Cate, who for a few years has been pushing a city proposal to maintain such rentals while addressing some of the community’s concerns with them, joined me and Scott Lewis on the podcast this week to share his reaction to the news. Elliott said she was too busy to make it on the show.

Gonzalez Fletcher also joined the show to share her motivation for proposing such drastic SANDAG reforms, and what she hopes to accomplish with her specific proposals.

Opinion: How the Public Can Get Some Answers on SoccerCity

San Diego residents will soon be asked – and asked again, and again – to sign a petition that could eventually greenlight development of Qualcomm Stadium into homes, a river park, office space and a smaller stadium that could house an MLS expansion team.

Once the investors behind the project have enough signatures, it’ll go to the City Council, which could approve it outright.

In a new op-ed, Kim John Kilkenny – former chair of San Diego’s downtown redevelopment agency – argues that it’s crucial the public understands the deal now, because it might not get another chance to weigh in.

Kilkenny is savvy and experienced in development, and he says he still has a lot of questions on the deal. That’s after spending an hour and a half asking the developers questions.

He’s got a proposal. Someone should create an online forum for developers to answer questions (he starts with 54 of them), the city should start holding public workshops, the mayor should direct the city to launch its own project analysis and the city should draft what would become the long-term lease now, before anything is approved.

In Other News

A federal jury ruled Friday that a San Diego officer’s use of force was reasonable when he shot and killed Victor Ortega, a domestic violence suspect, during a struggle in Mira Mesa in 2012. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

In a story for us two years ago, Kelly Davis covered how a federal judge had expressed doubt about the officer’s official story about how the struggle played out and why deadly force was needed.

State officials think lobbyists for a division of Sempra Energy may have broken the law when they met with San Diego elected officials over community choice energy – a program that would give the city the power to buy the energy we all use in our homes. The idea is that city officials could then choose to buy more renewable energy than SDG&E would, lowering the city’s carbon footprint. (KPBS)

Earlier this month, Ry Rivard dove in with an explainer on how the system is meant to work, what some of its critics think might be a problem and how the fight to get it approved is playing out.

County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar, unlike her fellow supervisors, voted against giving herself a $19,000 raise earlier this year. But that won’t stop her from taking the raise now that it’s been approved, as the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Jeff McDonald reports.

Andrew Keatts is a former managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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