I’ll geek out for a minute here — regional governance reform is one of my passions, and something I’ve spent a lot of time working on. Campbell and South Bay residents intuitively understand why regional governance is important — you can drive down one street and in minutes go from Campbell, to San Jose, to Santa Clara, to unincorporated regions that aren’t managed by any city government at all. If you didn’t have a map or know your city boundaries, you’d never know you had crossed from one jurisdiction into another.
That's because the South Bay is really one mega-region, with the lines between jurisdictions, in practice, very much blurred. Yet cities all too often govern in silos, making distinct decisions within their boundaries when their plans can be turned upside down by another city making different decisions just across the street.
If we could go back in time, local governance would surely be simpler if we could have one mega-city, making it easy to implement smart land-use and transportation decisions. But that’s not the case. Issues like traffic, housing, and homelessness don’t recognize city borders, which is why it’s so important to think regionally in order to make effective policy decisions. At the same time, we already have an alphabet soup of regional agencies, little known to the public and in many cases underutilized — CASCC, ABAG, ALUC, LAFCO, MTC, VTA, OAC, and more. The answer isn’t more meetings or duplicative organizations, but in making more effective use of existing agencies as well as building and institutionalizing new partnerships at all levels of government.
In recent years, these regional bodies have been the vehicle for passing important agreements such as the CASA Compact, a commitment to coordinating and improving housing policy. These types of regional agreements, along with efforts in partnership with the State Legislature represent the future of policymaking in the Bay Area. That’s why as a Councilmember, I’ll be committed to drawing upon my relationships to build on these agreements.
My passion for effective regional governance is why I’ve been able to earn so many endorsements from the Campbell and West Valley community as well as from around the Bay Area. Working with partners like these will be essential to governing effectively as a region:
All too often, the small cities in the West Valley region — commonly defined as Campbell, Cupertino, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, and Saratoga — are overlooked in important regional decisions. Campbell lacks a voice on many important regional issues such as transportation policy. On occasion, these cities have come together on an ad hoc basis, such as to implement the Reach Your Destination Easily (RYDE) regional transportation program.
I will work to strengthen, formalize, and institutionalize these relationships to find areas of collaboration on regional issues like transportation, homelessness, and housing policy. A coalition like this one would strengthen our ability to advocate on important issues at other bodies such as ABAG, MTC, and VTA.
One of the most important relationships is between cities and counties. I will host regular meetings and events with County officials, including Supervisors and staff members, to highlight areas of collaboration — from new funding opportunities open to small cities, to making greater use of funds to address homelessness, to advocating with a unified voice on regional public transit policy.
Some of our regional bodies, such as Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), may require reform at an institutional level. In these cases, only the California State Legislature has the power to step in and pass policy to reform regional agencies. In other cases, the State Legislature may be responsible for public policy efforts that affect the region as a whole, as in the case of FASTER Bay Area which was introduced as a bill by Senator Jim Beall.
As in the case of FASTER Bay Area, regional community groups, such as Silicon Valley Leadership Group, played an important role in convening regional meetings. By working closely with our legislative delegation, I will help lead on other important regional reform efforts.
Regional governance bodies such as the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), which previously duplicated some responsibilities, have in recent years worked more closely together. This is an important step toward reducing redundancy and increasing the efficiency of these bodies, but more can be done. Other regional bodies, such as the Alameda County Mayors’ Conference, which holds monthly meetings, offer a blueprint.
These meetings, in addition to being a platform for collaboration on policy issues for mayors and city staff, are also social events which rotate among a different host city every month, with mayors hosting the Conference and showcasing their city (as opposed to other regional meetings which are generally held in the same place). They are also open to the public.
This model helps build stronger relationships, as well as showcases smaller cities which otherwise have a tendency to be left out of the conversation. They also increase transparency and accountability by being open to the public and press, who are free to join for a meal to discuss policy with their region’s mayors.
There are two distinct problems with regard to our neighbors further north. One, just like our West Valley cities, small North County cities are often marginalized on regional bodies. Our West Valley coalition can build relationships with these cities to give small cities in Santa Clara County a unified voice.
Secondly, many regional bodies stop at the borders of our County, yet regional issues such as traffic and public transportation are also heavily dependent on what happens on the Peninsula which stretches from North County up to San Mateo County. Yet our region has the highest amount of “super commuters” in the country, with the highest share of trans-county commuters going from Santa Clara to San Mateo County. That’s why collaborating with these cities and with the County of San Mateo is essential to addressing issues such as traffic and public transit.