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January 20, 2010 > Tri-City mayor elected as ABAG president

Tri-City mayor elected as ABAG president

By Simon Wong

Union City's Mayor Mark Green will serve a two-year term as President of the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) with effect from January 1, 2010.

Green was ABAG's Vice President (VP) in 2008-09 and is the current Chair of ABAG's Regional Planning Committee. He serves on ABAG's Executive Board and on the agency's Administrative Committee, Finance and Personnel Committee and Legislation and Governmental Organization Committee.

He is Chair of the Alameda County Congestion Management Agency and Vice Chair of the Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority and the Bay Area Hazardous Waste Management Facility Allocation Committee. He is a board member of the Alameda County Waste Management Authority and East Bay Economic Development Alliance.

TCV: What is the electoral process for the ABAG presidency?

Green: The Executive Board does not select the President and VP. Candidates for both offices must submit 20 nominations from elected officials in the Bay Area. If there are no other submissions, the candidates are acclaimed for the positions for which they run. If there is a contest, ballots are mailed to the 101 cities and eight of the nine counties in the Bay Area for more than 500 mayors, councilors and county supervisors to vote. San Francisco County is a hybrid and excluded.

Longevity and hard work are factors. I filled Mike Sweeney's Executive Board position in 1994 when he became an Assemblyman. To run immediately for VP or President is not an option. First, these offices alternate between city and county. For 2010-11, Marin County Supervisor Susan Adams and I are VP and President, respectively. During 2008-09, San Mateo County Supervisor Rose Gibson was President and I was VP. Second, the Executive Board has 38 members; this is not a small group. Some may never serve as President or VP because of term limits, losing elections or loss of interest. Some cities have as many as three representatives and some counties only one. Third, being engaged, involved and understanding the issues are essential prerequisites for serious consideration by others.

TCV: What is ABAG and its remit?

Green: It is the official planning agency, founded in 1961 as a council of governments, for the San Francisco Bay region. The nine counties around the Bay and 101 cities are members. ABAG fosters cooperation and coordination among local governments and other regional agencies to tackle social, environmental and economic issues that transcend local jurisdictions.

ABAG has achieved much. It is the lead agency for the Bay Trail (a 500-mile shoreline trail around the Bay), a partner in the restoration and protection of the San Francisco Bay Delta Estuary and has issued more than $7 billion of tax-exempt bonds for over 200 jurisdictions in California. ABAG financing is not necessarily restricted to its members.

The agency is also the regional clearing house for the California Environmental Quality Act, responsible for the Regional Housing Needs Allocation and offers insurance and risk management services to its members for their citizens' benefit.

TCV: What is ABAG's structure?

Green: ABAG's General Assembly has 109 delegates, elected officials from each member city and county. The General Assembly meets in April and October, decides policy, adopts the annual budget and work program and ratifies the Executive Board's policy actions. Each delegate has one vote and a majority is required for action. ABAG has limited statutory authority as an advisory body.

The Executive Board meets bi-monthly to make operating decisions, appoint committee members, authorize expenditures and recommend policy.

The Regional Planning Committee meets bi-monthly to consider issues ranging from hazardous mitigation to sustainable communities to priority development areas and priority conservation areas. Recommendations approved by the Executive Board appear before the General Assembly.

TCV: How is ABAG funded?

Green: About 42 percent comes from the state of California; 14 percent from federal sources; ABAG services generate 22 percent; membership dues account for 6 percent and the remainder comes from various ABAG contracts.

Last October, the Governor vetoed SB 406 (DeSaulnier). The bill would have enabled regions to levy a $2 vehicle registration fee to fund sustainable community strategies, generated around $10M and established a steadier funding source for ABAG, especially for planning purposes. We might revisit the matter this year. ABAG constantly looks for finance.

TCV: What inter-agency relationships does ABAG have?

Green: The Executive Board makes appointments to eight other regional agencies that include the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the Bay Conservation & Development Commission and the Regional Seaport Advisory Committee. ABAG is represented on inter-agency committees, such as the Joint Policy Committee which includes the MTC and Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

SB 375 (Redesigning Communities to Reduce Greenhouse Gases) is one of the most demanding pieces of recent legislation. Coordinating the region's agencies and local jurisdictions is essential to achieve goals such as these.

TCV: How important are consensus among Bay Area cities and counties and their participation in the regional decision-making process?

Green: Very important. I shall take ABAG's regional message into each county. The new decade will demand a higher level of regional cooperation as we try to solve some vexing problems in housing, planning, transportation, the environment and in the economy. All of us should look at the way we do things through a different lens. My first visit was to American Canyon, Napa County on January 14.

When a regional policy-making body exists, it is in members' interests to actively participate so they have a voice in matters affecting not only other jurisdictions but their own. Most people do not live and work in the same city so transportation, for instance, is an issue that crosses multiple city and county limits. Local jurisdictions would do themselves and their constituents a disservice by ignoring regional planning.

At the same time, some cities are perceived as more desirable than others resulting in population shifts. Better school districts, better public safety, cheaper housing... are regional issues, too. To be truly successful, transit-oriented development must also appeal to families and not just to empty-nesters or younger, unmarried people who commute and have busy social lives.

TCV: How realistic is it for cities and counties to attempt to remain "independent" within the region? What are the consequences for such decisions?

Green: No city is independent. None has full control over its financial destiny with the state in the background. The more inwardly a jurisdiction turns, the more harmful it is. Relationships with other agencies wither and such jurisdictions are not perceived as team players. Cities that cooperate and collaborate tend to be rewarded when regional funding is allocated. Understanding this is good for the region.

A city cannot solve all its problems alone. Crime, water, school districts, community college districts, employment, leisure, friends and family... straddle city boundaries.

NIMBY-ism and the mantra "local control" still persist in some quarters. Sometimes the voters are ahead of the elected officials; the success of Avalon Bay in Union City's Station District is its proximity to BART. When BART enters Santa Clara County and Dumbarton Rail runs to San Mateo County, residents can head north, south and west for work and leisure on mass transit. We need to deliver such developments.

Regional solutions, even at county level, are the future. State government is in such poor condition that seeking its help would be problematic. Bridges, associations and friendships across city and county lines will accomplish great things over the next decade.

TCV: Anything else you would like to add?

Green: I should like to have a General Assembly meeting in San Jose, one of the region's major players, and will host February's annual retreat at the Claremont Hotel, ABAG's original home before it moved to 101 8th Street, Oakland.

For more information, visit, call (510) 464-7900 or email

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