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A good part of my day has me looking to the future, from Smart Cities to Transportation to Water, and I have an informed opinion or two on many of these policy-wonk topics.  Today my focus is on Funding for Transportation.

For years I’ve been saying the gasoline tax is near death and changes in our work habits, thanks to COVID, will likely kill it for good.  What replaces the gas tax is a question vexing policymakers around the planet.

In our state, a recent article in the Los Angeles Times said California only has half the funds needed to complete needed work on our transportation infrastructure.  Even more somber is realizing California’s gas taxes and various charges on gasoline are among the highest in the US, according to Washington DC based Tax Foundation.

Vehicle miles traveled plummeted in the early stages of the COVID shutdown and this meant less gas tax revenue flowing to state and local governments.  This proves the point I’ve been making for years: the 100 year-old gas tax is no longer an adequate funding source for our nation’s infrastructure funding.  The LA Times article points out budgetary problems existed long before the pandemic, but new driving trends post-pandemic will likely increase policy discussions on what innovative approaches might replace the gasoline tax.  Adding to this challenge is the California mandate stating all new vehicle sales will be zero-emission or predominantly electric or hydrogen by 2035 – that’s another sure loser for the doomed gas-tax.

This just is not just a problem for high-gas tax California – the federal government and just about every state is grappling with ways to fund transportation infrastructure.  President Biden’s American Jobs Plan is a start but unfortunately is but a drop in the bucket compared to what’s needed to repair or replace aging bridges, tunnels, highways, runways and other forms of transportation infrastructure that our economy relies on.  And when I say transportation infrastructure, I’m not talking just for bicycles, transit and personal vehicles – a key focus must be on freight and goods movement – our nation’s economy depends on a robust transportation infrastructure for supply chain distribution.

As driving begins to recover in a post-pandemic world, the federal government shows incoming revenues to the Highway Trust Fund are far below expectations. Over 80% of the Highway Trust Fund is generated by the federal gas tax and even with California’s highest gas tax in the nation, it is obvious there is not enough to maintain our transportation infrastructure. 

Data on vehicle miles traveled (VMT) will lag in a post COVID world.  Looking at Department of Energy stats its apparent how long VMT increases lagged after economic downturns such as the recession in 2008 – and now in our current situation, post pandemic, especially with video conferencing such as Zoom or Teams, not everyone will return to the office fulltime or for that matter, resume leisure travel.

What are potential long-term solutions?

California has been trying with a couple of solutions, naming a road user charge or per-mile fee – but progress is slow moving with several pilots underway or completed.  Other states have also been looking into a road-usage charge, led by Oregon which pioneered the effort over a decade ago.  Other solutions might include a carbon tax or increasing the gas tax even further – for some the latter with a goal to price personal transportation so high it will get people out of their cars for good.  The problem with this theory however is you don’t see too many people riding their bikes or taking transit to Costco. 

Once thing is certain, however.  Our nation must increase its investment in our transportation infrastructure.  From railways to urban transit to airports to our highways and local streets.  Until lawmakers and policy makers get serious in finding long-term solutions, our state and nation will continue to fall behind as we compete on the global market.

November 17, 2020

We could spend many hours — or days! — discussing and analyzing local election results. In fact, many of our clients employ us to do just that. For our broader audience of newsletter and blog readers, we’ll offer some abbreviated observations about key local races we’ve been watching.

San Diego City Council

For most of the last 20 years, Democrats have had a majority on the San Diego City Council while a Republican held the Mayor’s office. That will change next month, when Democrats swear in five new Councilmembers and a new Democratic mayor, bringing the Council to an unprecedented 8-1 majority.

Moving into offices at 202 C Street are Mayor-Elect Todd Gloria and Councilmembers-Elect Joe LaCava (District 1), Stephen Whitburn (District 3), Marni Von Wilpert (District 5), Raul Campillo (District 7), and Sean Elo-Rivera (District 9). The one remaining Republican, Councilmember Chris Cate (District 6) terms out in 2022.

Of course, the Mayor and City Council are officially non-partisan, but this is the dawn of a new era at City Hall. Getting to a five-vote majority on City Council will require varying coalitions depending on the issue, but on many issues we can expect to see some sorting between the more business-friendly Democrats on one side and more progressive, organized-labor-backed Democrats on the other.

One big “X” factor is who will be the next Council President. Councilmember Jennifer Campbell (District 2) and Councilmember Monica Montgomery-Steppe (District 4) are both seeking votes from their fellow councilmembers.

San Diego: Coastal Height Limit Modification

San Diego voters in 1972 enacted a 30-foot height limit on all new development in the City’s coastal neighborhoods (loosely defined as everything west of Interstate 5, except Downtown). Turns out, some neighborhoods are a lot more coastal than others. This year, voters approved Measure E, removing the height limit in the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan area, which includes the Sports Arena area and the surrounding sea of strip malls and industrial buildings. Measure E clears the way for large-scale redevelopment of the City-owned Sports Arena property with taller buildings. It also means the broader neighborhood will be a hotspot for new housing and commercial development — and all the political drama that comes with it — for at least the next 20 to 30 years.

San Diego Board of Supervisors

Ten years ago, San Diego County voters approved Proposition B, applying term limits to the County Board of Supervisors. That led to the 2018 retirement of Supervisors Bill Horn (first elected in 1994) and Ron Roberts (first elected in 1994). This year, it led to the retirement of Supervisors Dianne Jacob (first elected in 1992) and Greg Cox (appointed in 1995 and first elected in 1996).

Now, for the first time in decades, the Board will have a 3-2 majority of Democrats to Republicans. Terra Lawson-Remer defeated first-term incumbent Kristin Gaspar in District 3, and Nora Vargas defeated Sen. Ben Hueso for the open seat in District 1. Still unresolved is the race for District 2. As of Tuesday, Sen. Joel Anderson was ahead of Poway Mayor Steve Vaus by just .08 percent, or 259 votes.

 The Board of Supervisors is officially non-partisan, but the new majority of Democrats is expected to make significant changes in many areas, such as real estate development in rural areas, marijuana prohibition, and County health and criminal justice policies.

 A few other San Diego County highlights:

  • In Carlsbad, incumbent Keith Blackburn won re-election to District 2 while newcomer Teresa Acosta won the race for the new District 4 seat.
  • In Oceanside, Councilmember Esther Sanchez won a crowded race for mayor, while appointed Mayor Peter Weiss won a new seat as Councilmember for District 4. Sanchez’s mayoral win creates a vacancy in the District 1 seat, which will likely be filled by appointment in early 2021 to serve the remainder of the term through 2022. Appointed Councilmember Ryan Keim won election to the District 3 seat. Councilmember Jack Feller is retiring after falling short in the mayor’s race.
  • In Vista, incumbent at-large Councilmember Joe Green won election to the new District 2 seat, while incumbent at-large Councilmember Amanda Rigby was defeated by newcomer Katie Melendez for the new District 3 seat.
  • In Chula Vista, Councilmember Steve Padilla was re-elected to Council District 3, while newcomer Andrea Cardenas defeated incumbent Councilmember Mike Diaz in District 4.

 Some Riverside County highlights:

  • In Palm Springs, incumbent Councilmember Lisa Middleton was elected to the District 5 seat, while incumbent Councilmember Christy Gilbert Holstege was elected to the District 4 seat.
  • In Palm Desert, newcomer Karina Quintanilla defeated incumbent Susan Marie Weber for the new District 1 seat. Incumbents Gina Nestande and Kathleen Kelly were elected to two new seats in District 2. (Palm Desert’s District 2 includes four of the five City Council seats – the other two seats in District 2 will be elected in 2022.)
  • In La Quinta, all incumbents won re-election, including Mayor Linda Evans and Councilmembers Steve Sanchez and Kathleen Fitzpatrick.
  • In Cathedral City, appointed Councilmember Rita Lamb won election to the District 1 seat, while newcomer Nancy Ross won election to the open District 2 seat.
  • Murrieta City Councilmember Kelly Seyarto won the race for Assembly District 67, formerly held by Melissa Melendez, who vacated the office after winning a special election for Senate District 28 last May. The Senate seat was formerly held by Jeff Stone, who retired in 2019 to take a job in the Trump administration.

Orange County Board of Supervisors

Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in the 48th Congressional District, beating first-term incumbent Harley Rouda. Steel will be one of the first Korean-American women to serve in Congress (joined by Young Kim, also of Orange County, and Marilyn Strickland of Tacoma, Washington).

 Steel’s election to Congress creates a vacancy in District 2 on the Board of Supervisors that must be filled by special election within the next few months. That may be good news for state Sen. John Moorlach, who was defeated by challenger Dave Min for the 37th Senate District seat. Moorlach is now openly mulling a run in the special election for the Board of Supervisors District 2. Costa Mesa Mayor Kristina Foley is also rumored to be interested.

Anaheim City Council

An effort to upset the City Council’s business-friendly majority fell short as incumbent Councilmember Steve Faessel was re-elected to the District 5 seat while incumbent Councilmember Denise Barnes, a lifelong Republican who recently switched to the Democratic Party, was defeated by newcomer Jose Diaz in District 1. Newcomer Avelino Valencia won the race for the open District 4 seat.

Local cannabis measures

Cities across California are still figuring things out after the 2016 passage of Prop 64, which legalized recreational marijuana statewide but allowed cities to maintain local bans or limits. Here’s a quick summary of how the issue fared in some key Southern California cities: 

  • In Costa Mesa, voters approved Measure Q, authorizing the City Council to adopt regulations permitting retail storefront and delivery businesses and impose a tax of four to seven percent on gross receipts.
  • In La Habra, voters approved Measure W to allow permits for up to four delivery businesses and authorizing the City Council to impose a tax of up to 6 percent.
  • In Laguna Woods, voters appear to have narrowly approved Measure V, an advisory measure encouraging City officials to regulate cannabis businesses.
  • In Oceanside, voters approved Measure M, authorizing the City Council to impose taxes up to 6 percent on cultivators, retailers, manufacturers and distributors.
  • In Encinitas, voters approved Measure H, a citizen initiative legalizing cultivation, manufacturing, distribution and retail businesses in certain zones.
  • In Solana Beach, voters defeated Measure S, a voter initiative that would have legalized cultivation and retail businesses.
  • In Lemon Grove, voters approved Measure J, authorizing the City Council to impose tax up to 8 percent on all cannabis businesses. The measure’s success is likely to lead to the City Council opening the door to recreational retailers.
  • In Banning, voters approved Measure L, legalizing cannabis distribution businesses and imposing a 10 percent general tax on cannabis distribution. (Note that distribution is distinct from retail sales, cultivation and manufacturing, which were already legal in Banning.)

October 21, 2020

We are thrilled to share that our strategic partner Dr. Nishal Mohan has been recognized by the Federal Communications Commission for his work to promote digital equity in the United States. The FCC’s Digital Opportunity Equity Recognition is an honor that recognizes the work of Americans to close the digital divide in underserved communities by increasing access to affordable, reliable broadband internet. Nishal has amplified the need for digital equity and inclusion through his non-profit, mohuman, which is working to help families that have struggled to adopt and afford online services that have become more important than ever. Nishal has been instrumental in building Connected Communities Collaborative and led program development for our first CityLaunch conference in 2019.

March 18, 2020

Coronavirus is on all our minds these days, with the countless challenges that we face at every level of society, including our homes and families.

While there are many uncertainties, I want to assure you that the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies are doing everything possible to address this complex situation, from following health and safety protocols to ensuring the continued operation of the water treatment and delivery system regardless of the challenges.

Public water supplies in the San Diego region remain safe to drink due to robust standard treatment processes by local and regional water providers. Drinking water provided by the Water Authority and its member agencies is treated by a combination of technologies – including sedimentation, filtration and disinfection – that chemically deactivate and physically remove bacteria, viruses and other contaminants. The U.S. EPA recommends that Americans continue to use and drink tap water as usual.

October 1, 2019

Jim Madaffer is a past president of the League and a former member of the California Transportation Commission; he can be reached at [email protected]

We are on the brink of a revolution in transportation that encompasses self-driving cars, autonomous shuttles, transportation as a service and zero-emission vehicles.

Autonomous vehicles are being tested on our streets, auto manufacturers are aggressively pursuing electric vehicle lineups and California has set the nation’s most ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.

Our cities will look much different in the not-too-distant future. Some of these changes are being driven by millennials, who make up America’s largest living generation.

According to the data analytics company Nielsen, a majority of millennials “are opting to live in urban areas over the suburbs or rural communities. Sixty-two percent indicate they prefer to live in the type of mixed-use communities found in urban centers, where they can be close to shops, restaurants and offices.” And because they favor urban living, they are less likely to own a car. Vehicle ownership rates among millennials is declining, from 73 percent in 2007 to 66 percent in 2011.

The changes underway in transportation technology are transforming the driving experience and disrupting the $2 trillion global auto industry. Some auto manufacturers have signaled a willingness to stop selling cars in the future and instead sell transportation as a service. Car dealerships — and the sales tax revenue from them — could disappear.

Technology and autonomous vehicles will bring new options for transportation. Transit as we know it today, except for fixed rail and mainline corridors, could become a vanishing mode.

Read More | Downloadable PDF

April 24, 2019

MISAC recently co-sponsored City Launch 2019, a three-day conference presented by Connected Communities Collaborative. The conference, held in San Diego, focused on “Smart Communities.” Greg Duecker,Director of Administration, Western Municipal Water District (WMWD) in Riverside California attended the conference representing MISAC and he filed the report below upon his return. Opinions in this piece are his own, and may not reflect those of WMWD.

What “Smart Cities” Means to a Special District
By Greg Duecker
Local government communities around the world have packaged some of their innovation, technology, education, and community engagement initiatives into frameworks called “Smart City”, “Smart Community”, or even “Smart Region” as far back as the 1990’s. However, innovation in cities actually goes back as long as there have been cities, usually with the most innovative cities being the most successful (such as aqueducts allowing the growth of ancient Rome).
“The concept of Smart Cities is not new, it is just new to us” (Bob Bennett, CIO, City of Kansas City).

March 20, 2019

Jim Madaffer sat down with the Western Riverside Council of Governments for their bi-weekly podcast series (COGCast) to talk about smart cities, connected communities and transportation technology.

As a former member of the California Transportation Commission, Jim brings a futuristic look to the world of transportation, goods movement, supply chain and more.

“There’s no question we are in a period of change today unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” Jim says. “Transportation, artificial intelligence, and wireless technology are some areas where we’re going to see rapid change and they’re going to affect how we govern, quality of life and how we operate day to day.”

With the right technology, smart cities can improve everything from public safety, citizen engagement, economic development, transportation, and more at a lower cost.

“Cities need to have a plan, and every city is different,” he says. “Cities need to start thinking about what outcomes they want to achieve, how to prioritize these items in a constrained environment, and who’s responsible for various activities. Cities that plan this way are truly on their way to becoming a smart and connected community.”

Smart cities also support:

– Bridging the digital divide
– Cybersecurity
– Public safety
– Social mobility
– Economic development
– Autonomous transportation
– Education and workforce development
– Improving environmental impact
– Sustainability


“We’ve worked with cities that didn’t have a plan, and now they do, and it’s ingrained in the way they do business day in and day out,” Jim says. “The region should band together and bring all smart city plans under one roof and think about what they can do to make Western Riverside the most connected and smart community possible. The vision is to figure out what can do where we’re all rowing in the same direction.”

COGCast is a bi-weekly podcast series featuring a variety of topics and issues relevant to the western Riverside subregion in 20-minute episodes. Every episode provides an opportunity for listeners to learn about agencies, programs, and/or issues impacting quality of life in the western Riverside region.

Click here or the button below to listen to the full episode.

March 1, 2019

In his capacity as the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) Board Chair, Jim Madaffer led more than a dozen coffee takeovers last month as part of the Brought to You by Water campaign.

The water authority collaborated with local roaster Café Moto to select and roast a special blend as tribute to the importance of safe and reliable water supplies for the San Diego region. During the coffee takeovers, Madaffer shared samples and invited attendees to enter the Water Authority’s photo contest.

The SDCWA Board of Directors declared February as San Diego Brewing Month, in recognition of the significant benefits generated by the craft brewing industry and local coffee industry to the economic and quality of across the county.

Madaffer presented at several local organizations, including the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis Club of Tierrasanta, San Diego Regional Economic Development Council, San Diego Brewer’s Guild, San Diego Tourism Authority, San Diego Taxpayers Association and the Downtown San Diego Partnership.

February 15, 2019

What will our cities be like 10, 20, or 50 years from now? Considering the technological sea change we’ve experienced over the last decade, how will city leaders best manage the future? How will cities harness the power of innovation to improve quality of life?

Jim Madaffer moderated a panel on the future of cities during the League of California Cities 2019 City Managers Conference in San Diego on February 14.

The panel featured Southern California city officials, including Chula Vista City Manager Gary Halbert; Pismo Beach City Manager Jim Lewis; and John Keisler, Director of Economic Development at the City of Long Beach.

During the session, panelists shared perspectives on planning for the future, capturing and analyzing data, and building the appropriate technology infrastructure to achieve goals.

September 11, 2018

Are you a local government official attending the League of California Cities Annual Conference this week in Long Beach? This year’s conference features several interesting sessions on smart city strategies, technology and local government innovation. Check out our top picks and plan your day accordingly!

If you’re not attending this year’s conference, don’t worry – Madaffer Enterprises is working with League staff to put together a webinar on smart city strategic planning and the importance of creating prioritized roadmaps for civic technology transformation. Keep an eye out for an announcement with more details on our webinar later this month.

September 5, 2018

San Diego-based public affairs firm Madaffer Enterprises announced today that Anaheim Councilmember Kris Murray has joined its growing team of public affairs consulting professionals.

August 10, 2018

As dockless vehicles continue to proliferatecities across the U.S. continue to struggle with how to govern this new model of two-wheeled transportation. 

August 2, 2018

Research shows that Aug. 2 is the deadliest driving day of the year.

June 22, 2018

Communities can expect a rapid change in transportation in the near future. This will affect how we build, rebuild, and fund transportation.

May 31, 2018

Wireless connectivity is an issue currently confronting cities across the country. This isn’t something that is going to happen in ten years, but rather a revolution that is going on right now. No one could have predicted wireless to explode the way it has.

March 28, 2018

After the City of Atlanta’s computers were held for ransom in a cyberattack last month, many city governments are wondering if they face a similar risk of essentially being held hostage by profit-seeking hackers.

March 16, 2018
The sudden proliferation of dockless bicycles and scooters — from companies such as LimeBike, Ofo, Mobike and Bird — has taken San Diego by surprise, leading to excitement, confusion, frustration, and joy.
March 2, 2018
In his capacity as a member of the California Transportation Commission, Jim Madaffer moderated a panel on the future of autonomous vehicles during the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Leadership Delegation to Sacramento.
June 15, 2017
If you’re a resident of San Diego County, it’s likely you’ve been overcharged for water by the LA-based Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD). Jim appeared on NBC San Diego’s Politically Speaking in summer 2017 to shed light on the overcharges and reckless practices of MWD.
May 23, 2016

Governments will need to modernize the way they raise money for transportation infrastructure in the 21st century.

October 26, 2015
Carrying a personal automated external defibrillator (AED) in the trunk of his car for 13 years finally came in handy when Jim Madaffer used it to save a man’s life.
February 17, 2015
Today, Jim was interviewed on KPBS for a piece called “California Committee Explores Road Usage Charge in Place of Gas Tax.” Why are the tax revenues that fund road repairs shrinking? What is California going to do about it? Is this a problem in other states, too?
February 7, 2015
By Jim Madaffer
The gasoline tax is archaic and no longer works. Replacing the gas tax with something more equitable — perhaps a tax based on vehicle weight and miles driven — needs to be considered.California has a serious problem. Our existing method of funding maintenance, repair and construction of our roadways cannot meet current or future demand.
February 1, 2015
By Jim Madaffer
Sudden Cardiac Arrest. Read the daily news and you will recognize these three words. Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) kills an estimated 7 million worldwide and 460,000 people in the United States each year, according to the American Heart Association.
September 15, 2014
By Jim Madaffer
This sign should be plastered all over Washington, D.C., as lawmakers return from summer break. Congress has had the past five weeks to visit their homes and travel on America’s crumbling highway system.It is time for lawmakers to craft a long-term solution which includes multiple funding sources for transportation infrastructure, rather than relying on just one pot of money.
September 12, 2014
By Jim Madaffer
Years ago when the city of San Diego attempted to implement a water purification program, fear mongers were loud. The unfavorable “toilet to tap” term was coined and the City Council chose to halt the project.
That was in the 1990s and San Diego has since moved forward with its Pure Water Program.
September 5, 2014
By Jim Madaffer
“Serious drought. Help save water.”
We see lit-up signs with these five words everywhere in California. More importantly, we feel the effects of this “serious” drought and mandatory water restrictions that have come with the problem.
August 19, 2014
By Jim Madaffer
Uber, Rideshare and Lyft are filling a void the taxi industry has left wide open – that of consumer choice.
These services are all part of the growing “sharing economy,” a socioeconomic system built around the sharing of human and physical resources. They’ve caught onto the way to do business in the 21st century.
August 2, 2014
By Jim Madaffer
Chevron, eBay and Toyota are just three companies that have left California for Texas, taking hundreds of jobs with them. Headlines are chock-full of many other companies looking to the Lone Star State.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
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