The 12-year feud between Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Mark DeSaulnier and the Bay Area's largest road and transit planning agency shows no signs of letting up.
A Senate committee last week unanimously approved DeSaulnier's emergency bill that bars the Metropolitan Transportation Commission from spending any more money to rehab its new San Francisco digs until the state auditor releases her review of the $93 million transaction.
The Concord senator objects to the commission's use of voter-approved bridge toll money to buy a building larger than what it needs and rely on public and private rent-paying tenants to fill it up.
"All I'm saying is that MTC should wait for the audit," DeSaulnier said. "If (State Auditor Elaine) Howle comes out and says it was creative and wonderful and all the things the commission says it was, then I'll go away. If she says it was too risky, we can address that.
"But the commission is acting like I'm trying to steal their children. They have people up here in Sacramento lobbying against the bill. Their reaction is disproportionate."
Commission Executive Director Steve Heminger is taking a dim -- and lengthy -- view of his adversary's latest salvo.
"With the state's education institutions in tatters, with 25 percent of the state park system closed to visitors, with the state's transportation program failing at the basic task of road maintenance and with California debt bearing the
Ouch. And who said sarcasm is lost in the written word?
DeSaulnier would undoubtedly argue that Heminger is missing the point.
A longtime vocal proponent of regionalism, DeSaulnier has lobbied for enforceable ties between transportation and land-use planning as the key to easing congestion and curbing sprawl. The commission and other regional agencies operate too often as staff-controlled fiefdoms with little public accountability, he said.
It was back in 2000 when DeSaulnier, then a Contra Costa supervisor who was a member of the commission, endorsed an unsuccessful bill by then-Sen. Don Perata, D-Oakland.
It called for the study of a merger between the transportation commission and a cities and counties membership group called the Association of Bay Area Governments.
Two years later, DeSaulnier embraced a merger bill introduced by then-Sen. Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch. The factions eventually compromised and formed a joint policy committee, which still exists.
DeSaulnier picked up the baton in 2008 as a state assemblyman.
He co-sponsored successful legislation that places conditions on the receipt of road and transit dollars on a strategy demonstrating how a region will meet greenhouse gas reductions through land use, housing and transportation planning.
The senator's current bill, SB 878, would initiate an organizational analysis of the transportation commission, Association of Bay Area Governments, Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the Bay Conservation and Development District.
"I think these boards have too much power," DeSaulnier said. "They are staff-driven, and no one in the public knows who they are."
Given the senator's well-known interest in regional governance, commission advocates say DeSaulnier's assault on its San Francisco relocation plan is disingenuous.
On one hand, DeSaulnier preaches regional collaboration.
But when the commission buys a building and invites three regional agencies to move in, he raises a stink.
This is a West Bay vs. East Bay fight disguised as a fiscal watchdog act, they say.
If the commission had bought a building in Oakland, as its Mayor Jean Quan argued it should have, DeSaulnier would not be lamenting the use of toll money, they say.
That may or may not be true. But agree or disagree, let's hope pending opinions from the California legislative counsel's office and the state auditor provide clarity.
GOT POLITICS: Read the Political Blotter at IBAbuzz.com/politics.
AND FINALLY: No fooling -- a survey of five years' worth of data by SeekingArrangement.com, the nation's largest website for sugar daddies and those who want one, says the San Francisco metropolitan area has more wealthy men than anywhere else in the country.
The average Bay Area sugar daddy is worth $5.7 million and spends $3,765 a month on his chosen recipient. However, four out of 10 are married.
As we contemplate this bit of news on April Fool's Day, we should remember that it is one thing to be foolish. It's another thing to be a fool.