Ever since AMBAG sacked Executive Director John Doughty in May, rumors have circulated about the dismantling of the entire agency. Now those rumors seem to be confirmed.
AMBAG -- Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments -- is one of those regional agencies that sprung up in the late '60s as a way to encourage regional thinking in government -- especially in the planning of transportation and housing issues.
A new staff report from George Dondero, executive director of the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Agency, shows that planning is under way to pick up the slack of AMBAG's work. The Santa Cruz RTC will discuss the matter at its meeting Thursday.
Here's how Dondero carefully addresses the future of AMBAG:
"The depressed economy since 2008 coupled with some challenging ongoing issues between AMBAG and the member agencies have stimulated discussion around how the members can best meet the challenges ahead. The RTC chair has requested staff to provide information regarding available options to fulfill the functions currently performed by AMBAG."
Later in the report, Dondero does a financial analysis of the financial impact on the RTC in a "post-AMBAG scenario."
The RTC report spells out both the mandated functions of AMBAG and some of the historical functions. They include:
1. Implement state housing needs and guidelines. This is a controversial function -- and agencies within Santa Cruz County have often balked at growth guidelines spelled out by AMBAG.
2. Forecast growth in housing, jobs and population.
3. Ensure that road projects with federal funds are in line with federal requirements. Dondero points out that this function is usually handled by local agencies.
4. Coordinating regional transportation plans so that they meet federal clean air standards. Since 2004, the Monterey Bay region has met those standards, so that further coordination is not required under law.
The net impact of Dondero's report calls on the RTC board to consider whether it could take over a portion of AMBAG's jobs in the event that AMBAG is dismantled. Doing so would require coordination with the Transportation Agency of Monterey County.
It's obvious that AMBAG's future is in doubt, and that other agencies around Monterey Bay are already making plans to take over the agency's work.