Tuesday, September 26, 2017

#COGforum Highlights Opportunities, Challenges Ahead for New Measure M Programs

On Monday, September 18th, Investing in Place hosted our second #COGforum. Our goal for the day was to shed daylight on the role of the region’s Councils of Governments (COGs) and discuss how they can most effectively guide billions of dollars in Measure M investments with a diverse, multi-sectoral group of participants. The #COGforum brought together elected officials, agency staff, community partners, funders, and advocates. Investing in Place shared a brand new resource guide to help shape the discussion and provide information on COGs and their critical role in shaping Los Angeles County transportation policy. For background, please feel free to read our blog on the Multi-year Subregional Programs and COGs.

#COGforum Program

West Hollywood Councilmember Lindsey Horvath started the program, affirming that “the promise of Measure M is transformational.” The City of West Hollywood is a member of the Westside Cities COG, which will oversee over $360 million for first/last mile improvements on the Westside through their Measure M Multi-year Subregional Program (MSP). In order for advocates and community members to effectively engage with COGs, it is important to understand their role. With that in mind, Investing in Place produced a new “What is a COG?” Video. See below.


At the #COGforum, our Deputy Director, Naomi Iwasaki, further explained the relationship between COGs and Metro and why it is important to understand and engage with a pop culture analogy:

Forum participants quickly learned that all COGs are different in size, capacity, partnerships, and skill sets.

Why the MSPs Matter: 10 billion reasons

COGs and Metro have a longstanding partnership, but the new Measure M Multi-Year Subregional Programs (MSPs) are redefining this relationship to give more direct authority to the COGs. $10 billion is now available for subregions and their member cities to fund selected local transportation programs. The MSPs are a huge pot of discretionary funds that offer an opportunity for subregions to work with their member jurisdictions and other stakeholders to deliver local projects, including complete streets, safe routes to school, active transportation, first/last mile solutions, and goods movement. We encourage anyone interested in the MSPs to engage with representatives from Metro’s Policy Advisory Council (PAC). PAC contacts can be found here.

COG Best Practices

Investing in Place Executive Director Jessica Meaney moderated two panels, highlighting two COGs doing awesome work in their regions: South Bay Cities COG and San Gabriel Valley COG.

The South Bay Cities COG (SBCCOG) discussed their program administration experience managing a multi-million dollar subregional highway program funded by Measure R for the past eight years. This program was considered very effective and pioneered a model for Measure M’s MSPs. SBCCOG support their members (16 cities and unincorporated parts of Los Angeles County) by assuring consistency with program goals, monitoring project delivery, and managing the overall funding program. SBCCOG Executive Director, Jacki Bacharach and Transportation Chair, Redondo Beach Councilmember Christian Horvath discussed key differences between their program and what we can expect with Measure M. One critical example is while Measure R focused on highways and Level of Service (LOS), an antiquated measure of traffic impacts, Measure M can define different goals to identify multi-modal solutions. Because Measure M allows for more flexibility to incorporate complete streets projects, it becomes important to set clear program goals that address subregional issues while also aligning with regional goals. Under the Measure R program, public engagement is primarily addressed at the project level through member cities, who pass council resolutions affirming local support for the proposed projects.

The San Gabriel Valley COG (SGVCOG) shared their strong history of public participation, which they have incorporated into the creation of their subregional programs and projects. SGVCOG Transportation Director Mark Christoffels said that the SGVCOG considers itself to be an advocate on behalf of their subregion, and that advocacy organizations look for allies that share their vision. Engaging with community-based organizations is a natural extension of that ethos. By getting everyone on the same page–including local agencies, elected officials, and community groups–the SGVCOG has successfully brought more resources into the subregion, including ATP grants, ExpressLanes revenue, and now Measure M.

BikeSGV Executive Director Wes Reutimann and San Gabriel Mountains Forever (SGMF) Executive Director Belinda Faustinos spoke about the important but resource-intensive partnership between community-based organizations and COGs. BikeSGV and SGMF have dedicated a significant amount of time engaging with the SGVCOG through projects like the Greenway Network and the implementation of Measure A, a countywide parcel tax for parks and open space. All panelists spoke of the needs to support quality community engagement, especially capacity and funding for the community-based organizations that do the work. They pointed to a natural alignment of COGs and community-based organizations to pursue shared funding opportunities, such as grants.

Investing in Place recognizes that building on the South Bay and SGV’s best practices will require more resources for program administration. That’s why Investing in Place has supported the COGs request for up to 0.5% of MSP funding for administrative purposes, including programmatic-level planning, project prioritization, and community engagement. How to ensure COGs use this funding to meet minimum standards for public participation and performance measurement is still an open question. Another question that emerged from the discussion is what to do in parts of the county that don’t have established community-based organizations that are ready and willing to engage with the COG, like BikeSGV.

Diverse Voices in the Room

Given the range of needs and capacities across Los Angeles County, how do we create administrative procedures that elevate the role of public participation and performance metrics while, most importantly, getting the maximum benefit out of $10 billion in new subregional investments? Below are some thoughts from #COGforum participants, including elected officials, public agency staff, and community advocates:

“Cities have a clear role in guiding these principles but many cities in the region have part-time elected officials, which can limit political leadership bandwidth. Similarly, not all COGs are created equal.”
“Leaning on our partnerships is critical to ensuring our communities are aware of upcoming projects.”
“The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has had success in working with communities to identify their greatest needs and how to integrate across sectors.”
“The MSPs represent a different way to identify priorities and implement projects that positions COGs in a leadership role, compared to individual cities.”

“While creating meaningful performance metrics for the MSPs, we do not want to duplicate city efforts; it is going to require us to all do more.”
“Measure M was overwhelmingly approved by voters, but there were many in opposition because they didn’t feel like they got to participate. How do we ensure all voices are at the table?”
“We are all accountable to voters, not just Metro.”

Next Steps

While many participants left the #COGforum with a clearer understanding of the role of COGs and subregions in shaping LA County, it became clear that there is much work ahead to set the MSPs up for success. The procedures we put in place and the partnerships we build will significantly determine how the $10 billion in MSP funding is spent, and who gets to be a part of the decisions.

Metro has set a goal of finalizing MSP implementation guidelines and its Subregional Equity Program by the end of 2017. The most direct way to engage with this process is to participate in the monthly PAC meetings, which are open to the public in Downtown LA.

The remaining PAC meetings for the year are scheduled for:
Tuesday, Oct 12th (1:30p-3:30p)
Tuesday, Nov 7th (1:30p-3:30p)
Tuesday, Dec 5th (1:30p-3:30p)

Contact your local PAC representatives to find out more.

Meeting Materials:


September Metro Policy Advisory Council (PAC) Meeting Recap

by Investing in Place

#ThisTeam - October PAC recap (& Baseball)

by Investing in Place