Morongo becomes first tribe to get vote on transportation, environmental panel
The Morongo Band of Mission Indians has become the first tribe to join the Western Riverside Council of Governments as a voting member, a designation that gives the Cabazon area tribe a voice on regional transportation and environmental issues.
The council’s executive committee in July approved amending its bylaws to bring the tribe into the fold, but that decision needed to be ratified by at least two-thirds of the council’s membership. There are 17 cities in the group -- including Temecula, Murrieta, Riverside, Corona, Hemet and Banning -- plus the county of Riverside and two water districts, Western and Eastern Municipal. Membership costs $17,000 a year.
WRCOG Executive Director Rick Bishop said the tribe’s bid recently passed the two-thirds threshold and it was allowed to participate as a voting member in the Monday, Sept. 14 executive committee meeting.
“They’re officially on board,” he said.
Morongo Tribal Chairman Robert Martin said Monday the tribe is pleased to be the first tribal government to become a member of WRCOG.
“Like our neighbors, our tribe is a part of the fabric of Riverside County, and we all share a commitment to seeing our region succeed,” he said.
The only issue that it can’t vote on involves the Transportation Uniform Mitigation Fee. The program allows for the pooling of development impact fees to pay for large-scale infrastructure projects, such as offramps and new interchanges.
Morongo has shown an interest in participating in that program in the future, but it’s unclear how soon that could occur.
On Tuesday, the Murrieta City Council will consider approving the amendment to the WRCOG joint powers agreement to add Morongo. Even though the Morongo have already secured the two-thirds support they need, the item still will be considered by the council in an effort to get 100 percent support.
In 2009, Murrieta was asked to back the inclusion of the two water districts as voting members but there was a concern raised about the possible dilution of votes on important city and county matters as well as the differing missions and objectives of non-city agencies, according to a staff report for the Murrieta City Council.
Bishop and officials from the water districts ended up making a trip to Murrieta to address concerns. The districts eventually were added as voting members without a say in TUMF matters.
The tribe was added as a non-voting member to the executive committee in 2013. It joins the two water districts as voting members of the committee who do not weigh in on TUMF issues. The tribe’s addition in 2013 followed years of discussion dating back to 2007.
There are five other tribes in the WRCOG subregion: the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians, Cahuilla Band of Cahuilla Indians, the Ramona Band of Cahuilla Indians and the Santa Rosa Band of Cahuilla Indians.
The executive committee has directed staff to reach out to the tribes about possible membership, but formal invites have yet to been extended.