Drought Leads Agenda For San Diego Binational Delegation Visit To Nation's Capitol
I am Maureen Cavanaugh. San Diego's big issues including water, transportation, and economic growth will be heard in Washington DC next week. The region of commerce is leading it's binational delegation to the nations capital. More than one hundred 50 delegates including mayors and city council members from both sides of the order of the meeting with senators and members of Congress as well as the military. It's an effort to make the challenges and opportunities facing our border region a real to the officials back East. Joining me is Jerry Sanders . Welcome to the program. David Alvarez is here and he will be part of the delegation. Since you are both heading to Washington DC and there was a big event in Congress today, I wanted to ask you David, I hear you did listen to the Popes address this morning. What did you think of that? I listen to it in its entirety. I was sharing with Jerry just before we came in here that the pope touched on issues of importance to him. Climate change, protection of light, -- protection of life, and other issues. But my sense is he talked a lot about the American spirit and our successes in the past, and it seems like he was giving a message specifically to Congress and all of us Americans that we have a lot of challenges and that we need to get our act together and resolve those challenges. It is what happens on our trip to Washington DC with the chamber. Let me ask you about that trip. What is the point of assembling this delegation and making this trip to Washington? Why not make a bunch of conference calls? People in Washington don't see delegations from California that often. We need to remind them that we are here and what makes San Diego tech. And also what our needs are. When we take all the members that we are taking it is from both sides of the border. They actually listen. We go back there to let them know what our needs and desires are. We get their attention because we are one of the largest delegations. Besides the two of you who will be making up the delegation. We have mayors from Chula Vista and San Diego, council members on both sides and a lot of is this leaders will be going. All the hospital health systems and we have tracks for all of the people and what they are interested in talking with the federal folks is about. Jerry Sanders if you would give us an idea of the range of issues that you will be discussing with these officials? Water is the most important one. We will be talking with Senator Feinstein to let her know how important it is. We will be supporting the pure water and supporting the EPA. We have a roundtable that -- a lot of people will be listening. Working on veterans issues. Veterans funding out here. Also working on housing issues. San Diego and the West Coast specifically doesn't get the benefit of HUD dollars because it was set in the 40s before California was built out. We tied to talk about affordable housing. And a huge [ Indiscernible ] going in with new border crossings that make more sense. David Alvarez what is the priority for you? Definitely water. It has been an important topic personally and professionally and it has been raised because of the drought situation and what is happening in our state I have been focused on our border infrastructure to make sure our regional economy in if it's from the investments that need to be made by the federal government it's about transportation and goods movement. We think of the order as a secluded area where things happen within the order, but to get things moving in our economy, we need to make sure transportation system is appropriate this year in particular, I have a good opportunity to speak with the department of housing and urban development secretary and hopelessness is a big issue. -- Homelessness is a big issue. Give us an example of how the federal government could help a joint project between the hot and San Diego move forward? This is about planning together. Those who have crossed at San Ysidro have seen improvements. The Mexico government has improved their border crossings. Because of a lot of leadership of the chamber in these trips that we do, we have fully funded our portion, the American portion of the crossing, and just like that we have [ Indiscernible ] which will be a port of entry. We still have needs at Otay Mesa port of entry. Then we need to make sure we had the right personnel to enforce our customs and immigration laws at our land and sea port of entry and airport port of entry as we try to expand our economy to attract foreign investment and tourists. And that's all the federal government. Jerry Sanders you have touched on the high points of water , and you also said that you support this bill that's being pushed by California Senator Dianne Feinstein. How would her proposal help San Diego business? What Senator Feinstein's bill would do would seed money for us to figure out ways to unlock the water. San Diego is in a unique position. We are not in a drought. We have a new assault plan coming on plant and all the water produced on that has to go into a reservoir because of the governor's mandate that we cut a 20%. That doesn't make sense's and what Senator Feinstein is trying to do is figure out better use for the water we have and find new sources that are independent of imported. You make the point that San Diego has been conserving. Do you think San Diego might be able to tell the people in Washington DC anything about maintaining the nation's water resources. That is what peer water does and I compliment David Alvarez. One third of its water supply, independent of imported water desalt, when you add the plant, San Diego will be water independent and the rest of the nation will be interested in the pure water project. It will be the first one going forward on this. We are talking purification of the water. A lot of eyes will be on this. The EPA is very interested. Senator Feinstein who has not in the past been very sick port of, is very supportive of this project and is willing to look at it. With that would mean is the problem that has been hunting San Diego, the mandate to build a second treatment plant may be waived. That is correct. And we are negotiating that. Why would we be throwing over 200,000 gallons of water that could be reused into the ocean when we can put it back into the system to make ourselves resilient when it comes to water. It makes sense environmentally, economically, we need to control our destiny. Jerry Sanders, veterans issues are important part of this trip. What will you be discussing? We will talk about zero 800 and that is the coalition of veteran organization. Zero 800 and Zero 802 one one have a partnership and it is unique. It is one of the four pilot projects that has received funding. They do incredible work. But just as an outgrowth, we received an award from the chamber that works with the vets. Last year on this trip, because of their interaction with a veteran group, gave $25,000 to veterans Village just from this trip. They wanted to be a part of this. Just bringing people together even within the San Diego really helps out. This is so near and dear to our heart. The VA stepped back from its goal of ending veterans homelessness by the end of this year. That had been their goal. They said we will do it as soon as possible, but that's not the end of the year. San Diego has one of the highest number of homeless vets. What will you be doing to ask for help for the homeless? That also goes into the HUD formula. Many of them sever PTSD, they suffer physical symptoms. It is not by their choice. We need to push back in DC and tell them we need to get the money for the veterans out on the street and get them the facilities. Veterans Village does an incredible job. They do a good job in substance abuse and alcohol abuse. Those are the things we will be working on. David Alvarez, does the federal government give as much as it should? San Diego is the home to the third-largest population of homeless veterans. The funding the way that created it in Washington don't understand the complexities of these issues locally. That is the reason why we are there if we aren't there, nobody will understand and we try to explain it. Our representatives in Congress, but also the agencies that have the ability to change those rules that could benefit us and it is important that we increase the program which is the veterans housing program. Like Jerry said, there is no reason why someone who is a veteran should be homeless. We also have a lot of other homeless who are not veterans. Those homeless don't support San Diego's efforts. How will San Diego's delegation participate? We will be meeting with all of our congressional delegation. We meet with our delegations in San Diego all the time. It's best to reach out to other delegations. We will be meeting with Senator Feinstein, Senator McCain, and we try to reach out to other states so they understand the issues, especially the order issues. Most states don't understand [ Indiscernible ]. New Hampshire's number one trading partner is ex-co-. I can't guarantee they don't know that. The border infrastructure and the emigration issues are important to every state in the nation. We have Susan Davis and Scott who will be helping us out. They will take members on a midnight tour of the capital. All of our congressional members participate and help us in getting us the meetings that we need. There are ideological divisions within the congressional delegation. What you say they work together well when it comes on issues? They work together very well. We have the congressional luncheon and they actually like each other. We don't agree on everything. We have found that with the San Ysidro order crossing had not been put in the budget, that congressional delegation came together and pushed it through and got the funding. When there is an issue that affects our region, they work well together. This is the ninth delegation that will be going to Washington DC. I know that you have been there before. What is it that Washington doesn't understand about our region? It's the same with Mexico City and David goes on that trip also. They don't understand Tijuana. We are the furthest distance from Washington. Everyone thinks they know San Diego because they think it's a military town. A lot of people in DC don't understand we are tech hub. We are on an international border literally within city limits. We are a much larger economic generator then people understand. With the you find that people in the federal government don't get about San Diego? The importance of the trip is to put this on the map. Even though we are the eighth largest city, we are far away and not as large as Los Angeles. This is about making sure that people understand that we exist. We have issues far beyond what people believe are the issues of San Diego. Because it is bipartisan, we have been able to get some successes already, if you look at the history of when Congress has been successful in achieving things, and in our own case, is when they stick together. We are trying to impress upon them that despite our differences, there are common themes that impact all of San Diego and our delegation needs to be behind us because this is an important part of the state. That is where we accomplish the most. We help them in their jobs to make sure their colleagues understand. That's why we visit people from other states. They need to hear from people who are living here day in and day out. When you go with the delegation, it is by national -- binational. We know the rhetoric that is coming out of Washington DC about how it almost pits the US against Mexico. Are people surprised about this binational delegation? People who have a common cause and are getting along? I was talking to a reporter about this and saying how the success that this trip has had. Initially people were surprised, and then we build on that, it has been very successful over the last couple years. I assume where we reach the point where people are thinking of our region in a different way. I was telling the person I was speaking to, it will be interesting to see what the response is. We had laid so much groundwork. I thought we were getting to a new level of discourse as it relates to these issues specifically. It will be interesting to see what the responses from Congress and from the different departments we will visit. Jerry, what are you interested to see a reaction amongst the Washington officials to the issues you will be presenting? It raises eyebrows when you come in a binational delegation. They are impressed with the working relationship. That is the most important -- and must important part this is. It will be completely different from any other border crossing. It will be one where the Mexican customs officials and US customs officials work in the same area to clear the tracks. We are talking about technology that has not been used on the borders. That will be something they will pay a lot of attention to because this will unclog a lot of the order. We are willing to pay for a lot of this. I want to thank you both, and good luck on the trip. I have been speaking with Jerry Sanders, president and CEO of San Diego chamber of Congress and David Alger -- David Alvarez.
California's drought is at the top of the agenda for a San Diego binational delegation heading to Washington, D.C. this weekend. The 150-member delegation has community and business leaders, as well as elected officials, who will meet with lawmakers to discuss issues that are critical to San Diego and Baja California.
The annual event is organized through the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.
The group’s priorities include water security. They plan on holding a water roundtable to examine the California Drought Relief Act of 2015, authored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif).
The delegation includes San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Chula Vista Mayor Mary Salas.
San Diego Councilman David Alvarez, who represents District 8, will also be there to participate in discussions about cross-border trade and infrastructure.
Alvarez and chamber President Jerry Sanders joined Midday Edition Thursday to discuss their priorities for the three-day visit to Washington, D.C.
"Everybody thinks they know San Diego because it's a military town," Sanders said. "People in D.C. don't understand that we're a biotech hub and that we have an international border right in city limits."
He said the large bipartisan, binational delegation gets lawmakers' attention. The delegation meets with local members of Congress, as well as those from other states.
"They need to hear from people who are living it day in and day out," Alvarez said.
Alvarez, who has chaired the city's environment committee for five years, said he hopes to talk with lawmakers about how San Diego can "really control our destiny" when it comes to the water supply and water costs.
Alvarez said he also wants to discuss border infrastructure. His district includes San Ysidro.
"Oftentimes we think of the border as a secluded area where things just happen within the border area," Alvarez said. "But in order to get things moving and our economy moving, we need to make sure federal improvements to border infrastructure benefit the region," Alvarez said.
Key areas to be addressed include:
-Support for the Military Transition Support Project in San Diego County.
Housing & Urban Development:
-Update federal funding formula for homeless services.
-Improvements at existing Otay Mesa Port of Entry.
-Approval of free trade agreements.