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Annual Sacramento road trip offers many opportunities

Right Here, Right Now

Posted: April 28, 2008 2:56 a.m.
Updated: June 29, 2008 5:04 a.m.
 
What a great way to start the week. Shortly after 7 a.m. Monday, April 14, some 50 residents of the Santa
Clarita Valley gathered in the parking lot outside the Chamber of Commerce building.

Positive energy filled the cool morning air as individuals made the rounds to introduce themselves,
eventually forming small clusters of people animatedly discussing topics ranging from their favorite weekend activities to the heavy issues of the business at hand.

In due course, Carl Goldman announced "It's time to go!" and the group dutifully boarded a bus to head
north to Sacramento.

The occasion was the third annual Sacramento road trip, jointly sponsored by state assemblyman Cameron
Smyth and radio station KHTS-AM 1220, supported by the Valley Industrial Association and the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce.

This intensive two-day event was initiated in 2006 by Keith Richman, our state assemblyman at the time,
and the tradition was continued by Smyth when he later replaced the term-limited Richman.

We had a good cross section of the community represented, with business people, government
officials, educators, non-profit administrators, arts advocates, media personnel, concerned citizens, and
the like.

The five-hour bus ride on the way up Monday morning and back on Tuesday evening afforded ample opportunity for this diverse group to network, conduct business, and share ideas on the various issues. Through on-air interviews with the participants, the listening audience shared vicariously in the experience.

This annual trip grants locals a firsthand look at the workings of our state government while presenting
to our elected officials a unified front on issues of concern to the people of the Santa Clarita Valley. On
this trip, we carried three main issues: I-5 corridor needs, water policy priorities, and education budget
concerns.

The section of I-5 that transects our valley is near capacity today, providing passage for some 73
million vehicles annually, 10 percent of which are trucks, the life blood of commerce. We need I-5
improvements to meet the needs of L.A. County's growing population, which is expected to add some
three million people in the next 20 years.

A proposal for the addition of 11 miles of truck lanes through the Newhall Pass will help by providing
expedited goods movement while alleviating commuter congestion. Our local transportation advocate, the
Golden State Gateway Coalition, has formed a public-private partnership with the California Department of Transportation to complete the required environmental studies.

This arrangement should save taxpayers time and money on the proposed I-5 improvement project.

Some $62.5 million in private sector and federal funds have been committed to date for the project, but $55 million more is needed. In Sacramento, we requested this project be placed high on the list of projects
competing for monies from the Trade Corridor Improvement Fund.

Access to usable water is another critical issue facing our state and the Santa Clarita Valley. Living as we do in an arid region next to the desert, outhern California relies on water imported from hree principal sources: the Owens Valley, the Colorado River, and the Delta area in northern California,

There are risks with each of these sources, but of utmost concern to us that the infrastructure that
captures usable water from the Delta (our principal source) is inefficient and decaying, having been
constructed in the 1940s and 1950s.

Ample water is available if we can only capture it. For example, we learned during this trip that
every three months there escapes from the Delta enough fresh water to supply the entire state for a year.

Gov. Schwarzenegger has recognized the situation in his strategic growth plan for the state and proposes a nearly $12 billion bond measure to fund investment in our water system, improve the delta sustainability and expand water use efficiency.

Our local water agencies strongly support the governor's strategic growth plan and the proposed bond
measure, and so should we. The time to act is now.

Cuts in the education budget was another item of concern. All levels - K-12, career technical training, and higher level education - have been hurt by the governor's proposal to cut all programs in the state
budget by what amounts to 10 percent.

This is an irrational and irresponsible approach that led to one participant's lament, "We may find
ourselves in the position of hanging new artwork in the halls while issuing pink slips to our teachers."

First, review all unfunded mandates, a practice by which legislators impose obligations on school board
districts, but do not allocate the funds required to pay for them. Assembly Bill 3008, now in committee in
the state legislature, will remedy this.

Second, school superintendents should be given the discretion to use for other purposes unencumbered
balances of so-called categorical programs - funds allocated for specialized state programs. AB 2831 can
fix this if passed.

An old farmer's adage is relevant here - In tough times, take care not to eat your feed seed.

Public participation in the legislative process - what a great way to start the week. A good way to finish it is to stay involved. I encourage all of you to let our legislators know how you feel on the major issues of the day. Government acts best when it involves participation of the people, right here,
right now.

Bill Kennedy lives in Valencia and is a principal in Wingspan Business Consulting. His column reflects his
own views and not necessarily those of these organizations or those of The Signal.

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