Report of Out of Town Representation
Mayor Pro Tem Fred Strong
Report to City Council on activity of January 20 - February 2, 201
LOSSAN (Pacific Surfliner Intercity Passenger Rail Corridor)
January 20, Orange County (by phone):
Public comment informed us that the 2016 Passenger Rail Summit would be held April 13 and 14. We were also asked to work harder to complete the SCRIP project to have six rail lines going into Union Station Los Angeles be continuous through routes rather than having to back trains out for 1.5 miles. I agreed to try to get some attention to this in Washington, D.C., in February.
Elections were held for the new board and the Chairman was re-elected and I was re-elected to the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors.
I moved and we passed the consent agenda including the conflict of interest code, annual financial audit and contracts for audit and marketing services.
The single ticket “Rail 2 Rail” program is not being addressed for renewal by Metrolink and may cause it to be discontinued. This would be a step backwards.
We approved application for a rail safety grant on my motion.
Discussion of current and future actions took place regarding marketing, policies and procedures, the 2016 work plan (which will continue efforts to extend an existing San Diego to San Luis Obispo and back train on to San Jose and back with a stops in Paso Robles), our operating agreement with Amtrak and our Board of Directors’ initiatives.
For those wanting more detail the agenda is posted in the LOSSAN web site under OCTA with full attachments.
League of California Cities policy committees meetings
The League’s policy committee meetings are now structured so that all committees meet together at the beginning of each day for a general briefing on what is happening in the other committees and on State and Federal legislative and funding matters.
The general briefing covered the Governor’s budget proposal, money sources and needs including transportation, housing, homeless needs and services and issues to be discussed in my specific committee meetings.
We were told we can participate soon in a new Health Benefits Marketplace being developed by the League to reduce expense and retain benefits. Also, we were given forms to participate in the California Road Charge volunteer study program for ongoing, stable transportation funding.
Finally, we were informed of changes to the initiative process which will add legislative hearings on proposals once the signature threshold of 25% is reached. The Governor is opposing a raise to $15/hour in minimum wage as he says it will increase State government costs by $4 billion a year for the tax payers. Former Assemblyman Sam Blakesley is sponsoring an initiative requiring all State Bills to be in print for at least three days before they can be acted upon.
Revenue and Taxation, January 21, in Sacramento:
On Thursday we met following the general meeting and went over many “housekeeping” functions in detail with over 50% of the committee’s members being new to this, or any, policy committee. Some new members objected to the updated policies and guiding principles not knowing that they had already been adopted by the Board of Directors and we had no say. The objection was to changes that would take away unfair tax sales tax practices that their own jurisdictions were benefiting from. After an explanation the changes were accepted with a few objections.
Our adopted work program for 2016 includes seeking possible changes to the sales tax formula based upon completion of sale at its destination, including internet sales, and to possibly change and/or expand the goods and services that might be taxed at a lower rate.
In addition to that we will seek increased funding for critical transportation and water infrastructure, improve housing affordability, update the local government tax structure and monitor or address other pertinent issues that may arise during the legislative session.
Housing, Community and Economic Development committee, January 22, in Sacramento:
On Friday this committee went through the same housekeeping items on policy and procedure. However, most of the members were returning people.
Following that we welcomed Cindy Cavanaugh, Assistant Deputy Director of the (HCD) California Department of Housing and Community Development’s Homeless and Housing Policy Division.
Ms Cavanaugh informed us that California is host to 35% of the nation’s chronically homeless population. She said that the Governor is very interested in addressing the homeless problem and is proposing major funding in this area. We were presented with the results of the 2013 California Pokicy Academy To Reduce Chronic Homeless Plan. Our discussion revolved around differentiating the needs of those who choose homelessness as a personal lifestyle and those who due to special circumstances, including mental illness, have become homeless without wanting to be.
I brought up Mayor Martin’s initiative to have a joint homeless services day in one location with the city, county, various non-profit organizations and businesses held here recently. Many cities stated that they would see if they can do the same in their areas.
Ms Cavanaugh told us that we can be better informed about Federal initiatives in the area of homeless issues by going to the web site for USICH, the Federal agency on homelessness.
The committee also decided to seek additional RENA reform through HCD.
We also heard a presentation by League staff member Jason Rhine on our priorities for the use of Cap & Trade auction revenues. Affordable housing is scheduled to receive $400 million with 50% going to disadvantaged communities and another $365 million going to transportation and clean air projects.
When the stumbling block of the Strategic Growth Council came up I made known the proposal from the CALCOG Board meeting to add five local government elected officials to the board to bring the money back to local control, as I reported to you at our last meeting. League staff welcomed the proposal and may try to work with CALCOG in this effort.
The committee decided to pursue transportation funding, water and housing as its highest priority items this year.
In the areas of water and transportation we decided that part of that effort must be CEQA reform to include man’s needs in the analysis. An effort is already underway to exempt all transportation projects proposed within already approved rights of way. We will look for similar actions in the area of water structures and storage areas.
We were also informed, in the area of medical marijuana that we should amend our general plan and zoning ordinances to make it clear by statement as to which zones or land uses are specifically permitted for medical marijuana delivery. Failure to due so may lead to delivery being legal to anywhere including the a Post Office, stores, hotels, libraries, etc.
On that same issue we were informed that indoor cultivation of medical marijuana is now proposed to be automatically allowed. Therefore, we cannot ban it but under the new proposal we can regulate it. However, Colorado has determined that indoor cultivation makes it nearly impossible to keep marijuana out of the hands of minors.
We were also told that the FAA is now required to either notify local government or collaborate with us on any changes flight paths being implemented within our sphere of influence.
Mayor Pro Tem Fred Strong
Report to City Council on activity of January 6-19, 201
At the annual reorganization meeting of SLOCOG I gave a brief written report (attached) on my activities in 2015 representing SLOCOG and those additional areas I was elected or appointed to . We saw Supervisor Debbie Arnold retire, with honors, as president whereupon Mayor Jan Marx of San Luis Obispo was elevated to that position for 2016. Supervisor Lynn Compton was elected Vice-President.
The board unanimously elected all positions including returning me as their representative to LOSSAN, the Pacific Surfliner Inter-City Passenger Rail Board of Directors, and delegate to CALCOG, the statewide organization of all regional governments in California where I serve on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee, and to NARC, the National Association of Regional Councils, where I currently serve on the Board of Directors representing all regions in the United States and as Transportation Policy Chairman. Mayor John Shoals of Grover Beach was chosen as my alternate to LOSSAN and NARC and as our representative to the Coast Rail Coordinating Committee, working to get additional passenger train service between San Diego and San Jose. I will be his alternate on that committee and Mayor Marx will serve as my alternate to CALCOG.
We also received informational presentations on UBER in San Luis Obispo County and the world, progress on the new interactive data network for our transportation services and an appraisal of the California Transportation Commission’s Annual Report to the Legislature. I’ll have more to say on that in my CALCOG report.
Paso Robles Housing Authority (1-12-16):
The Housing Authority meeting was lightly attended and began with my report on City Council activities, including the anticipated arrival of our new City Manager Tom Frutchey. We briefly discussed the water situation and the progress on our water facilities. The Board of Directors of the Housing Authority expressed a desire to have a tour of both facilities and I gave them the contact information to do so. Phase One of the redeveloped Oak Park is fully occupied. Eight buildings in Phase Two are complete except for PG&E’s work which is being held up by the weather. Land line telephone by AT&T and a tot-lot are still to be completed.
The board accepted an audit report and established a complex investment policy.
The Board of Directors met at 10 a.m. In the SACOG board room in Sacramento where we addressed many transitional matters including new office space rental, converting our contract staff to employment status with benefits and our relationship with various State agencies. CALCOG has an unusual role because it contracts with the State for certain services which we provide while also have a legislative advocacy role.
We reviewed the work program results for 2015 and the proposed program for 2016. We received updates on both State and Federal transportation funding for 2016 and beyond and heard a proposal from California Forward for increased cooperation in a state-regional partnership effort.
Other than approving the minutes, there were three action items on the agenda.
First we approved the 2016 Legislative Policy Principles. I suggested four changes that were accepted. In our policy on bottoms up governance, with the primary responsibility being local government, I asked for State encouragement as well as authorization. No responsibilities without funding. I also asked that money collected for a specific purpose be spent on projects and/or activities that have a relationship to the source of the funds. Finally I asked for additional CEQA reform and an increased effort to re-establish Redevelopment Agencies in an equitable and just manner.
We also had a personal presentation from Susan Branson, CEO of the California Transportation Commission, on the CTC’s legislative recommendations contained in its 2015 Annual Report to the Legislature.
The board endorsed those recommendations 100%. They include exemption from environmental lawsuits regarding transportation projects taking place totally within existing public right-of-way; permanently removing requirements for compliance to the National Environmental Policy Act in addition to CEQA and reexamining the issue of intercity rail and transit connectivity serving rural areas of the state, particularly those areas with limited access to air service.
Regarding our own legislative program we expressed “...general dissatisfaction with the Strategic Growth Council’s development of policies and guidelines.” We plan to seek five new seats on the Council for local government officials due to the current Governor and staff driven decisions to funnel most of the money into only low income housing with little to no consideration for the infrastructure needs of the rest of the state. WE will seek far more and better collaboration between the state, its regions and local government at the city and county level.
Finally, staff is considering a contract with the four largest regions in the state to coordinate efforts to comply with greenhouse gas reduction efforts and compliance with SB 375. This will allow us to coordinate the efforts statewide and learn from each other while using the collected information to assist each other on modeling assumptions and developing our respective integrated planning efforts. The person in this new position, paid for by a grant from the State and/or the “Big Four,” would also report to the other Metropolitan Planning Organizations, such as SLOCOG, and to CalTrans “on key transferable practices and protocols that are learned through the coordination.”
I will be coordinating tomorrow with intercity passenger rail for our region on the things in this report that are appropriate. The rest of the week I’ll be in Sacramento following up on appropriate activities in the areas of revenue, finance, housing, community development and economic development. I will report back on those activities at our next meeting. Meanwhile, we may want to consider ways and means for us to further support the efforts underway to assist us to meet our own needs and goals.
Annual Report to the San Luis Obispo Council Of Governments (SLOCOG) Board
Fred Strong, SLOCOG Representative to:
NARC, CALCOG, LOSSAN and alternate to CRCC
This has been a busy ongoing year moving previous efforts forward and meeting new issues. I have attended meetings regularly, meeting by conference call when a conflict has arisen (such as a meeting in Raleigh, NC, and Los Angeles simultaneously).
NARC (National Association of Regional Councils)
I serve on the Board of Directors and as National Transportation Policy Chairman (in my fourth term). I drafted and had a staff modified version of a National Port Policy adopted in 2015. As part of our transportation system ports support 40% of the nation’s economy at over a trillion dollars a year. In California alone one port does over $200 billion a year. This impacts us locally at a minimum of 10% of local retail sales.
I was also appointed one of four local elected officials nationwide to research and propose changes to NARC’s legislative policies and procedures going forward with a bifurcated system for education and advocacy. This is in process for the up-coming conference in February.
We successfully continued our efforts to retain $350 million a year in federal funding for local streets, roads and a total transportation system. We finally succeeded in getting more than a one year Bill passed with much effort and over five dozen direct contacts with federal electeds and their staff.
Increases in funding formulae are still in process. My previous experience as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., has been helpful in moving this effort forward.
CALCOG (California Association of Councils of Governments)
As an elected member of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee I have been very active with C.E.O. Bill Higgins, who I have worked directly with in two organizations over the past decade.
We have been working on getting all mandates funded before implementation … with only limited success. CALCOG has been able to have an extensive impact on many of the environmental regulations coming down from Sacramento, especially in coordinating with CSAC and The League of California Cities, regarding retention of as much local control as we are able to negotiate.
Transportation funding has been a major area of effort as we look toward major changes in transportation technology. One of our conferences spent considerable time with experts in the area of driverless vehicles.
Our Board meets next week Thursday to look at the Governor’s new budget proposal being issued tomorrow and believed to contain additional proposals in the area of transportation.
LOSSAN (Pacific Surfliner Intercity Passenger Rail Corridor, San Diego to San Luis Obispo)
I serve on the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee, as immediate past Chairman of the Board. I took LOSSAN through the last two years of the effort to achieve self governance and take operational control of the Pacific Surfliner corridor from the State, up to the last five months of the successful effort. My previous experience as a registered “Legislative Advocate” in Sacramento was of significant assistance in this effort.
I chaired all meetings of the California passenger rail corridors’ Executive Council during the last 18 months of my service as LOSSAN Chairman. In that capacity I drafted the first statement of Legislative Policy and saw it through some minor amendments and adoption in its present form.
I have also been honored to represent both LOSSAN and the CRCC at statewide meetings of various rail passenger conferences in Sacramento, also representing NARC at one of these.
I have been heavily involved in getting the process in place for the addition of an extension of passenger service from San Diego to San Jose giving us much better service for our citizens in the future. This is an on-going effort that has some minor resistance from some Southern California members. However, this effort is still alive, well and being nurtured.
Coast Rail Coordinating Committee (CRCC)
I am your present alternate to this Board of Directors and have participated on an irregular basis as needed for the past four years. In that capacity, and due to serving with its chairman on the combined leadership group, I’ve been asked on occasion to represent this group in other venues.
CRCC represents the completion of connectivity along the coast routes between Northern and Southern California. This link is essential as even High Speed Rail will is not being designed to adequately serve our needs.
This effort is very complex and is lead by its CEO Pete Rogers, who has done an exceptional job in moving this effort forward against major resistance from freight rail interests.