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San Joaquin One Voice trip

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POSTED June 2, 2010 2:46 a.m.
Every year officials from county, cities, agencies and community leaders embark on a journey to Washington, D.C., to meet with federal officials and elected representatives to advocate for funding for local transportation and infrastructure projects.  

We spend an entire week ensuring that the Feds get a firsthand look at these projects and that they understand the importance of these projects and the value they add to the quality of life for our communities.  You rarely leave there with absolute assurances that a project will be funded or even supported, but you kick start the lengthy and sometimes cumbersome process.  This was my seventh “One Voice” trip.

This year we touted 26 projects throughout San Joaquin County.  These projects include the I-205/Lammers Road Interchange in Tracy, Louise Avenue/I-5 Interchange in Lathrop, Austin Road Interchange in Manteca, I-5 Widening in Stockton and the Lodi Lake Park Nature Area Protection Project.  Other projects include the Ripon Surface Water Supply Project, Altamont Corridor, State Route 4 Corridor Improvements, MacArthur Drive Above Grade Crossing Project and the Atherton Road-West Gap Closure.  I don’t have enough space here to list them all or to give a full description of these projects, however I would encourage you learn more about these projects on the San Joaquin Council of Governments www.sjcog.org.  These projects will be paid for with your tax dollars, whether it is federal, state or local sales tax (Measure K) you are the purchaser of these projects.

We also lobbied for a number of County specific projects and among them were solar projects for the County Jail and Ag Center, a Public Health Laboratory, a new Juvenile Camp for the Probation Department, as well as some County Airport and Hospital projects.  We continued to press the Veterans Administration to locate their planned Regional Outpatient Clinic and Community Living Center at the San Joaquin General Hospital Campus.  There are endless benefits to locating this facility in the French Camp area.  For a full list of County projects, visit my web page at www.sjgov.org.

The importance of our annual pilgrimage to D.C. cannot be overstated.  Although there is a certain amount of turnover, a relationship develops and officials begin to recognize us and our projects.  Forging these relationship’s is proving valuable in seeking federal funding for a study to improve Highway 4 through the Delta.  I have long pushed for this project and believe the improvement of Highway 4 would have a positive impact on traffic congestion throughout the county, but especially the roads and highways of the south county most notably I-5, I-205 and 580.  An improved Highway 4 would more easily accommodate truck traffic to and from the Stockton Port and provide an alternate route for commuters of Stockton, Lathrop and Manteca.  Challenges do exist such as, two lane bridges that pre-date World War II and unstable peat soil.  A proper study should determine improvement feasibility.

Last year, three months into a new administration, there was a sense of giddiness and euphoria as officials took to their newfound positions.  The term, “deer in the headlights” would have been appropriate.  Also, there was a faint odor of printing ink in the air, no doubt due to all of the new money being printed, which could have explained some of the giddiness.  This year those officials seemed quite comfortable in their positions of authority.  The city itself has a different look with large cranes throughout, reminding me of the never ending building in Las Vegas.  There is certainly no economic slump in Washington, D.C.

I had the opportunity to take part in meetings with several interesting elected officials.  I would like to share my impressions.  There was Rep. Barney Frank, who was in a bad mood and somewhat condescending.  I found Speaker Nancy Pelosi to be elegantly understated and yet scarily powerful.  Preceded by the Speaker was a congressman who was telling us in a forceful tone about his face to face meeting with the president and his demands before he would vote for certain bills.  Once the Speaker walked in, he melted like a snow cone in August.  I found Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to be a well spoken southern gentleman.  The scary thing was that Hoyer was the only person in Washington, D.C. I heard utter the words, “private sector”, the entire week I was there.

I want to thank the entire SJCOG envoy for their efforts.  It is imperative that we converge on D.C. as a team to cover as much ground as we can in one short week.  Prior to the trip a lot of logistical coordination and document preparation must be done at all levels and I want to thank everyone involved in this effort.  Our local federal representatives were more than gracious hosts and lastly I want to thank our private sponsors who helped to keep the costs of this effort to a minimum.
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