■ By Matt McPherson / Columnist
Last week our country witnessed history with the epic inauguration of Donald John Trump as the 45th President of the United States. A select few politicians here in the valley were lucky enough to attend the extraordinary event while addressing local issues and negotiating contacts that will benefit the valley for years to come.
San Jacinto Mayor Scott Miller and Councilman Andrew Kotyuk both attended the 85th U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting in Washington D.C., which is not only an opportunity to witness history in the making at the presidential inauguration, it’s also an excellent opportunity to network and establish contacts that can benefit the valley in a multitude of ways. The League of Cities and the U.S. Mayors Conference are two avenues by which city elected officials may attend the event. Both of these institutions possess the ability to influence federal and state legislation and direct federal or private programs to a city.
“In 2012 as mayor, I presented a resolution for state substitution of the National Environmental Policy Act,” said Kotuk. “This resolution would reduce the costly and time-consuming national and state environmental processes when a municipality like San Jacinto wants to begin a major infrastructure project. Since then, with mayors advocating for this resolution, progress has been made to reduce this duplication of efforts.”
This is especially important for the valley as a new episode in history that will emphasize construction of major projects and improve specific quality-of-life areas. Timing could not be better for The San Jacinto River Stormwater Project and Highway 79 Realignment considering we have a new administration that is focused on infrastructure. Quality-of-life projects in our valley such as water, jobs, homelessness, education, and technology need to be acknowledged.
Tuesday through Thursday of last week, Miller and Kotyuk attended meetings and conferences with Southern California lawmakers, politicians and specialized federal departments. The Winter Conference sets the stage for committees to position action and legislative resolutions to be addressed and adopted at the summer conference.
Kotyuk relayed some of the conference highlights:
Water Infrastructure – Patrick Schultz of Veolia Water and Shane Bemis, mayor of Gresham, Oregon, presented their partnership in creating natural gas from wastewater and grease from restaurants. Cities have to be more creative with waste and creating sustainable energy to save taxpayer dollars.
HR 465 was introduced to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to provide for an integrated planning and permitting process. Mayors were asked to sign and support.
Mayors Institute on City Design (MICD) is offering a leadership initiative with Michael Martin, CEO, Rapid SOS “Silicon Valley Partnering with Cities to Transform Emergency Response.” This technology is accurate on locating a cell phone’s 9-1-1 call by utilizing routers and handsets. As one example, a phone sensor can identify its Z-axis height in a structure.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta discussed efforts to regulate drones and autonomous vehicles. As one example, it only took one year to register more than 700,000 drones while it took 100 years for 350,000 planes to be registered. Mayor Edwin Lee of San Francisco discussed dangers and responsibility issues with drones. Cities are challenged in policing, identifying, and enforcing regulations with drones.
Miller and Kotyuk attended numerous meetings with democratic and republican legislators in the Senate and House, in addition to federal departments. All these meetings were an attempt to shine a light on San Jacinto’s existing and potentially new programs with an emphasis on infrastructure projects that will benefit the entire valley and outlying areas.