Politically, a lot has changed in the last month. With that said, I wish to say “job well done” to Congressman Richard Pombo for his years of dedication to our community and welcome to Rep.-elect Jerry McNerney.
McNerney has landed a seat on the House Transportation Committee, which could prove to be key for our region. Rep. Dennis Cardoza of Merced will continue to deliver on our area’s issues. One issue the county will continue to seek congressional support for is the Regional Veterans Affairs Clinic/Nursing Home project. Our congressional delegation will continue to pressure the White House and Congress to fully fund the Department of Veterans Affairs’ CARES recommendations.
Earlier this year, infrastructure work commenced on the county Agriculture Center at Airport East. This project has been a long time coming and will be a huge benefit to our county’s leading industry.
Recently, the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors approved an agricultural mitigation plan to offset the loss of farmland to development. This plan will require developers to preserve one acre of farmland for every acre of county land developed. This plan is a good first step, and there will be opportunities to refine it, as necessary.
The Stockton Metropolitan Airport continues to struggle for both its identity and financial independence, surviving on continued contributions from the county’s general fund. In 2002, the Stockton airport launched a $10 million improvement program for air cargo. Today, this facility sits unused, as earlier this year we lost our only air cargo tenant, which reduced revenues by $250,000 and caused an estimated loss of $1 million to the local economy. Now, we are considering investing $6 million in a federal inspection station in hopes of starting international passenger flights. This is a huge commitment on behalf of the taxpayers, so I have asked the airline (Aeromexico) to put $500,000 toward the improvement of the airport to show that it is equally committed to the taxpayers of this county.
Gratefully, Allegiant Airlines began passenger service this past summer from Stockton to Las Vegas. Once again, we have passengers flowing in and out of the airport terminal, which will hopefully lead to more airlines seeking a piece of this region’s market. As our area continues to grow, so will our transportation needs.
Since my first year on the county board, I have raised the issue of a business and marketing plan for the airport. Lack of resources was blamed for the inability to create a plan. Recently, grant funds were received for an airport master plan update, which is to include a business plan. Although this news is encouraging, the airport needs more reform than a business plan alone. With millions of dollars spent on facilities and hundreds of thousands being spent on airline, air cargo and marketing consultants, I am disappointed with the progress of the airport. Therefore, I will ask the board to create an exploratory committee to review options of how the airport may be restructured to further its opportunities for success.
Committee assignments continue to change. Last year, I was assigned to the San Joaquin Council of Governments, and this coming year I will be sitting as the vice president of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. I believe these assignments are very important to our region. While the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District strives to achieve cleaner air and meet federal guidelines, we must strike a fair balance with industries that employ our citizens.
In addition to my duties on Council of Governments, I have become a member of the Port to Port Coalition and forged relationships with my counterparts in both Alameda and Contra Costa counties, focusing on the improvement of our transportation corridors.
Illegal dumping continues to be a huge problem in our county. During this past year, I called together a group of county staff members that play roles in the prevention and enforcement of this issue. We had several meetings and are putting together recommendations to present to the county board. This is a lengthy process, and we hope our efforts will result in less trash on our roadsides and agricultural lands.
As I look forward to a busy 2007, I again want to thank the citizens of the 5th District for their continued support.