From Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti:
On an annual basis, the Mayors of all five Tri-Valley cities (Danville, Dublin, Livermore, Pleasanton, and San Ramon) come to Washington, D.C. in January to attend the U.S. Conference of Mayors. We also use the opportunity in the nation’s Capitol to meet with our representatives in Congress and several federal agencies on issues that impact our region.
Over the years we have been able to secure millions of dollars in funding for
transportation, public safety, and housing, along with securing support for other
policies that are high priorities for the Tri-Valley. This year the trip coincides with the Presidential Inauguration so we will be attending that as well on Monday.
The Tri-Valley Mayors first day in Washington, D.C. was definitely busy, as we attended workshops, shared best practices with other civic leaders across the country, heard an address from Vice President Joe Biden, and went to Capitol Hill.
I will spend time in my next column detailing Biden’s remarks and some of the highlights of the workshop. For this column I will focus on our meeting on Capitol Hill with our new Congressman Eric Swalwell and his legislative staff. They were very responsive to our needs as we covered a wide range of topics and had a very productive dialogue.
One of the main topics we discussed the area’s traffic problems and we asked for support of projects to ease congestion for one of the Bay Area’s most impacted areas on I-580, I-680, and Highway 84. We all agreed that improvements would create immediate jobs, assist the region in the long-term by making it easier to move goods and commuters, and improve the Tri-Valley’s overall quality of life. One additional area we identified was the possibility of enhancing the East Bay’s bicycle and pedestrian mobility with improvements to the Iron Horse Trail crossings and other gap closure measures. We all acknowledged that it is a difficult environment right now to secure funding, but that we would work collectively with his office to secure any discretionary funds that become available.
In terms of policy, we discussed the importance of the technology transfers taking place at both Lawrence Livermore and Sandia National Laboratories. We discussed how these could help the labs in their mission while also serving as an engine for economic growth in the Tri-Valley. Specifically, we asked for support to work with IGATE and the labs to execute a lease and secure funding to build an open campus facility that would allow the partnerships between the labs, industry, and academia to flourish.
On a related note, we also requested his support to work with the Department of Commerce and EDA on some of their grant opportunities given the potential to create thousands of new high-paying jobs in our region.
Another important policy area that we covered was support of community television. Currently, community television (i.e. TV30 or Tri-Valley Community Television) is funded through the franchise fee’s PEG (Public, Education, Government) funds. This is a fee that by law is already collected for cable subscribers. Since 2011, the way these funds were used changed and now we can only fund capitol expenses for community television. This is problematic in that it’s great to have new equipment, but without the ability to fund operating costs we will not be able to fund personnel to use the equipment and run the actual station.
Across California over 60 community television stations have
closed in recent years, along with hundreds across the country. Specifically, we asked that the restrictions that currently exist on PEG funds be lifted so we could use the dollars for operating expenses. We all noted that this does not involve raising new revenue but rather just re-allocates how existing dollars are spent. Congressman Swalwell was very supportive and has already begun work on this matter.
We are looking forward to continuing the follow-up with his office on all of these items in the coming months. We will be meeting with Congressman George Miller along with some of the federal agencies that deal with the matters on our federal agenda early next week, and I will give an update afterwards.