Last week, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) convened the annual Regional Conference and General Assembly (GA) in Palm Desert for two days. The GA is a yearly convening of elected officials from across Southern California to celebrate the accomplishments of the past year. But it’s not all fun in the sun - the GA represents lots of hard work by SCAG staff, elected officials and stakeholders and also offers an opportunity for building new relationships. It was a time to strategically pause and celebrate our accomplishments just one year after the implementation of the the 2012 Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategies (RTP/SCS).
At the GA, leaders from around the state encouraged and praised the efforts of SCAG in their implementation of the RTP/SCS. Speakers from around California included Hon. Raul Ruiz from the U.S. House of Representatives (36th Congressional District), Hon. Brian Nestande from the CA Assembly (42nd Assembly District) and Brian P. Kelly, Acting Secretary of the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency (BTH). The convening of Southern California and state elected officials and transportation agency staff provided an opportunity to check the temperature of their progress, hear from stakeholders and understand the long-term and big picture impact of these changes.
The venue also gave community-based organizations and local cities in the Coachella Valley a place to highlight their work. These organizations were excited about the opportunity to speak. Brett Klein, a representative from the City of Palm Springs Sustainability Commission, kicked off public comments by sharing progress with the implementation of the Coachella Valley Association of Governments’ Non-Motorized Transportation Plan, including improved bicycling, walking and hiking pathways, education, safety, Safe Routes to School and community awareness. SCAG also awarded Amanda Eaken from the National Resource Defence Council with the inaugural President’s Sustainability Leadership Award at the evening reception.
On the second day, the joint meeting of the SCAG Regional Council (RC) and committees encouraged SCAG stakeholders and community organizations to voice their optimism for the next year. Last year, stakeholders and the Safe Routes Partnership passed a motion with the RC to convene subcommittees on important policy topics, including active transportation, sustainability and strategic transportation finance to facilitate discussion and draft work plans.
From the Coachella Valley, community groups illustrated their challenges: Daniel de la Herran from Incight, a group of disabled cyclists that bicycle locally, highlighted problems that disabled populations on bicycle, wheel chairs and other assisted devices face when navigating their community; Karen Borja from the Inland Congregations United for Change brought residents from the North Shore community, one of the most underserved and low-resourced communities in the Coachella Valley, and they voiced the needs of their community for public transportation; Legrand Velez from LSA Associates Inc. provided details on bicycle and pedestrian projects in Coachella Valley. The message this year was around potential opportunities to strengthen relationships between SCAG and its county transportation commissions (CTCs) around implementation, monitoring, consistency and transparency in project reporting.