Last week, over two dozen Bay Area business and civic leaders traveled to Washington, D.C. with the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce to make their voices heard on issues important to their businesses and our city. This year’s CityTripDC delegation met with more than a dozen top lawmakers and department officials to express support for infrastructure investment, skilled worker immigration reform, and policies to help boost healthful living, international travel and commerce in San Francisco.
As California’s drought continues into its third year, water conservation, recycling and storage are three areas where lawmakers and the Chamber are very much aligned. Congressional leaders from both parties expressed deep concerns over the state’s water crisis. Senator Dianne Feinstein implored the Chamber to support both a November bond measure to help rehabilitate California’s water storage system, including at least $3 billion for new storage, as well as an emergency proposal she will co-sponsor to deal with current water shortages. She noted that if rapid action is not taken, California is at risk of becoming “a desert state.”
Lawmakers also appear willing to continue with federal investments in transportation infrastructure. In meetings with Senator Barbara Boxer, the Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway and Railroad Administrations, the Chamber discussed the importance of investing in High-Speed Rail (HSR), the electrification of Caltrain and the Central Subway Expansion project – all of which have received needed federal funding thanks in part to support from the Chamber. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi emphasized that regional cooperation is key to advancing any new transportation appropriations in the Bay Area.
Attended by Supervisors London Breed and Jane Kim, San Francisco Recreation and Park Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Deputy General Manager Michael Carlin, and representatives from the San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) and San Francisco Travel Association (SF Travel), this year’s CityTrip DC also put a focus on strategies to boost healthful urban living and international travel in San Francisco. Meetings with the Trust for Public Land, Global Policy Solutions, Arcadia Center for Sustainable Farming and the U.S. Travel Association provided an opportunity to dialogue about food security, sustainable agriculture, the value of parks to the local economy and programs such as “Brand USA” to promote tourism.
Unfortunately, there is wide agreement in Washington that partisan gridlock continues to be a significant obstacle to progress in our nation’s capital regardless of the issue. In fact, nearly every lawmaker we met with expressed concern over gridlock. And many emphasized the importance of local policy initiatives to help advance national issues such as affordable housing, climate change, education reform, and transportation funding. Congressmember Jackie Speier expressed the need to “play harder ball” when it comes to demanding what the city needs and delivering the message to elected officials.
The Chamber thanks the civic leaders, partner businesses and sponsors who joined us in our nation’s Capital last week to advocate for our city. We also thank the lawmakers who met with us to hear firsthand about the challenges and opportunities facing our region and its businesses. And we again pledge our commitment to advancing our agenda for sustained prosperity throughout the year ahead.