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Hilbert Morales

Recently Mayor Sam Liccardo delivered his State of the City report at San Jose City College. Supervisor Joe Simitian, newly elected President, Board of Supervisors, made his State of the County report at the BOS Chambers. The State of California presentation was delivered by Governor Jerry Brown. And President Trump delivered his first State of the Nation report, taking 90 minutes to deliver his perspective on many issues.

These four ‘speech reports’ are designed to informed citizens about public policy issues and challenges:

The President proposed a program addressing long neglected infrastructures (highways, bridges, airports, harbors, waterways, etc.). Only $200 billion in federal funding would be made available. Local jurisdictions could undertake this $1.5 trillion-dollar effort to repair and improve public highways, etc., all on their own with the Federal Transportation Department’s $200 Billion support amounting to less than 10% (in the past the Federal share was 80%).

This County has already undertaken local projects to extend BART and upgrade roads (using Measure B funds). Governor Brown reportedly ‘thanked’ Mr. Trump for his generous efforts. Hopefully, the focus will be on CA’s intrastate highways with a requirement that more electrical recharging stations be made available.

This type of public works program will provide jobs for many low-skilled laborers and could be used to reduce ‘working poor’ levels. Would more publicly owned and operated toll roads collect more funds than additional gasoline taxes? The transition to electric vehicles may require using toll roads to earn revenues needed to support CA’s highways. A feasibility study should be initiated.

The Trump Administration had no problem giving 83% of IRS tax breaks to corporate and 0.1% special interests. It may be in the best interests of the working public to plan to vote at the June Primary and November Midterm Election to give Democrats majority control of both the Senate and House of Representatives. Keep in mind, that it is the U.S. Congress which has the ‘power of the purse’ when making federal funding allocations. So, if the liberals want a liberal approach to public policies, then it is necessary to elect more liberal Democrats and Independents.

CA’s Governor Brown favors the high-speed rail project which needs to extend from Bakersfield all the way north through Sacramento to the Shasta Dam/Redding, CA areas to promote urban development along its future service route. This would facilitate the development of major corporate facilities in current areas having low urban densities, but still having accessibility to water and electricity.

The ‘spur’ towards San Jose could be deferred until high speed rail operations are developed and established. In the meantime, service to San Jose and San Francisco could be met by using autonomous driverless vehicles using existing highways.

This approach will enable getting an early return on investments made because the especially difficult engineering and right of way issues involved are deferred. Let’s adopt a public policy of development of population centers in areas north of Sacramento in order to minimize gentrification forces in existing urban areas, especially San Jose and San Francisco.

Governor Jerry Brown continues to support those Delta Tunnels designed to divert Sacramento River water south to the L.A. Basin. Although the proposed project has been reduced to one pipeline, it is best not to build this diversion pipeline because of its ecosystem impact plus the reality that no additional potable water is added to that already produced by natural weather patterns. The delta is

already delivering water to the pumping stations which keep two canals flowing full.

What is really needed is a state-wide plan to build desalinization plants powered by solar and wind generated electricity… all located from the S.F. Bay Area down to San Diego. A program to encourage homeowners to install rooftop solar panels would permit feedback of electricity produced using existing electric utility wiring. This approach would reduce land areas needed for solar farms. At the minimum desalinization feasibility projects programs could identify best locations and unit costs.

This use of current technology would ADD POTABLE WATER. Its production would be totally independent of rainy weather cycles. Enough desalinization capacity could make California’s urban areas totally independent of diverted river water. Enough of these plants would put an end to CA’s legal water wars. Excess desalinized water could be pumped up to watersheds which flow into the San Juaquin Valley’s farmland and be used to ‘recharge’ that valley’s depleted aquifers reducing subsidence.

BOS President Joe Simitian and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo would be well advised to lean upon the Santa Clara Valley Water District. There are two issues (available potable water and flood control) which both were not addressed in their State of the County and City reports. One involves a local feasibility study to have a desalinization plant located at its Alviso recycling facility.

Again, the basic objective is to assess the feasibility and opportunity to ADD desalinized potable water to existing supplies. As the City of San Jose and Silicon Valley’s High-Tech economy continues to thrive, a larger work force will be needed. So, in addition to dealing with the acute housing shortage, there is a need to address the potable water supply issues which are essential to sustain biological life as well as local industrial & commercial needs. This area has already experienced five years of drought induced water shortages mitigated by conservation practices. A collaborative regional study could establish when the local population and commerce would ‘outstrip’ supplies of potable water produced by local rainy weather cycles. Our society has the knowledge and resources necessary to estimate the potable water requirements needed by future populations and commercial requirements. In fact, desalinization production located at Alviso could be pumped up to the highest watershed levels to keep the creeks flowing at a level which recharges the aquifers now being depleted.

In addition, flood control issues need to be addressed and mitigated by programs underwritten by the SCVWD which has jurisdictional responsibility. The ability to produce additional portable water using desalinization processes may minimize the need to use dams and reservoirs. Then SCVWD may not have to seismically reinforce existing reservoir dams, but rather produce potable water as needed. Both the County and City should receive public annual reports from SCVWD officials which details their efforts to ensure that appropriate potable water and flood control efforts have been made.

There is plenty of salty ocean water available to this community. What is needed investments which pay the costs of having oceanic waters desalinized and to ensure that when torrential rains fall, the creeks have the necessary flow through capacity to minimize flooding incidents of urban lowlands.

My reaction to the State of the City, County, State and Nation was to look for essential issues not addressed at all. This approach identified opportunities to deal with a) local flood control; b) ensure potable water supplies for a growing population and hi-tech commerce; and c) infrastructural needs which includes high speed rail services and desalinization application opportunities.

One additional public policy issue is that our society needs to discuss providing the disadvantaged and handicapped with a guaranteed annual income calibrated to pay for living essentials. This nation has enough wealth to underwrite all these efforts.