Message from the Chamber Chairman: 2009 Progress Report
Can you believe that 2009 is nearly in our rear view mirrors? It seems like yesterday that I accepted the gavel from Phil Blair and now I am preparing to hand it over to Tom Wornham. The old adage, “Time flies when you’re having fun,” was never more appropriate.
When I addressed the Chamber’s annual dinner gathering back in January, I outlined four policy priorities – 1) Water reliability for our region; 2) a fiscally responsible city budget; 3) supporting vital new capital projects, such as the expansion of our Convention Center; and 4) ensuring San Diego’s fair share of federal stimulus funds. In addition, I spoke to an over-arching initiative, which some have labeled a Clarion Call, to move our business community from a loose confederation of separate organizations to a collaborative force that effectively represents our interests before Federal, State and local policymakers.
I am pleased to tell you that we are making excellent progress on all of these fronts. Just hours ago, our State Legislature passed historic water legislation that will put us on a course to fix California’s main plumbing system: the San Francisco Bay/San Joaquin Delta. This landmark effort balances the twin goals of ecosystem restoration and water supply reliability, and our San Diego delegation, both Democrats and Republicans, are to be commended for their incredible energy, vision and leadership in securing the future of the Bay/Delta, through which flows 35% of our water.
This great victory also served as a template for how our business community can come together – how we are so much more effective as a team than we are as individual entities. Mayor Sanders and the San Diego County Water Authority provided direction and leadership, and your business community stepped up. In late October, a delegation of leaders from BIOCOM, CONNECT, the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation and the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce ventured to Sacramento to meet with key legislative and executive branch officials. Those meetings helped us understand the immediate challenges to passing water legislation and what we could do to make a difference.
And we are making a difference beyond water legislation. The business community acting more strategically contributed to significant outcomes at the San Diego City Council earlier this year on the City’s Budget. Together we have advanced a new civic center to the next stage of negotiations with the developer, and we have similarly advanced the possibility of a new central library.
In September, eighty of us descended on Washington, D.C. to speak with one voice on health care, border infrastructure, military affairs, education policy and technology-related concerns. Our business coalition, supplemented by a number of elected officials, was the largest delegation of its type from San Diego in a very long time. More importantly, we will build on the relationships, advocacy, and lessons learned from this successful endeavor.
Of course, even with all these promising developments, a Chamber’s work is never done. 2010 will bring its own set of challenges, but I am very proud of the Chamber’s effort in 2009. We all knew this was going to be a tough year, yet our staff and our Board were up to the task. Economic downturn or not, San Diego is still the best place to live…and to be a Chamber chair!