Originally posted at RedCounty.com
As I was watching the State of Union address last week, I looked for linkages to the challenges I face as a local elected official to those being experienced by our leaders in Washington. While the scope of the challenges may be much larger, at their root, the issues are all too similar.
How do we get those unemployed in our communities back to work? How do we inspire confidence in business leaders to invest and innovate? How do we energize a sputtering economy?
The answer is to get the toxic burden of regulation and over-zealous government oversight out of the way.
As you might recall, the President was critical of our national infrastructure and challenged us to invest in our highway and transportation systems. Such projects bring jobs, mobility and prosperity. It sounds quite simple – let’s build them now.
Not so fast – before one spoonful of dirt can be shoveled we need to go through the entitlement and permitting process and that is where dream meets reality. Last month, during a presentation to the Orange County Transportation Authority, a staff member was trying to graphically articulate the process to gain both state and federal approval for a highway project. The tangled web of a flowchart was filled with various loops, go-backs and inter-agency bureaucratic mazes. It is amazing to me that any project sees the light of day.
I would submit that the secret to job creation in California and our nation is the rational alignment of this web of bureaucracy. Every loop we brake on that chart, every maze laid straight, and every go-back reduced to a single trip equals jobs. Jobs desperately needed to restore solvency to our state on the brink of economic collapse.
Currently, we are experiencing one of the most favorable cost environments for major projects in recent history. Large scale infrastructure bids are coming in under engineering bids by more than 30%. Getting to the construction phase quickly has never been more important.
Yet, getting to that construction phase is the challenge. California has one of the most onerous environmental entitlement processes in the nation. Yet, if just one federal dollar is combined with our local funding, projects are subjected to an entirely new federal entitlement process. Not only is this duplicitous effort a waste of time, the cost of fueling this effort skims millions of the top before a single batch of concrete is poured.
The solution to this is clear – for those states like California who have an exhaustive environmental entitlement process, there should be no reason to duplicate the effort to meet some federal standard. We should be able to coordinate our local efforts with the federal agencies to eliminate this waste. No secret just true job creation instead of bloated bureaucracies.
OCTA’s Breaking Down Barriers initiative is pushing to eliminate or consolidate the environmental permitting process to reduce delays, John Mica (R-FL), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has a “437 Day Plan” which uses the rebuilding of the Minnesota I-35 bridge as an example of how to expedite the federal oversight process to produce results. We all should be pressing our elected officials to embrace these initiatives and eliminate the environmental double-take.
The secret to creating jobs is no secret – we simply need to produce a rational line of sight to get projects from paper to concrete. I urge all of our leaders at both the federal and state level to see this reality as the true opportunity to turn our economy around.
Don Hansen is Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Huntington Beach. He can be reached at DHansen@surfcity-hb.org.