California Economic Summit attendees collaborate on state’s pressing challenges

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Assemblymember Robert Rivas addresses a housing working group at the 2019 California Economic Summit in Fresno Thursday. (Photo: David Jon Photography/CA Fwd)

The work taking place at the California Economic Summit in Fresno today is aimed at influencing the state policies and upcoming legislation in the coming year. The more than 900 civic, business and community leaders attending today’s Summit broke into different working groups to discuss how to move forward to solve some of the state’s more pressing issues.

Here are priorities for the coming year from a sample of the working groups:

Housing, Mobility and Connectivity

  • All of the Above Strategy: Where to Build
    • To meet the State’s housing goal numbers, allow less discretion in the ability of communities to deny housing and revise zoning and planning laws to expedite approvals and increase density.
  • Housing and Infrastructure Investment Tools
    • Establish a new governance model that includes all local governments, school districts and the State in partnership to invest in infrastructure.
  • Broadband Access
    • Gather endorsements, raise awareness and generate momentum around the recommendation to the Governor for a Statewide Broadband Action Policy.

Lifelong Learning

  • Cradle to Career Early Adopter Grants
    • Commit to working with the State to have an RFP issued for the Early Adopter Innovation grants in the next fiscal year.

Ecosystem Vitality and Working Landscapes

  • San Joaquin Valley Water Sustainability
    • Work together to establish guiding principles, goals, and outcomes for water sustainability in the San Joaquin Valley.
  • Land Use and Groundwater
    • Build multi-stakeholder support to lobby for sustained funding for regional training and technical assistance for local leadership to bring together a wide variety of stakeholders to identify and plan multi-benefit recharge projects and design multi-benefit project planning and implementation grants that align application deadlines and expedite contract approval.
  • Ecosystem Services
    • Participants will support an effort to fund a statewide open source decision support tool for ecosystem services in California.

The Broadband Access Working Group is addressing the critical issue of rural broadband access. One in eight homes in California still lacks access to high-speed internet through a computing device or smartphone with the burden falling disproportionately on poor neighborhoods and rural communities.

The working group heard reports and perspectives from the field from representatives from the California Department of Technology, and the California Public Utilities Commission, the Rural County Representatives of California, the Regional Consortia and the California Emerging Technology Fund.

The group spent its working session making significant progress on a policy letter intended for Governor Gavin Newsom about rural broadband access. Some of the suggested policies include:

  • Communicate that high-speed Internet access constitutes essential 21st Century infrastructure for economic competitiveness, quality of life, and protection of people, property and resources.
  • Direct that broadband deployment must become a specific screening criterion for State decision-makers, civil servants and private sector entities engaged in formulating State policies, programs and projects with potential for expanding broadband infrastructure.
  • Provide practical mechanisms and latitude to empower state agencies to alter existing policies and practices, including permitting processes that create obstacles and to create a culture within government that enables rather than inhibits swift and widespread broadband deployment.

“We view this as a critical enabling technology for a 21st century inclusive economy,” said Trish Kelly, managing director of Valley Vision. “We felt it was important to have an agenda and give him (Gov. Newsom) something that he can work with, too. As well as, of course, we hope that he embraces the policy and works with us to advance it.”

Tomorrow, Governor Gavin Newsom will keynote the second day of the California Economic Summit, which will also include panels about higher education, making an equitable economy and a call to action to continue the work to solve the challenges facing California.


Nadine Ono

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