Photo by Sam Hodgson
Rep. Juan Vargas, whose district includes the entire California/Mexico border, is fasting Wednesday to draw attention to immigration reform.
We live in a vibrant metropolitan region, unique in that it crosses an international border.
That means nearly all basic local government issues, like the city budget, sidewalk repairs and neighborhood planning — the issues VOSD readers cited as the most important for San Diego’s next mayor to address — have a bi-national “cross-border” component, even though “cross-border issues” ranked as one of the lowest-priority issues in the survey.
San Diego’s economic prosperity is irrevocably tied to growth in Baja California, and Tijuana in particular. We are, as many political and business leaders have said, one regional economy.
Mexican manufacturing facilities depend on California-based suppliers for parts, and on logistics companies and customs brokers to move their products to destinations across the United States. Manufacturing facilities in Tijuana are increasingly integrated with research and development facilities in San Diego, particularly in industries we seek to grow for their high-wage jobs, such as medical devices and aerospace manufacturing.
Our shopping malls, restaurants and tourist attractions receive substantial daily traffic from Baja residents. How San Diego approaches this fundamental economic reality is critical for the region and city’s future.
So, what does the city need to do to maximize the advantage of our location at the vortex of a North American and Trans-Pacific economy? Address all of the key infrastructure issues cited by VOSD readers.
We must provide the transportation network that facilitates this economy. We must recognize that air quality and water quality are bi-national issues, that our water and energy reliability and security are enhanced through regional connectivity and that in neighborhoods like Otay Mesa and San Ysidro, international issues are also neighborhood planning issues.
For example, improving the city’s two-lane road that serves as the truck route to the Otay Mesa Commercial Port of Entry — where over 750,000 trucks bring goods to and from Mexico each year — is necessary. This will ensure that existing manufacturing facilities in that neighborhood do not relocate due to the frustration their employees experience just getting to and from their jobs. It is imperative to the growth of our regional economy that the next mayor work closely with state and federal officials to facilitate the flow of commercial goods across the border, so trucks can make more trips per day rather than idling for two or three hours in air-quality exacerbating lines.
The next mayor of San Diego must compel the federal government to fully fund its commitment to remodel the San Ysidro Port of Entry. This will encourage shoppers to visit our malls, thereby improving the city’s budget with sales tax dollars. Lowering wait times will also encourage our residents to visit Baja California, improving its economy, providing more jobs and discretionary income for its residents to spend here and promoting cultural and academic interaction.
Our energy and water reliability networks will be more secure if we find ways to improve these platforms together with Mexico, rather than separately from them. Let’s not forget the 2007 fires, when Tijuana was able to supply power to our grid at a critical time to keep the lights on in San Diego.
A clear understanding of our interconnections and a consistent, open dialogue with Mexico’s government officials to look at our shared region as a single economic and environmental ecosystem will benefit both sides, and improve the quality of life for all of our region’s residents. The next mayor of San Diego has the responsibility to infuse cross-border collaboration into all of the city’s work, and lead a county-wide effort to realize the full potential of the advantages our cross-border region provides.
Denise Moreno Ducheny is a former state senator, and currently serves as a senior policy adviser at the University of California, San Diego’s Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies. Ducheny’s commentary has been edited for clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here. Want to respond? Submit a commentary.
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