The election has come to an end, and the voters have chosen who they want to represent us here in the Inland Empire. For those like me fortunate to serve this great region, there is a lot of work to do.
Like much of the state, the Inland Empire is still struggling to regain its footing in the aftermath of the Great Recession. The economy is slowly improving, and the unemployment rate is inching downward. But, if you are an out-of-work laborer still relying on an unemployment check, a recently graduated student forced to move in with your parents because you can't afford rent, or a small business owner working hard to keep the doors open, it is not improving fast enough. Therefore, it is critically important that local and state elected officials join business leaders to come up with innovative, out of the box policy solutions that will speed things along and get our community back to work.
One solution that is gaining support is the local control of the Ontario airport. The airport has the potential to be a major economic boon to our region, providing a convenient place for passengers to arrive and embark, a port for air freight, as well as a place of employment. And, like a ripple in a pond, the economic activity will spread through the area, raising up everything around it. However, under the current leadership of Los Angeles, the airport is in financial trouble, and has been for years. Passenger traffic has plummeted by nearly one-third, freight traffic has stagnated, and airlines are leaving for more lucrative airports. Many in Ontario and the Inland Empire, myself included, believe that the airport will be better run if it is in local hands. After all, we have a more direct stake in its success, and we understand our regional economy and population better than anybody else. It only stands to reason that we can determine the best course to get the airport working again. Moreover, with local control, we can begin work to extend the Metro Gold Line to the airport, which will increase the economic viability of the airport by making it more accessible, as well as create tens of thousands of new construction jobs in our region.
We must also continue to stabilize the housing market. I serve as Chair of the Committee on Housing and Community Development, and last term I led the effort to secure $2 billion in federal funding that created the "Keep Your Home California" program, which has helped millions of Californians stay in their homes. In addition, I was instrumental to the success of the Homeowners Bill of Rights, a collection of tough bill that protect the interests of homeowners. As a result of these and other efforts, the number of foreclosures in the state is declining and housing prices are gradually increasing. However, construction of new housing is still lagging behind. Therefore, we need to collaborate with local agencies and the housing industry to create ways to encourage new home construction, which will further stabilize the housing market, as well as provide countless new construction jobs in the Inland Empire.
As always, we must continue to combat crime--which not only threatens public safety, but also stymies economic growth. Last year I came very close to enacting a comprehensive copper theft legislation, which would have virtually eliminated the copper theft in our region. The bill was supported by a large contingent of statewide organizations, and was the subject of several positive editorials. However, a few members of the State Senate disagreed, and the bill failed to make it to the Governor's desk. The public outcry to the bills untimely death was encouraging, and this next year I am confident we will be more successful.
The Inland Empire, and California, is facing some major challenges that will not be easy to solve. I have had the good fortune of representing the Inland Empire for over a decade, and I have witnessed the strength, perseverance, and pluck of our community. I am supremely confident that with good ideas, the right leadership, and a little elbow grease, we can shake this economic slump and become the region that we all know we should be.