Thankfully this is my last column of 2020. I am hopeful that 2021 or what I call Year Zero, will be an improvement over this shipwreck of an annum. However, with a significant increase in COVID-19 patients and Southern California ICU capacity down to zero, it is pretty much a given that the current stay at home order will be extended by Governor Newsom. Unfortunately Southern California has now become the worst location in the world for COVID-19. Our border region and especially the neighborhoods and cities east of Imperial Beach are among the worst in California for COVID-19 outbreaks. So, we have some work to do in order to stay safe and healthy and keep others safe and healthy. It won’t be easy. But we have to hold on until the COVID-19 vaccine can be more widely distributed.
I am thankful that some front-line health care workers have already received vaccinations and that our front-line public safety workers and other essential workers will be among those to receive the vaccine earlier than later. The rest of us who are not considered essential workers will have to wait. Meanwhile, even those who have been vaccinated need to be careful and be safe, since it is not clear that even if they are inoculated against COVID-19, that they still can’t pass it to others.
With the new round of emergency stimulus funding that was approved this week by Congress, there should be more help coming for businesses and non-profit organizations. The Payroll Protection Program, extended unemployment benefits, as well as $600 for individuals should be helpful to those in need. It is far from enough, but it seems as though Congress finally learned how to make a deal for the good of the country. That is how our government is supposed to work. We are supposed to work together for the common good. We are supposed to compromise. These types of deals are not done on social media, but in person and require all sides to put away their personal differences and work together for all. Everyone has to give up something to get something. That is the hallmark of our democracy.
That is the type of process that occurred during the negotiations for the USMCA trade agreement that resulted in $300 million being allocated to clean up the Tijuana River. Members of both parties worked together to find common ground around the need to clean up the border region. The collective and collaborative efforts around the Tijuana River sub-agreement for the USMCA involved our entire Congressional delegation as well as federal legislators from across the U.S.-Mexico border. The effort also included a non-partisan group of elected officials as well as business and civic leaders from around San Diego County. The result was the largest single appropriation in EPA history.
Last week I spoke with a high level administrator from the EPA, who will soon leave the federal government. He thanked Imperial Beach for our strong leadership and support for cleaning up the Tijuana River and urged us to continue to be vigilant and exert pressure to get the river and border cleaned up through the construction of new diversion infrastructure on the U.S. side of the border. A slew of recent sewage spills into the Tijuana River as a result of Tijuana sewage infrastructure breakdowns highlights the need to have diversion infrastructure on our side of the border that can capture renegade sewage flows before they reach the ocean. We will never be able to depend on Mexico to fix the problem without a U.S.-side sewage diversion system (and unfortunately but predictably some Mexican officials keep proclaiming that the sewage crisis is “mission accomplished” even though they know it isn’t).
We are lucky that we can continue to enjoy the plentiful and beautiful outdoors including our blue spaces in and around Imperial Beach. Nature for me has been a salvation over the past year, and it will continue to be so in 2021. So please enjoy a safe and healthy Christmas and Happy New Year!