WRCOG Hosts General Assembly at Pechanga


June 28 2019
Ryan Byrne
Temecula-On June 20, 2019, the Western Riverside Council of Governments hosted their annual General Assembly at Pechanga Resort Casino.
The event, which ran from 10:00 A.M. to 8:30 P.M., included a state of the sub-region address, panel discussions and several keynote speakers. The panel discussions ranged from housing to transportation and leadership. The events speakers presented a range of topics including employment, futurism and leadership.
The assembly kicked off at 10:00 A.M. with the state of the sub region address. Ryan Wiggins, a Senior Associate in Economics and Planning at AECOM (an engineering firm), spoke of some of the indicators within the county and WRCOG sub region that show growth. While median income from 2012 to 2016 dropped from $63,487 to $62,131, 67,000 jobs were added from 2010 to 2015. When comparing the sub region to the state, violent crimes per 100,000 residents in the sub region were at 401 while statewide it was 542. Water usage within 4 of 5 water districts in the sub region were down in 2017 compared to 2013. When comparing WRCOG to Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, the number of graduate degree holders is 4% higher and the number of bachelor’s degree holders is 7% higher. And in 2016, per capita vehicle miles traveled was down 5% from 2010, and Riverside Transit Agency ridership was up to 8.7 million in 2017, when compared to 8.1 million in 2011. Concurrently, Riverside County added 20 more good to moderate air quality days in 2017 when compared to 2012.
Following the address, Managing Director of the Riverside County Economic Development
Agency Heidi Marshall moderated a panel discussion entitled “Is Suburbia Dying?” Panelist
Gene Wunderlich, the Vice President of Government Affairs for the Southwest Riverside County Association of Realtors, said that “ultimately [millennials] want that white picket fence” when it comes to home buying. He noted, however, that the Baby Boomer generation who bought homes at lower prices post-recession and starter homes before the recession are reluctant to leave those homes due to current high housing costs and taxes. This, coupled with a lack of started homes due to high building fees, is what he said was keeping millennials from homeownership. Eastvale City Manager Bryan Jones added that the lack of retail and entertainment centered around experiences has helped to drive millennials away from suburbia. “We need to design places and communities centered around people,” he said, adding that cities and developers need to work to create neighborhoods that don’t “all look the same.” President and CEO of National Community
Renaissance Steve Pontell echoed that sentiment stating that Southern California is one of the most creative and innovative places in the nation, and that same creativity needs to apply to home building to keep suburbia from dying.
Next, Professor of Spatial Economic Analysis and Regional Planning at the University of
Redlands Dr. Johannes Moenius answered the question of: will a robot take my job? In his
speech, Dr. Moenius stated that in the long run, robots could. Dr. Moenius said that size, speed, substitution technology and scale were all the biggest factors to consider when determining if jobs would become automated. When looking at Riverside County alone, he said, the county is the most vulnerable area in the state and fourth most in the nation to job automation. Dr. Moenius said that up to 63% of jobs in the county could be automated in the next 20 years. He found that within the county, manufacturing and transport could see employment numbers from 2016 cut by 67% if full automation is achieved by 2036. Similarly, he found utilities could see employment fall from 236,200 to 157,377, business services from 90,100 to 83,330 and construction from 71,600 to 35,386. However, Dr. Moenius found healthcare and education could climb from 124,700 workers in 2016, to 235,664 in 2036. He concluded that healthcare, education, and information will be the least affected by automation in the next 20 years.

The third panel of the day, entitled “will I be allowed to drive in the future”, was moderated by Riverside Deputy Public Works Director and City Engineer Gilbert Hernandez. Riverside City Traffic Engineer and Mobility Planning Manager Nathan Mustafa said that as the public begins to move towards autonomous driving and ride sharing, less and less space must be dedicated to parking and roads. He said that in Downtown Riverside, more business owners are requesting that curb side parking be tuned to ride sharing drop-off zones and that the University of California Riverside is already testing autonomous vehicles on University Avenue. Paul Zamsky, Head of Strategic Partnerships at Waycare Technologies, added on that as autonomous vehicles continue to see widespread adoption, government agencies can help to use them to leverage operations.
He hoped that autonomous vehicles and governments could have two way communication to help improve infrastructure, policy and planning. ADVANTEC C.E.O. Carlos Ortiz emphasized private and public sector cooperation as well, and encouraged local governments to create infrastructure and networks that can handle autonomous cars sooner rather than later. When Riverside County Transportation Commission Capital Projects Manager Stephanie Blanco was asked by Hernandez if Riverside County needed congestion pricing, similar to programs in New York or Los Angeles, Blanco said that the county is interested, but for the time they would continue to receive state and federal funding for express lanes as a viable means of congestion pricing.

The second morning speaker, C.E.O. and Founder of Cofano Ventures Mark Cofano, told the
audience that “the future you choose is better than the one chosen for you.” Cofano, a futurist, spoke to the crowd of local leaders about the need to “be that voice [citizens] trust.” Cofano said that as we push into a future of automation and uncertainty, governments must work to calm citizens down, and adapt to change. Cofano provided examples of what happens when a government refuses to adapt to changes, citing the recent Baltimore ransomware attack. He also stressed the need for basic minimum income, jobs, the protection of infrastructure and more government services. Most of all, he pushed local leader to have good communication with citizens. “The townhall is coming back,” he said.
The final panel of the afternoon, moderated by Lake Elsinore Mayor Pro-tem Brian Tisdale
delved into “the future of leadership.” When asked about how to deal with job loss in the county, Riverside County second district supervisor Karen Spiegel pressed the need for education tailored around jobs which require higher education, something, she says, robots couldn’t do.
Riverside Mayor Rusty Bailey added on that every city should create an education roundtable, as Riverside has. Bailey said that Riverside has worked with schools to eliminate traffic in the roads that surround them, and have brought education, government and businesses together to provide students with the technology they need to work towards these new tech heavy jobs. “Every business should adopt a school with tech needs.” Lake Elsinore Mayor Steve Manos spoke of the efforts within his own city to support education. “Support cooperative coordinate…get your hands dirty,” he said. But Manos also spoke of also talked about a range of issues within Lake Elsinore. He expressed frustration with the high fees related to homebuilding, saying that those fees take away developers ability to build affordable homes. He also expressed caution when asked if universal basic income was viable. “I am fearful of how that impacts our society…what it means to be American,” he said, expressing that “people will a way” when it comes to a new job market and that universal basic income could ultimately cause inflation to rise. Hemet Mayor
Bonnie Wright said that the “City of hemet is like a diamond in the rough.” She went on to
explain that Hemet has plenty of potential in industry, due to the abundance of useable land and a 2017 increase in commercial construction by 147%. Wright added that the abundance of small, affordable homes built originally for senior citizens and an uptick in available jobs can help to bring millennials to Hemet.
In the evening, former White House Press Secretary under Barack Obama (2014-2017) Josh Earnest addressed the assembly. Earnest told the audience that “one of the things that feels missing from the political debate across the country right now is a sense of optimism.” He said that as more elected officials and people in a position of power become frustrated and angry, we lose that optimism, optimism, he says, is “almost literally what this country was built on.” He continued by saying that the challenges we now face are daunting but we can only tackle those challenges by being “confident and optimistic, and tapping into the joy of community” like Riverside County. He added that we “have a tendency in a polarized environment to lose [our] sense of humanity” and that even those we see on television or social media are human too. He explained that in this environment we begin to see people has members of a team (either Democrats or Republicans) and that “we have a tendency to see those jerseys before we see those people.” He continued to say the local leaders, such as those in WRCOG, work to solve problems because they are “inspired” and not because it “gets them on T.V.” He ended by saying
that if we can regain “that sense of humanity and see people as people and not just a member of one team or another…and couple that with the kind of optimism and sense of intrinsic pride and joy that comes with public service, then I kind of like our chances.”