Orange County Branch Newsletter
Investing in America's Infrastructure, Starting at Home in OC
By Josue Vaglienty, PE
After an incredibly long and tumultuous road leading up to the Presidential Election on Nov 8th, the country is finally moving forward. The two presidential candidates could not have been any more different in nature. However, there was one topic that both candidates agreed on: Investing in America’s infrastructure.. Both candidates’ campaigns focused on the need to upgrade infrastructure nationwide. Although each side proposed a different approach to paying for it, the topic of infrastructure was being discussed on a national platform where its importance could be heard.
At the Society level, ASCE recently submitted a letter to the President Elect to confirm his commitment to investing in infrastructure. However, we need to ask for the same commitment of our elected officials at all levels of government. With over 150,000 members, ASCE has a strong voice when it comes to providing advocacy on national infrastructure issues. ASCE’s most recent 2013 Report Card for America's Infrastructure has been cited multiple times by political leaders in Congress. ASCE Sections and Branches across the nation are working hard to develop or update their infrastructure report cards at the state level. The report card format is easily understood by the public and has become the common format for conveying the message.
At a local level, the most recent 2016 Orange County Infrastructure Report Card, developed jointly between ASCE OC and UCI Civil and Environmental Engineering Affiliates, is being used as a reference and a tool to convey the importance of enhancing and maintaining our infrastructure. Yazdan Emrani, former ASCE LA Section and ASCE OC Branch President led the effort in updating the report since its last release in 2010. The executive committee (which included ASCE OC leaders like Bob Bein, Harvey Gobas, Tapas Dutta, and Nicholas Arhontes) was tasked with coordinating subcommittees for each of the infrastructure sectors. The 2016 report card concluded that OC earned an overall grade of C+ and that an annual investment of $3 billion is needed for the next 10 years. Therefore, Orange County’s infrastructure has a lot of room for improvement.
The ASCE OC Government Relations Committee is actively engaged with national and state legislators in their local district offices in OC to discuss, inform, and advocate legislative staff on infrastructure issues that affect us as constituents. These conversations with legislators have a positive effect in that they reinforce relationships with our legislative representatives and build trust with their legislative staff.
So, what action can YOU take as a member to make ASCE’s voice that much louder?
• Become an ASCE Key Contact to help in influencing public policy on infrastructure issues with a single click of a mouse button
• Attend a Legislative Fly-In and/or Drive-In – meet legislators and represent ASCE
• Download and read ASCE’s e-book: Failure to Act – The Impact of Current Infrastructure Investment on America’s Economic Future
• Learn more about local infrastructure issues – get in touch with our Government Relations Committee
There are members of the engineering community that have gone on to contribute to infrastructure policy by becoming involved in politics. However, engineers are still vastly underrepresented in all levels of government. There is a growing demand for engineers, and especially civil engineers, to become involved in the political arena – and that demand should be fulfilled. Civil engineers offer a different perspective to problems, as they analyze long-term effects of proposals and compare costs vs. benefits. Whereas the alternative may be to develop quick, but non-sustainable, solutions.
If civil engineers don’t offer an opinion or advocate for infrastructure, then others will form an opinion for us. Our collective voices in ASCE are starting to be heard and the message is getting across. I am encouraged to know that several members in ASCE OC are becoming more politically active to carry out our message.