Opinion: California’s Infrastructure is Crumbling. Veterans Can Help Fix It.

by on November 11, 2019 · 1 comment

in Ocean Beach, San Diego, Veterans

By Nicole Ueno / November 11, 2019

As state lawmakers rush to increase housing density in California, demographers estimate that our population will continue to increase by 300,000 to 400,000 people annually.

Essential infrastructure like roads, bridges, water pipelines and dams are already in disrepair, and increased strains from additional projected use are causing concern over the long-term sustainability of resident population growth.

A recent report from the League of California Cities states that “Numerous studies suggest that not only is the state unprepared for future growth, its current condition does not adequately support today’s population. Quite simply, California’s infrastructure is crumbling. The infrastructure situation at the local level is bleak. Cities are where 83 percent of Californians live, work, and play. As the state has struggled to balance its budget, it has cut infrastructure spending programs and taken local revenues. Cities face monumental challenges as they address local needs.”

One important example of such a challenge is seen in our water systems, where researchers say that the aging infrastructure is causing the loss of substantial resources before water even reaches consumers. Retrofitting and expanding these systems is key to ensuring that Californians have enough clean drinking water, especially as the state’s population increases.

California needs to pump billions of dollars into its water and wastewater systems, which received a D grade in 2019 from the American Society of Civil Engineers. Dave Eggerton, Executive Director of the Association of California Water Agencies, recently testified before a U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee that “Aging infrastructure presents a major problem for many water systems. More than 60 percent of Reclamation managed dams are over 50 years old and a sizeable portion of Reclamation infrastructure is more than a century old. Similarly, more than 50 percent of the dams operated by the Corps have reached or exceeded the 50-year service life for which they were designed.”

Lawmakers are taking steps towards meeting the demand to revamp our aging infrastructure with a source of untapped talent in the labor market – military veterans. Assembly Bill 1588, sponsored by San Diego’s Todd Gloria and Merced’s Adam Gray, makes it possible for veterans to receive credit for their military education and experience when applying for civilian water and wastewater system operator certifications in California.

“San Diego County is home to more than 240,000 veterans with skills that benefit our region in numerous ways,” said Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath of Encinitas, a co-author of the bill. “With this legislation, we are building stronger communities that can remain home to servicemembers after they take off the uniform and transition into civilian life.”

Veterans cite finding a job as the greatest challenge to transitioning back to the civilian world. While returning vets are looking for work that is meaningful, translating their skill sets from military to civilian employment can be challenging. Not used to competitive job markets, building a resume or vocalizing their talents, they often struggle to find good-paying jobs once leaving the service.

Many veterans offer specialized technical skills along with more general leadership qualities like problem solving, ethics and discipline. They reduce costs of employment by having less need of technical training, and are objective-focused with real-world experience in high stakes situations.

With experience in coordinating complex systems of personnel, supplies, and equipment, advanced training in analytics, information management, computing architecture and connectivity, and education in mechanical, electrical, and civil engineering, veterans are a valuable resource for California’s water systems management, and for infrastructure projects across the board.

I applaud our local legislators for their role in creating pathways to employment for veterans, and encourage an even greater push to bring the skill sets gained in military service to the public works sector.  We need to swiftly address our crumbling infrastructure, and military vets are in need of good-paying, stable jobs. Infrastructure projects throughout the state would be well served by hiring US veterans, and as a State Assemblymember, I will advocate for reinstating the employer incentives for hiring veterans that were ended by AB 93 and also work towards creating infrastructure-based job training programs for returning service members.

Thank you to all who have served this country that we are so fortunate to call home. As our population continues to grow, hiring US veterans in public works and infrastructure projects will be an important step in securing our future.

Nicole Ueno is running for the 78th State Assembly seat.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Geoff Page November 13, 2019 at 11:05 am

Wow. Could this be more pandering? Running for political office on the backs of veterans. I could not disagree more.

First, the infrastructure problem is not due to a lack of people to work on it, it is due to a lack of money. That’s the problem to focus on.

Second, if there are jobs out there let the vets apply for them like anyone else. Why vets get an advantage over any other job applicant is beyond me. The majority of these vets went into the military to have a job and to take advantage of free education, they didn’t all sign up with stars in their eyes and a noble desire to preserve our freedoms. If they come out with the skills to do these jobs then let them compete on a level field with others who were not in the military. At least they will have the advantage of obtaining those skills without the ensuing debt that those who obtained the same skills in the private market have.

This nationwide pandering to the military is getting ridiculous. I grew up in a Navy family and in my day, the military people were looked down on as second class citizens. Today, they get advantages everywhere like boarding planes before the rest of the world and job application credits. The glorification of the military is becoming really worrisome.

But, this is a great sound bite for an aspiring politician. Her next piece should be about how religious she is, that will seal the deal.


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