As the District moves into the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2008/2009, we’d be hard-pressed to find another period in state government that has been as momentous. So many things have happened that have impacted us and so many things we’ve done have the possibility of affecting so many other people.
Now we’re in a final race to close out the fiscal year and hit all of our targets. As usual, all of you in District 7 are going to do your absolute best.
Looking ahead, we’re still going to be struggling with how we get projects to construction. But the good news is that California did a great job selling bonds last week so maybe the State’s starting to get out of the economic doldrums overall in terms of impacts to work here at Caltrans.
In any case, we still have a lot to do and we continue to do it. Certainly small businesses are a big part of the picture, whether in construction or architecture and engineering. To ensure their continued and expanded participation in Caltrans opportunities, we had a great Calmentor event in February that’s highlighted in Inside 7 this month. The event focused on the A&E aspect of it and what we’re doing to make sure that those small businesses are working in California. Our next challenge is making sure the same opportunities are extended to the procurement side. We are focusing on such events as the procurement fair that we had with the Los Angeles Urban League in the Crenshaw District in mid-March and the next procurement fair that we have coming up the end of this month as well.
In addition, it’s really important that we begin to push out into the construction side, and ensure the viability of small businesses, because they are local businesses. They are the businesses that operate in your town; they’re the parents that work in your PTA, and spend money in your community. We want to make sure that they also have opportunities to do business with the State of California.
And the economy has been tough on all of us. We all know that there’s been less out in construction than we would like to see right now. The only game in town IS transportation. So we’re seeing lots of companies bid on work that haven’t worked with us before. But because things are tight we’re also seeing large contractors bidding on much smaller contracts just to keep their crews busy. So you need to continue to move forward with the projects that you’re working on so that we can create jobs for them.
We need to work with our local partners in this as well. There’s a great article in Inside 7 this month about the workshops that we’re doing with the local agencies to help them move their stimulus projects out into the economy faster.
And while we are working on jobs creation, we need to remember the youth of our community. High unemployment rates in California and particularly in Los Angeles are further reducing opportunities for at-risk kids and we need to make sure we doing what we can to prepare them to work in the upcoming environment.
We had a great Job Shadow Day in March with a number of students from both Wilson and Franklin high schools. They had a chance to see what happens in transportation and maybe make that commitment to stay in school, go to college and get jobs working for people like us, making things better.
We have another great event coming up May 7 with the Association of General Contractors, Turner Construction, LAUSD, and a host of others, to take at risk students in targeted communities and show them the jobs that are going to be available in construction and maintenance. We need these kids to come in and take these jobs and be ready in the market. When the economy turns around and we start getting more and more work, we need the people there to pick up the jobs. This is a great opportunity for a lot of these young men and women to move into decent paying jobs that contribute so much to our society.
As we work toward making new opportunities for others, we need to remember that the jobs we do can be very dangerous. Sadly, in March, we lost a consultant who was working on a contract with our Caltrans employees out on the I-5/SR-14 Interchange. On March 4, Tom Brown was struck and killed by a car. A lot of you may know Tom, who was a 38- year veteran of Caltrans. He retired four years ago and he had been working on the private side doing consulting work in construction--basically the same thing he did for us here. Tom was a consummate field man and a consummate bridge man. He will be sadly missed. Tom’s family has asked that there not be a memorial fund created through the California Transportation Fund (CTF) so we will not be doing that. However, his past employer, HNTB Co., has indicated it will be doing something and we anticipate that a number of Caltrans employees who know Tom will have an opportunity to contribute to that fund.
So it’s been a month with many ups and downs, as well as many opportunities waiting. Let’s get ready for the next fiscal year and let’s be appreciative of all the work that the young kids are doing, including our Caltrans kids, who turned in “Slow for the Cone Zone” posters. To those young people who contributed to the poster contest for Caltrans, we appreciate your thoughts and we hope to be able to get citizens overall to be much more conscious of dangers on the road not only to themselves but to us as well.
Let’s work hard and remember that it’s our job to turn the economy around, so let’s get to it.