by Urban Woodswalker
May 20, 1999 Edition of the San Diego Union-Tribune
by Hector Lutteroth Camou, Chairman of the Binational Committee of the Tijuana Economic Development Council and vice-chair for Cross Border Affairs of San Diego Dialogue, and
Ray Peet, Chairman of San Diego Dialogue.
Mexico and the United States have the opportunity to make the effective management of our common border the centerpiece of a strong bilateral relationship.
In San Diego and Tijuana, cross-border collaboration has been widely embraced by civic leaders as necessary for sustaining the future prosperity of our region. On the occasion of President Zedillo’s visit to California, we would like to share our perspectives on some of the accomplishments that have been realized in our region, the challenges still facing us and the new opportunities that might be explored through cross border collaboration.
In 1990’s have seen the creation of new regional processes for communication and problem-solving across the border. Within the civic architecture that has been developed to encourage cross-border problem-solving, we have developed new ways to communicate, including a series of regional councils on major policy issues organized through the Border Liaison Mechanism. These councils are helping to fulfill the joint vision of Presidents Clinton and Zedillo, announced in May 1997, to transform our border into a “model area of bilateral cooperation.”
The councils, which bring together representatives of federal, state and local agencies, as well as regional civic groups, have helped government agencies talk to each other and develop strategies for addressing regional issues.
A regional civic network supports these new mechanisms. Civic ties between San Diego and Tijuana have expanded over the last decade through increasing interaction between elected officials and community members from both sides of the border. In 1997 San Diego Dialogue created the Forum Fronterizo, a cross border policy forum, which allows the community to address cross-border issues. In addition, our regional universities conduct policy research on the issues taken up by the forum.
Despite the progress that has been realized in building a more informed civil society, significant challenges still face decision-makers in the San Diego-Tijuana region. Among the most significant challenges to cross-border collaboration are:
- Incorporating statewide perspectives. Too often regional decisions are being made without appropriate attention to the broader context of Southern California, California or Baja California.
- Strengthening local capacity in Baja California. Expanded and more effective cross-border collaboration requires greater capacity on the part of local governments in Mexico to accept and manage their new responsibilities. Greater continuity in planning that extends beyond the three-year election cycle for majors and the six-year cycle for governors, an expanded and more professional civil service and a more robust nonprofit sector may all be prerequisites for realizing sustainable regional development.
- Expanding financing opportunities across the border. Innovative policies to address regional issues are often frustrated, even in their planning stages, by a lack of financing alternatives in Baja California. Given the limits of municipal financing and private credit in Mexico, it is sometimes difficult to proceed with policy options that require leveraging funding from capital markets.
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