TIJUANA.- San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, just four days after officially becoming mayor of San Diego, visited Tijuana today to meet with his counterpart and the city council, hoping to strengthen ties between the sister-cities, increasing binational trade, cooperation and helping improve Mexico's image with the general public north of the border, saying he looks "forward to seeing our staffs spending time together" on those important issues.
Faulconer summarized some of the main issues talked about in his meeting with Tijuana Mayor Jorge Astiazarán. "We talked about the work we're going to be doing in Otay Mesa to make wait times to cross the border faster", and overall help increase trade through there, spurring economic development. "We talked also about opportunities with the rail line" and how it helps the automobile industry on both sides and increasing alternative modes of transportation, said Mayor Faulconer.
"I'm very happy that Mr. Faulconer will continue to promote the completion of Phase 2 and 3" of the San Ysidro expansion project at the federal level and in front of Congress, added Tijuana Mayor Astiazarán.
"You can count on me" on promoting financing for the project and going to Washington D.C. to support the region, said Mr. Faulconer. Funding for Phase 3 was approved as part of the bipartisan budget passed in January that resulted from negotiations in Congress after last year's government shutdown, but Phase 2, which includes new administration buildings and another pedestrian crossing, remains unfunded.
On binational trade, the mayors agreed to "look for strategies so that cargo and commercial traffic can move to San Diego more quickly; since this gateway represents an important commercial exchange in the entire region. Currently, we have a waiting time of two and a half hours, an unacceptable situation", highlighted Faulconer. (Faulconer's words were translated from official city transcript of the no-media meeting between the mayors)
When asked, Mr. Faulconer confirmed they discussed cross-border environmental issues, and how "it is one region" when it comes to dealing with water, air and environmental protection. "There's going to be so much to do, and I'm looking forward to seeing our staffs spending time together" on these important issues, concluded Faulconer.
Mayor Faulconer also introduced his new Deputy Director of Foreign Affairs, Ian Clampett, who will help staff the San Diego office in Tijuana, currently not in use, although Mr. Faulconer said that will soon change.
"This border region is one of the most important when it comes to investment and industry. But there exist the misconception that our ties are only about matters like immigration and social well-being", commented Mr. Astiazarán, also stressing the need to expand the relationship beyond those issues and include economic development, job creation, the environment and others, so as to "turn that image around in general".
Recent mayors have increased their visits to Tijuana,, and former mayor Bob Filner even took some of his staff to dine at the famous Caesar's Restaurant once, so we asked Mr. Faulconer if he plans on continuing with efforts to set an example for San Diegans who are still weary of visiting Mexico. "Absolutely yes" he says, although he doesn't mention the frequency of the travels, Ian Clampett mentioned that they will try and do it as frequently as possible.
"I understand how vibrant, how important it is...[and] I'm going to do everything I can to encourage and strengthen our relationship," said Faulconer, reminding everyone that he grew up going to school in Latino heavy Oxnard, California, where bilingual classes were the norm.
He mentioned also how he frequently visited Ocotlan, in the Mexican state of Jalisco, together with his family, learning to greatly appreciate Mexico and his people.
Mayor Faulconer finished by saying how proud he was of Tijuana's progress in matters of public safety and economic development, then proceeded to join a special session of the Tijuana city council's binational affairs commission, getting to know city councilmembers and talking briefly about economic development, border crossings and immigration.
The Mayor was accompanied by some of his staff and the president of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, as well as former mayor, Jerry Sanders.