Palm Desert, Calif. – Reinforcing the region’s role as a global goods movement hub and harnessing the power of big data top Margaret Finlay’s list of policy priorities as the newly installed President of the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG).
Finlay, the Mayor of Duarte, was sworn in Thursday to lead the nation’s largest metropolitan planning organization after serving the past year as SCAG’s First Vice President. The swearing in took place on the first full day of SCAG’s 52nd Annual Regional Conference and General Assembly.
“The opportunities we have as a region are extraordinary, but so too are the challenges we face. As the nation’s No. 1 freight gateway, we need to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to improve our infrastructure and retain our competitive edge,” Finlay said, noting that freight, goods movement and logistics account for one-third of all jobs and economic activity in the six-county SCAG region.
Competition from the Panama Canal and elsewhere threatens to change that equation.
“Losing even a small percentage of market share could have devastating consequences to our regional economy,” Finlay said.
On the other hand, big data – extremely large data sets that can be used to analyze patterns and trends – represents an untapped opportunity for the SCAG region.
“I see SCAG being the new center – regionally and beyond – for big data,” Finlay said. “We have these tremendous resources at our fingertips that can help our communities, our region and our state grow responsibly.
Other platform issues for Finlay include:
o Water. Though Gov. Jerry Brown recently declared the drought over after a series of winter storms, balancing our water resources with our growth as a region and state remains a formidable challenge. “It would be nice to assume that we will have the same amount of precipitation in the future that we did this past year. I am not sure that we are going to see that going forward, so instead of scrambling around when another drought hits, we should pursue looking at other alternatives to make our region less dependent on imported water resources,” Finlay said.
o Active Transportation. Walking and bicycling as transportation alternatives have surged in popularity in recent years, creating bold new opportunities in the areas of land use and so-called “first mile/last mile” strategies for public transit. “The mindset going forward is to make it easier through transportation alternatives and housing locations so that people don't automatically think of their cars when they need to go some place,” Finlay said. “As interest and participation has increased, we also need to make sure we’re promoting active transportation safety, through public awareness programs such as SCAG’s Go Human campaign.”
Finlay has been a member of the Duarte City Council since 1990 and is in her sixth term as Mayor. She was born in Monrovia and has lived in Duarte form nearly 40 years. She and her husband, Brad, have five children.
Finlay has a Bachelor’s Degree in marketing from St. Mary’s College at Notre Dame, in Indiana. Her Masters Degree is in Public Administration from Cal State Long Beach, where she has been an adjunct professor in the graduate school in Public Policy.
In addition to Finlay, other SCAG officers sworn in on Thursday were First Vice President Alan Wapner an Ontario City Council member, and Second Vice President William “Bill” Jahn, Mayor of Big Bear Lake. Michele Martinez, a Santa Ana City council member, will remain on SCAG’s Executive Committee as Past President.