PALMDALE — Much of his job in governing and advocating for city comes down to relationships, Palmdale Mayor Steve Hofbauer said.
It was the opportunity to work on relationships that could benefit Palmdale and the region that led Hofbauer to the nation’s capital late last month.
Hofbauer traveled to Washington for the Jan. 24 Discussion with the Nation’s Mayors on Transforming American Communities at the White House, where they heard from and spoke with various members of the Trump Administration’s domestic policy teams.
The event was capped by an address from President Donald Trump, who also signed legislation providing $375 million in grants for security upgrades to houses of worship and nonprofits.
The trip itself was the result of one of those relationships; the invitation came via a man Hofbauer met at church who had previously worked at the White House.
During the White House visit, Hofbauer made it a point to speak with Scott Turner, executive director of the White House Revitalization and Opportunity Council, and Small Business Administration Administrator Jovita Carranza “just to kind of pick their brains on what’s going on out there and how that can apply to us,” he said.
The message from the federal officials stressed the importance of small and mid-sized cities working together in a regional approach to leverage their assets to compete with big cities for federal funding and attention.
While they are not competitive on their own, “we absolutely can do that as regions,” Hofbauer said.
“Use what the county, the state and the federal government might have as foundations and then leverage it,” he said. “The two of you or three of you put together can present a better package, make a better presentation and get more attention.”
It is a message that has already begun to take root in the Antelope Valley, as Palmdale and Lancaster officials have started finding areas where they can collaborate to benefit each other.
“Nothing that happens in Palmdale is just a Palmdale issue, and the same thing in Lancaster,” he said. “Whether it’s positive or negative, we’ve got to deal with it.”
That is not to say there will not be disagreements or competition between the cities, but the focus should be on those areas where they can work together, he said.
Hofbauer spoke with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson about the housing problem in the Valley, which is made worse by the effective redlining of the region by the financial industry, which is reluctant to provide financing for housing here after suffering losses in the foreclosure crisis following the 2008 Great Recession.
There are numerous tracts of homes approved, but the builders can not get the financing needed to begin, Hofbauer said.
He contends the economy here has diversified and changed in the years since, making it a safer bet than before.
“We’re not as reliant on short-term contracts as we were 15 years ago,” Hofbauer said.
The city is expecting more than 2,000 new jobs in the local aerospace industry this year and needs to have housing to serve not only those workers, but also the additional jobs created in support of that expanded workforce.
The region does not have the housing supply, especially in apartments and condos, that is desired by the workforce, Hofbauer said.
One area of focus during the meetings were the opportunity zones, areas within the city designated by the federal government that provide certain economic incentives for investors. However, these zones are not always situated in areas best suited for the type of development they are designed to attract.
“We’ve got to do a better job of marketing those opportunity zones,” Hofbauer said, as well as looking for creative means of utilizing them and even packaging them with zones in Lancaster and Los Angeles County.
“We need to have that positive dialogue with the community, and to sell the attributes and sell the opportunities that are there,” he said. “There are so many things going on here that people don’t know about, unless you are telling your story.”
It is important for the city to focus on its assets and on means of optimizing these attributes, he said.