Leaders From Across Southern California Convene On Key Economic, Transportation, Quality-of-Life Challenges Facing Our Region


More than 800 local and regional leaders from across Southern California gathered in Palm Desert this week to discuss challenges and opportunities facing one of the nation’s largest economic and population centers. 

Hosted by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), the 59th Annual Regional Conference and General Assembly focused on the housing crisis, retaining and attracting more high-quality jobs and the future of transportation. 

A major topic of discussion was the looming transportation funding cliff. An increase in zero-emission vehicles has resulted in a decline in gas tax revenues that pay for transportation system operations, maintenance and infrastructure improvements. At the event, a panel of experts discussed new thinking about how to sustainably fund a holistic transportation system – such as a vehicle-miles traveled fee that would assign road users a fair share of the cost. 

The General Assembly also saw the installation of SCAG’s new leadership, led by new Regional Council President Curt Hagman, a San Bernardino County Supervisor. He succeeds Buena Park City Councilmember Art Brown, whose one-year term expired. 

“SCAG has a long history of outstanding leadership, and I look forward to continuing that legacy with a commitment to bringing together partners from across the region to fit together the pieces of this big, complex puzzle that is Southern California,” Hagman said. 

Also sworn in to leadership positions on Thursday were Regional Council First Vice President Cindy Allen, Vice Mayor of Long Beach; and Regional Council Second Vice President Ray Marquez, a Chino Hills City Councilmember. 

2023-24 Regional Council President Art Brown closed out his term at the 2024 Regional Conference and General Assembly by sharing the “2023-24 President’s Report,” a detailed report of SCAG’s accomplishments since the beginning of his term at last year’s General Assembly in May 2023. SCAG also debuted the 2023-24 Year in Review video, highlighting SCAG’s most significant accomplishments over the same period and celebrating the leadership and collaboration that made it possible.   

As Southern California’s regional planning agency, SCAG is responsible for development of a Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy every four years. The most recent version of that plan, Connect SoCal 2024, identifies $751.7 billion in transportation improvements for the six-county region over the next 25 years. With the adoption of this plan last April, SCAG’s work will focus on implementation over the next few years. 

Many of the elements of Connect SoCal took center stage during the two-day conference. These included the future of transit, as experts discussed systems to improve customer experience, and innovation in coordinating services across the region. 

Experts also discussed challenges in housing development and the rising cost of living, and how the region can do a better job of retaining high-quality jobs and investing in growing sectors to build economic resilience. The conference also heard from other regional planning leaders across the country about their experiences collaborating and aligning work toward regional goals.