WASHINGTON INSIGHT

If you build it, they will come...

Kristina Tanasichuk
Senior Manager of Government Affairs
APWA Washington Office

...or so said the 1990s movie, Field of Dreams, in which Kevin Costner built a baseball field in the middle of an Iowa cornfield. And, interestingly enough, the baseball players began to show up. And it was a huge success. But Kevin Costner couldn't have done it himself. It took the baseball players to make it happen.

So what's this all about, Kristina? Have you gone and built a baseball diamond in the middle of a cornfield? Well, not exactly. This month, the APWA Government Affairs team has put together an incredible program for National Public Works Week on the Hill. We're working overtime to focus the attention of our nation's legislators on the lack of adequate investment in our nation's infrastructure and on the role and needs of public works to fill the gaps.

Many of our friends in Washington, D.C. have lined up to support us. The National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the International City/County Managers Association, the Associated General Contractors, Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies, American Society of Civil Engineers, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Parsons Brinckerhoff, National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association and the Davey Resource Group, Division of Davey Tree Expert Co. will all participate in our events to focus our federal lawmakers on our nation's infrastructure and the need for additional investment.

Now I'm calling all APWA "baseball players." All of you major league wannabes have your chance. You can join the APWA National Public Works Week on the Hill team and hit a home run for your community.

"How do I play?"

1. Show up. It sounds simple. And actually, it is. Come to Washington, D.C. during National Public Works Week. Bring your family, bring others in your department, and bring peers from your chapter. One way or another, when you are finished with your local National Public Works Week activities, come to Washington, D.C. and insist that Congress listen to what our local communities need.

Last week I e-mailed several members of APWA's Technical Committees an article about 800 firefighters coming to the nation's capital to explain to Congress that they were not getting enough money from the Department of Homeland Security. If you're not shaking your head right now, you should be. But, I use the firefighters as an example here because they are showing up. They understand that the link between them and their funding is their presence in Washington, D.C.

And so is yours.

If you doubt me, you can contact Teresa Scott, Director of Public Works for Gainesville, Florida. Several years ago, she made congressional relations a top priority for her department. She now reaps the benefits in the millions. Her department's relationships with their congressional delegation have allowed them to solve problems more quickly, and have brought many appropriations dollars home as well.

Or you can look at other association websites. Most, if not all, have a grassroots "lobby day" in Washington, D.C. where their members come to the Hill to talk to their legislators about the association's agenda. Some have a day, some take a week. The connection for members of Congress is that their constituents care enough to make the trip and explain what they need.

2. Sponsor a public works department from your chapter to showcase on Capitol Hill. Part of our week of events on Capitol Hill includes a "Showcase" where we have APWA members and our sponsoring organizations together to illustrate how we all work together at the local level to keep our communities running smoothly. Is there a Department of Public Works in your chapter that is doing an excellent job with asset management? Controlling combined sewer overflows? Revitalizing a neighborhood?

With nearly 2,000 public agency members, I know there are great programs to "showcase." I want to know about those. And, what if your chapter sponsors that city to come tell their story to 800 or more congressional staffers? An example is the City of Richmond, Virginia. They are quite unique in that their Department of Public Works leads the city's interoperability project. At last year's showcase, they explained to congressional staff their role in training, maintaining, and leading their city so that all responders to an emergency can talk to one another.

3. Spread the Word. Let other organizations you belong to know about National Public Works Week on the Hill. Tell them to contact us and coordinate activities to maximize our impact. APWA will gladly list other events related to our policy priorities. For example, this year we are working with the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to coordinate an event because National Public Works Week and National Transportation Week are at the same time.

These are just a few ideas of how to take the concept of National Public Works Week on the Hill from just an idea to a reality for our association.

NPWW on the Hill 2005
As many of you already know, the Virginia/Maryland/District of Columbia Chapter has once again agreed to sponsor a luncheon for all APWA members on Capitol Hill on May 19, 2005. APWA has invited Governor Mark Warner (D-VA) and Chair of the National Governor's Association (NGA) to address luncheon attendees and discuss national transportation policy and how it affects our local communities. Everyone is welcome and more information on the event can be found on APWA's website at www.apwa.net/onthehill/.

APWA will also sponsor luncheons on Tuesday, May 17 with a panel discussion on the state of our cities' infrastructure, and on Wednesday, May 18 on how the nation will fund future water and wastewater infrastructure investment needs.

And, of course, there is our crowning jewel, Public Works Showcase and Ice Cream Social. Even P.W. Paws shows up to that! After the luncheon with Governor Warner, we hold the showcase where Public Works Departments and our sponsors are paired up to show off the latest and greatest public works departments. We also serve ice cream. Last year, over 800 congressional staff took part in our social and we look forward to even more this year.

So now, we have built it. And APWA needs you to come. Join us to get our legislative priorities elevated to the highest priority in Congress.

Batter up!

Kristina Tanasichuk can be reached at (202) 218-6734 or at ktanasichuk@apwa.net.


APWA President Trice says failing infrastructure grade due to inadequate investment

Jim Fahey
Director of Government Affairs
APWA Washington Office

APWA President Tom Trice told reporters at a news conference in Washington, D.C. that the nation's public works infrastructure is deteriorating because of inadequate investment to maintain it and to make needed upgrades. President Trice made the comments in connection with the release of the 2005 Report Card for America's Infrastructure, which assigned the nation's infrastructure a grade of "D" and cited an investment gap totaling $1.6 trillion for needed improvements over the next five years.

"We as a nation cannot afford to ignore an infrastructure investment gap that is at the root of our growing traffic congestion, our overburdened sewer systems and our aging drinking water infrastructure," President Trice told reporters. "If we hope to remain competitive in the global economy and improve the quality of life in all our communities, we must reinvest in our public works infrastructure."

APWA President Tom Trice speaks to reporters at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. for the release of the 2005 Report Card for America's Infrastructure. Seated from left are Patrick J. Natale, ASCE Executive Director; William P. Henry, ASCE President; Mayor Donald L. Plusquellic of Akron, OH, President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors; Mayor Gregory Nickels of Seattle, WA; and Mike Walton, ASCE Advisory Council Chair.

President Trice joined U.S. Conference of Mayors President, Mayor Donald L. Plusquellic of Akron, OH, Mayor Gregory Nickels of Seattle, WA, American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Executive Director Patrick J. Natale and ASCE President William P. Henry in releasing the 2005 Report Card on March 9, 2005 at the National Press Club. After the news conference, President Trice and APWA Government Affairs Committee Chair Ben E. Wolfe, Jr., Director of Public Works, Jackson, MS, met with congressional staff to discuss the 2005 Report Card and to advocate for increased investment in public infrastructure.

ASCE prepared the 2005 Report Card, which shows that the condition of the nation's public works infrastructure, including transportation, drinking water and wastewater systems, has declined overall since 2001, when the nation's infrastructure received a grade of "D+." The report assesses the same 12 infrastructure categories as its predecessor in 2001: aviation, bridges, dams, drinking water, energy, hazardous waste, navigable waterways, roads, schools, solid waste, transit and wastewater. In addition, the 2005 Report Card added three new categories—public parks and recreation, rail and security.

APWA President Tom Trice, right, and U.S. Conference of Mayor's President, Mayor Donald L. Plusquellic of Akron, OH were in Washington, D.C. on March 9 to advocate for increased investment in the nation's public works infrastructure.

While there has been some improvement in aviation and schools, ASCE's analysis indicates that overall conditions have remained the same for bridges, dams and solid waste, but worsened for roads, drinking water, transit, wastewater, hazardous waste, navigable waterways and energy.

For more information about the 2005 Report Card, including grades assigned to the infrastructure categories and state infrastructure statistics, visit APWA's advocacy web page, www.apwa.net/advocacy.

Jim Fahey can be reached at (202) 218-6730 or at jfahey@apwa.net.

 

 


 

APWA UPROW Chair briefs congressional staff on managing local rights-of-way

Jim Fahey
Director of Government Affairs
APWA Washington Office

As Congress considers a possible rewrite of the landmark 1996 Telecommunications Act this year, APWA member Roger Buell conducted a congressional staff briefing in Washington, D.C. on the issues associated with managing local public rights-of-way. Buell is Right-of-Way Manager for the Charlotte, NC Department of Transportation and Chair of APWA's Utilities and Public Right-of-Way (UPROW) Technical Committee.

After the briefing, Buell met with senior policy officials in the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration and with congressional staff in the offices of Sen. Richard Burr and Sen. Elizabeth Dole. The briefing was held March 18 on Capitol Hill.

APWA Utility and Public Right-of-Way Technical Committee Chair Roger Buell answers a question at an APWA congressional staff luncheon briefing on Capitol Hill. Buell explained the duties and responsibilities local governments have to manage the public rights-of-way in the interest of public health, safety and welfare.

Although the 1996 Act preserved local government authority over management of public rights-of-way, local authority continues to face challenges. During his briefing, Buell discussed how local governments are the public trustee of the public rights-of-way, the nation's most valuable public asset valued at more than $7 trillion. He also explained the responsibilities and duties local governments have to manage public rights-of-way in the public interest, and described the City of Charlotte's innovative policies and practices which are minimizing disruptions within the rights-of-way, ensuring its safe and efficient operation and promoting economic growth and better services for citizens.

Public rights-of-way form an essential part of the local infrastructure, providing transportation routes and space for drinking water and sewer pipes, power distribution and communication networks. Local governments are responsible for managing the construction and usage practices within the rights-of-way to ensure public safety, efficient and effective operation of the infrastructure and access for providers of privately-owned services.

The briefing was attended by congressional staff members who work on telecommunications and infrastructure issues.


APWA Small Cities/Rural Communities Forum member explains impact of proposed budget cuts on rural infrastructure

Jim Fahey
Director of Government Affairs
APWA Washington Office

APWA member Greg Dore represented APWA at a briefing in Washington, D.C. to explain the impact of proposed federal budget cuts on public works infrastructure programs in small and rural communities. APWA and the National Rural Network, a coalition of more than 50 organizations working together to address the concerns of rural America, released an analysis of the impact of the proposed fiscal year 2006 federal budget on rural programs. Dore is Road Commissioner in Skowhegan, ME and a member of APWA's Small Cities/Rural Communities Forum and Government Affairs Committee. The briefing was held in the U.S. Capitol on March 15, 2005.

Titled Why Rural Matters: The Rural Impact of the Administration's FY06 Budget Proposal, the analysis takes an in-depth look at how the budget adversely impacts more than 25 funding streams which support public works infrastructure and services, expansion of utilities, economic development programs, health care, education and telecommunications services.

At the briefing, Dore addressed the impact of the proposed elimination of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program on local communities and the impact of cuts to the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund, the Essential Air Service program and U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Community Advancement Program.

"While most of our critical infrastructure is underground or quietly operates on the fringes of public awareness, its absence can mean the difference between populations leaving or staying, businesses expanding or stagnating, new enterprises coming or going and, most importantly, whether residents have reliable public services now and in the future," Dore said at the briefing.

Greg Dore (left), Road Commissioner, Skowhegan, ME, meets with Rep. Mike Michaud of Maine. Dore, a member of APWA's Small Cities/Rural Communities Forum and Government Affairs Committee, represented APWA at a Capitol Hill briefing to release an analysis of the impact of federal budget cuts on rural infrastructure programs.

Citing as an example how an $11 million stormwater separation plant being built in Skowhegan, population 9,000, places a much bigger tax burden on Skowhegan residents than on those in a community with a much larger population, Dore added, "Simple arithmetic penalizes rural communities for being rural, even though we want and need to maintain and improve our public works."

The CDBG program provides funding to communities for job creation, expansion of business opportunities, public infrastructure improvements and affordable housing. The program is currently funded at $4.1 billion, but the federal budget proposes eliminating program funding. The Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund provides long-term, low interest loans to community wastewater systems for sewage plant construction and upgrades, as well as non-point source pollution control and watershed management. The budget proposes cutting it from $1.009 billion to $730 million.

The Essential Air Services program provides critical funding support to small community airports to maintain air service. The budget proposes cutting it from $102 million to $50 million. The U.S. Rural Community Advancement Program promotes strategic development activities and collaborative efforts to maximize the impact of federal assistance through consolidating and coordinating funding programs and designing and addressing the varied needs of rural communities. The budget proposes cutting this program from $716 million to $522 million.

While in Washington, D.C., Dore met with Rep. Mike Michaud and with congressional staff in Sen. Olympia Snowe's office to discuss the budget cuts' impact on rural communities and also to discuss the impact that the delay in passing a well-funded, multi-year federal transportation reauthorization bill is having on small and rural communities.

Jim Fahey can be reached at (202) 218-6730 or at jfahey@apwa.net.