P.W. Paws goes to Washington

Second annual National Public Works Week on the Hill a great success

Kristina A. Tanasichuk
Senior Manager of Government Affairs
APWA Washington Office

Over 1,200 Members of Congress and staff from the House and Senate poured through APWA's public works showcase May 19. Eleven Members of Congress, including Representatives Howard Coble (R-North Carolina), Gil Gutknecht (R-Minnesota), Rodney Alexander (R-Louisiana), Jim Matheson (D-Utah), Grace Napolitano (D) and Dan Lungren (R) from California, Nick Rahall (D-West Virginia), Thomas Petri (R-Wisconsin), Scott Garrett (R-New Jersey), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), and Jerry Costello (D-Illinois) attended the showcase and discussed the pending transportation bills with our members. Attendance increased by approximately 400 people over last year.

Ranking Democrat on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and APWA 2005 Distinguished Service Award recipient Jim Oberstar encouraged Members of Congress to attend the event with a "Dear Colleague" letter—a method where Members of Congress can write to one another and stress an issue or event of importance.

The showcase included APWA member cities and counties: Baltimore, Maryland, whose representatives described their CitiStat program to legislators and staff; Derry Township, Pennsylvania, that showcased their award-winning Recycling Center; District of Columbia, that showcased Alternative Fuel equipment and their office of recycling; Fairfax County, Virginia, that illustrated the various components of their department and highlighted their energy program; New York City, that displayed how the Department of Public Works is integrated into the City's emergency management plan; and Plymouth, Massachusetts, that was able to showcase their Greenscapes program, a partnership to manage the environment using natural systems to manage water supply and stormwater runoff.

Private APWA members' displays included the Davey Resource Group, that illustrated how their company works with various local governments to manage urban forestry issues; Dewberry, that showcased how they work with public works departments on emergency management and public infrastructure expertise to address homeland security solutions; Parsons Brinckerhoff, that showcased some of the country's most significant engineering solutions to transportation and civil engineering problems; and TYMCO Regenerative Air Sweepers, that illustrated how the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts affected industrial activity.

The Associated General Contractors of America, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, American Society of Civil Engineers, National Association of Clean Water Agencies, National Stone Sand & Gravel Association, and Water Environment Federation also had displays at the showcase.

The showcase and ice cream social topped off a week of events that included two panel discussions aimed at raising the awareness of our current infrastructure needs: "The State of our Cities: Focus on Our Infrastructure" on Tuesday, May 17, where Ed Mortimer from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Casey Dinges from the American Society of Civil Engineers, Chris Hoene from the National League of Cities, and APWA Executive Director Peter King discussed trends for federal support and investment in our local infrastructure and how those trends indicate an alarming decline in support for keeping pace with the nation's needs. Panelists stressed that across the nation, demands on our water, wastewater, transportation and other public infrastructure have grown while investment has decreased. Additionally, even projects that have been funded are often "too little, too late" and force some communities to build less than optimal projects because by the time all of the permitting and funding processes are complete, the technologies have improved and the costs have increased.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Member Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) attended the luncheon.

On Wednesday, May 18, APWA hosted "Water & Wastewater Infrastructure: When the Well Runs Dry" where participants discussed how local communities have spent more than $1 trillion on drinking water treatment and supply and wastewater treatment and disposal in the last 20 years, not including the investments made by privately-owned water utilities. Entertaining both the public and private perspectives, panelists engaged in a spirited debate about who should be responsible for the nation's water and wastewater infrastructure and how the nation could meet the current demand. Michael Arceneaux from the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, Joanna Liberman Turner from the National League of Cities, Peter Cook from the National Association of Water Companies, and Adam Krantz from the National Association of Clean Water Agencies and Water Infrastructure Network added valuable insights. The session was expertly moderated by Bill Spearman, Vice President of Woolpert, Inc. and Chair of the APWA Water Resources Technical Committee.

This year, APWA also developed partnerships with the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), National Association of Counties (NACo), National League of Cities (NLC), and the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) to support efforts to increase awareness about the infrastructure needs of the nation.

Once again, a great level of thanks is due to all of those who participated in making this event so successful including our benefactor, sponsors and hosts; APWA members; and APWA staff. We look forward to an even bigger and better National Public Works Week on the Hill in 2006!

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