National Public Works Week takes center stage on Capitol Hill

Becky Wickstrom
Media Affairs Manager
APWA Washington Office

During National Public Works Week (NPWW) in May, APWA President Bob Freudenthal, Past President Tom Trice and Government Affairs Committee Chair Ben Wolfe were in Washington, D.C., to represent APWA during an exciting outreach program of events for Members of Congress and their staff. Also representing APWA were Cora Jackson-Fossett of Los Angeles Public Works and APWA Emergency Management Committee Chair MaryAnn Marrocolo from New York City.

The U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives passed resolutions declaring May 21-27, 2006, National Public Works Week in recognition of the efforts, importance and contribution of all public works professionals (see pages 16-19). The Senate resolution (S. Res. 475) was introduced by Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sen. James M. Jeffords (I-Vt.), Ranking Member of the Committee, and passed by the full Senate on May 11. Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-Tenn.), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment, introduced the House resolution (H. Res. 837) for himself and 13 leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, including Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) and Ranking Member James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.). The House passed the resolution May 24.

National Public Works Week events in Washington included educational sessions discussing the lack of adequate investment in our water infrastructure and the role of public works in emergency planning and management. APWA, along with a number of partners, also sponsored an awards reception honoring congressional leaders for their support of public works and infrastructure. Even P.W. Paws made a guest appearance on Capitol Hill.

"'National Public Works Week on the Hill' has become an important vehicle for APWA to communicate with Congress about public works needs and priorities," said Peter B. King, APWA Executive Director. "This year's events built upon a growing tradition of celebrating National Public Works Week and the contributions of public works professionals across the country with lawmakers in Washington, D.C."

Kicking off the festivities bright and early Monday morning, P.W. Paws greeted congressional staff members as they exited a Metro subway station near the Capitol Building. With the help of Government Affairs staff, Paws distributed invitations to the week's events and business-card-sized magnets as a reminder about National Public Works Week. Paws ventured up to a park near the Senate Office Buildings to distribute more information and pose for pictures with passersby on Tuesday during lunchtime.

A reception Tuesday night convened APWA members, congressional leaders and friends of public works. Together with the American Council of Engineering Companies, American Society of Civil Engineers, Associated General Contractors of America, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, National Association of Clean Water Agencies and the Water Environment Federation, APWA honored four members of Congress for their support of infrastructure and public works. President Freudenthal presented awards to House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) and House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) for their "leadership, dedication and support of our nation's public infrastructure."

"I want to congratulate all of you in this profession—it's dear to my heart," said Chairman Young upon receiving his award. "In reality there's only one thing left when we're all gone and that's good infrastructure."

Chairman King reiterated the value of public works in his acceptance speech. "I believe public works is absolutely essential and public works projects are lasting projects with a lasting impact, especially on homeland security," he said. "My door is always open to you."

APWA member Cora Jackson-Fossett, Public Affairs Director for the City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works, moderated a panel discussion during a National Public Works Week on the Hill Congressional Briefing. The briefing outlined a new collaborative education and outreach program, Water Is Life, and Infrastructure Makes It Happen and discussed ways members of Congress can encourage their constituents to support water infrastructure funding.

APWA held two Congressional Briefings during the week. Monday afternoon APWA and the Water Environment Federation (WEF) teamed up to brief congressional staff about a new educational and outreach program, Water Is Life, and Infrastructure Makes It Happen, dedicated to helping communities envision, build, maintain and improve life-sustaining water and wastewater systems. Cora Jackson-Fossett, Public Affairs Director, City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works, and APWA representative to the Water Is Life program moderated a panel discussion of three public works agencies that are implementing the program. For more information, visit www.waterislife.net.

On Wednesday, APWA held a briefing about preparing constituencies for hurricanes and other large-scale disasters. National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield joined APWA Emergency Management Technical Committee Chair MaryAnn Marrocolo, Assistant Commissioner for Planning and Preparedness in the New York City Office of Emergency Management, to discuss this year's predicted hurricane season and how it might impact cities on the U.S. eastern seaboard.

National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield discussed disaster preparedness during a National Public Works Week Congressional Briefing. Government Affairs Committee Chair Ben Wolfe (seated) was also on hand to host the event.

According to Mayfield, "Researchers say this could be a 'bad year' for hurricanes. We are trying to help people understand that it only takes one hurricane in your community to make it a 'bad year.' Every business, person, family and community should have an emergency plan in place before a hurricane comes."

Marrocolo outlined how the City of New York, the U.S. city at the third greatest risk for hurricanes, is preparing for major storms and disasters. According to estimates, the city would have to evacuate approximately three million people in the face of a Category 4 storm, with more than 605,000 requiring public shelter. Much of the emergency planning, according to Marrocolo, hinges on public works.

"Public works plays a key role in emergency response, and not just during cleanup," she explained. "Traffic lights must be managed, roads re-routed to allow for evacuation. Key city functions require public works professionals for a successful preparation and response."

Becky Wickstrom can be reached at (202) 218-6736 or bwickstrom@apwa.net.