APWA continues to strengthen its public policy advocacy voice
Judith M. Mueller
Those of us who are in the profession of providing public infrastructure and services understand that policy decisions at the federal, state, provincial and local level can have a profound impact-positively or negatively-on the ability of any community to meet the demands and challenges it may face in delivering needed structures and services.
That is why public policy advocacy is one of APWA's major priorities under the current strategic plan. It essentially means that APWA is committed to working toward the goal of ensuring that governmental policy decisions and actions take into account and support the value and necessity of public infrastructure. Through the direction of the Government Affairs Committee and the Board of Directors, the work of APWA committees, chapters and countless individual members, and through the support of APWA's Washington Office, APWA's advocacy voice continues to grow at all levels in pursuit of that objective.
Government affairs and advocacy on APWA's web site
One place to find APWA advocacy at work is on APWA's new web site. The web site features a government affairs page where hot topics on legislative and regulatory issues affecting public works are posted regularly. Contact information to reach members of Congress and the offices within federal agencies is being added and updated. The page also includes sections with information on state advocacy, APWA policies and positions, APWA's 2001 public policy advocacy priorities, the Government Affairs Committee and the latest issues of the APWA Washington Report, the monthly update on legislative and regulatory affairs. I encourage you to take a look at this new advocacy resource center, at http://www.apwa.net/GovtAffairs/.
National advocacy efforts seek support for infrastructure investment
The centerpiece of APWA's advocacy priorities is to influence the policy debate concerning investment in public infrastructure. In support of that effort, APWA has been actively involved in two coalitions. First, APWA joined the National League of Cities-led coalition, Investing in Communities, which, created in the last few months, is calling on the new Congress and Administration to adopt a policy agenda that includes investment in public infrastructure. APWA took part in a press conference in January to unveil the coalition's priorities and will be working with the coalition to promote infrastructure investment priorities before members of Congress and the Administration.
APWA is also working as an active member of another coalition formed specifically to address water infrastructure needs. In response to a documented $23 billion annual water infrastructure funding shortfall, the Water Infrastructure Network (WIN), a broad-based coalition that includes APWA and other organizations representing elected officials, environmental groups, water and wastewater managers, engineers and contractors, released to Congress in February a report outlining a legislative framework for closing the funding gap. The release was extremely successful. Speaking on behalf of water infrastructure at the Capitol Hill event was a bipartisan group that included Detroit's Mayor Dennis Archer, Sen. Voinovich of Ohio and Reps. Boehlert, Dingell and DeFazio.
WIN is calling on lawmakers to pass a five-year, $57 billion infrastructure bill as the federal government's commitment to funding drinking water, sewer and storm water infrastructure needs. Because of the work of WIN and other groups, key leaders in Congress have identified water infrastructure funding as a priority this year. APWA will continue to work with WIN throughout the year to achieve this goal. The full WIN report, Water Infrastructure Now: Recommendations for Clean and Safe Water in the 21st Century, is available on APWA's web site on the government affairs page.
On the issue of transportation, APWA is working in two areas. The first is to ensure that the new Administration and the Congress fund federal transportation programs, including the surface transportation act, TEA-21, and the aviation act, AIR-21, at authorized levels. A significant sum of funding is at stake for state and local transportation programs if the funding levels APWA supported are not met.
The second area of work looks ahead to the reauthorization of TEA-21, which expires in 2003. This past September, the Board of Directors approved the creation of a TEA-21 Task Force to develop positions and policy for APWA's advocacy efforts on behalf of its reauthorization. For more information about the Task Force, see the Washington Insight article in this issue.
APWA continues to work on other equally important public works issues at the national level, including wet weather regulatory issues, the impact of new clean air standards and local control over the public rights-of-way. An extensive outreach effort is currently underway with members of the new Administration, new federal agency leaders and Congress to introduce APWA to new staff and to discuss APWA's priority public policy advocacy issues.
Web-based advocacy resources support state-level activities
Advocacy at the state level is a major component to APWA's advocacy initiatives. This year, APWA expanded its state advocacy program by making available resource guides to all chapters and members to assist in state level advocacy efforts. The guides are called APWA State Advocacy Resources. They are state-by-state "one-pagers" which list web site addresses in each state and links to bill information, the Governor's office and other advocacy contacts, including web site addresses for the municipal league and county association in each state. These guides will be updated and expanded as Internet technology makes state information more widely available.
Canadian advocacy efforts underway
Canadian advocacy continues to grow, too. APWA is currently researching and developing Provincial Advocacy Resource guides, similar to the state guides, to support CPWA's provincial advocacy efforts. When they are completed, they will be available on the web. In addition, APWA is funding a CPWA initiative to collect data and information to help quantify Canadian infrastructure needs. The results of that initiative will be used to support CPWA members and our Canadian chapter advocacy.
Advocacy is one of the many important member benefits APWA offers, and its success is due to the leadership of the Government Affairs Committee and the commitment and hard work of so many APWA members. If you are interested in public policy issues affecting public works, I would like to invite you to become involved in our advocacy efforts. Please feel free to contact APWA's Washington Office at 202-408-9541 for more information.