This past week I traveled to Washington DC with seven of my colleagues for the annual National League of Cities conference and the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce’s Access DC program to advocate for Los Angeles and fight for funding for our city.
Californians get back only seventy six cents of services for every dollar of Federal taxes we pay, so it is critically important that we have a presence in our Capitol and fight for our fair share.
Advocating means that each of us promote our individual projects and help officials in the federal government understand our City’s needs and how major projects benefit our country as a whole. By sharing what we are working on, we create an opportunity to get support for projects that will benefit the City and its residents.
I personally advocated for three things: Councilman Englander and my "Save Our Streets" initiative which is a multi-billion dollar project to fix Los Angeles's failed streets and sidewalks while creating 40,000 jobs, the revitalization of the Jordan Downs Housing development in Watts, which could potentially receive a $30 million Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (CNI) planning grant which we will leverage into a billion dollar investment, and for the Port of Los Angeles, which is one of the most important economic engines of our region which we need to ensure it stays strong, efficient and competitive.
I met with eight members of Congress, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, Deputy Transportation Secretary Victor Mendez, a potential investor in the LA Waterfront with major international brand recognition, the National League of Cities and many individuals and organizations, like a team studying the Vehicle Miles Traveled tax (VMT) to talk about my three most important projects of focus.
I learned that there is small faction in Congress that is dedicated to government paralysis and therefore are doing everything possible to derail any idea presented by the other side, significantly affecting our democracy.
The reality of politics is that a lot of people need to be on board for anything to happen, but it only takes a few to slow everything down or to outright kill any idea. This reality is frustrating to most of the representatives that I met with.
The obstructionists disapprove of the Affordable Care Act so deeply, that they are standing in opposition to everything else that comes from the other side, and as a result Congress can't really get anything done due to political paralysis. The details, and consequences, of this willful inaction persisted through every meeting I had.
In spite of the depressing state of gridlock in Congress, I did however receive positive feedback about the projects that I am focusing on.
Deputy Transportation Secretary Mendez urged us to apply for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant to fund complete and green streets.
I spoke with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx about the importance of the reauthorization bill for Transportation to include dedicated freight funding that will support cargo movements from the Port of Los Angeles to the rest of the country.
Congresswoman Maxine Waters expressed full support for the CNI grant being awarded to the Jordan Downs housing development and understands the importance of it, as Watts did not qualify for President Obama’s Promise Zones Initiative. To qualify, an applicant needs to have received certain previous grants. CNI is the Promise Zone qualifier for Watts. If the Department of Housing and Urban Development awards the CNI grant to Jordan Downs, Watts automatically qualifies for the next Promise Zone, and the housing development gets $30 million for which we already have the rest of the ingredients to leverage into a $1 billion investment into Watts.
Congressman Adam Schiff and the Chief of Staff for Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Alard liked our “Save Our Streets” initiative, which I have authored with my colleague Mitch Englander. Congressman Schiff said he hopes everyone else sees the benefits of supporting this ambitious but critically necessary infrastructure improvement project.
Former LA City Councilmembers Congresswoman Janice Hahn and Congressman Tony Cardenas also gave positive support for Save Our Streets LA. Hahn said that if our cities agree to fund infrastructure projects, the federal government must be supportive from their end.
The gridlock we are all seeing in Washington, D.C. is extremely frustrating for those of us on the outside - people who just want to get things done. But that is all the more reason for municipal-level elected officials to meet and engage with federal officials to try and break through this logjam and get back to the business of building roads, providing affordable housing and investing in our major trade gateways.
The reality of the importance of the work we did in Washington DC hit me when I ran into Bill Gates on the street on Capitol Hill. He had just come out of a meeting with with Kansas Senator Jerry Moran where he advocated for his Global Polio Eradication Initiative. Even Bill Gates found value in lobbying efforts in Washington DC.