by Stacey Levitt
The Florida League of Cities brought its Federal Action Strike Team (FAST) to Washington last week to meet with key Obama Administration officials and several Florida members of Congress. Most notable was an opportunity to meet with Representative John Mica (R-Fla.), Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Co-Chair of the House-Senate Transportation Conference Committee that began bipartisan deliberation on a long-term transportation bill just as the FAST team arrived on Capitol Hill.
A delegation of nearly 30 local leaders from across the state attended the League's annual FAST "Fly-In," a two-day advocacy mission to Washington to lobby for continued federal support for the programs that enable communities to grow their economies and create jobs for residents, such as investments in transportation infrastructure and the Community Development Block Grant.
Following a legislative briefing from NLC's Federal Relations team, the FAST group headed to the White House for a meeting with Director of Intergovernmental Affairs David Agnew, as well as Stan Gimont and Shelley Poticha of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Joanna Turner of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
In the White House discussion, Agnew compared and contrasted the President's vision for the nation's economic recovery with a competing one. The President's plan, he said, calls for investments in skills, manufacturing, and infrastructure, while the other calls for dramatic cuts in non-defense programs.
The federal agency representatives in the meeting all provided updates on the status of their agencies' respective programs that support local communities and encouraged the city leaders to share with them their good ideas for regulatory streamlining.
Following the White House meeting, the group, led by Florida League of Cities President Patricia Bates, mayor of Altamonte Springs, met with several members of their congressional delegation, including three additional members of the Transportation Conference Committee: Reps. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) and Steve Southerland (R-Fla.), and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). Meetings were also held with staff for Sen. Rubio (R-Fla.), as well as Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), Richard Nugent (R-Fla.), David Rivera (R-Fla.), Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), Allen West (R-Fla.), Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), and Bill Young (R-Fla.).
At all of their meetings, the Florida leaders underscored the importance of Congress and the Administration continuing to partner with local governments and not losing sight of how their actions affect the citizens they serve, particularly as the national campaign season heads into full swing.
"It is so important to have face-to-face time with our legislators, so they continue to hear firsthand from local leaders just how the decisions they make in Washington play out in our home communities," Bates said.
"We had some very frank and productive discussions both with our Florida congressional delegation and the Obama Administration during our time in Washington, and we look forward to a continued dialogue in the weeks and months leading up to the November elections."