Photo by Charlie Ban
Toni Carter, commissioner, Ramsey County, Minn.; and Helen Holton, Balitmore City councilwoman and LUCC chairwoman, talk to U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) during the LUCC Fly-In May 8. Behind them, Miami-Dade County, Fla. lobbyist Bill Couch and NACo Executive Director Matthew Chase look on.
NACo’s Large Urban County Caucus came away from a meeting with Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) May 8 assured that their messages were being heard by members of Congress, but also with suggestions for how they could magnify what they had to say. LUCC’s meeting with Fattah was one of several with key congressional and White House offices during LUCC’s annual fly-in.
Helen Holton, Baltimore City councilwoman and LUCC chair, stressed the importance of maintaining tax-exempt status for municipal bonds, and Fattah responded with advice and a reminder that members pay attention to their local newspapers.
“I think your voice has been heard on this, along with the (U.S. Conference of) Mayors,” he said. “But work externally, too. Your newspaper editorial boards need to be speaking out on these issues. Write letters to the editor — they influence members beyond just hearing from (officials) and influence their staffs.
“For policy issues, they should be voting their district,” he added. “Members are to be expected to vote with their parties on procedural issues, but when it comes to a policy issue they should be voting their district or vote for what’s in the country’s interest.”
Miami-Dade, Fla. County Commissioner Sally Heyman asks a question of U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.), while Ramsey County, Minn. Commissioner Jim McDonough and Tarrant County, Texas Commissioner Roy Brooks listen.
He added that taking positions in print, even if they had been done so ad nauseum, always helps reinforce said positions.
“Leaving this to these tea party characters who say ‘nothing government does is useful,’ we know that’s an unreasonable statement, but unanswered, there will be some people who believe it,” Fattah said.
LUCC members came to push for reauthorizations of the workforce development, transportation and elementary and secondary school acts. Fattah said everyone’s priority was to settle the nation’s financial situation.
“The president’s trying to cut a deal around big money issues with the Senate,” he said. “Once we settle money matters, then we can get to work on substantive issues.”
Fattah was pessimistic that the House could move any legislation, though.
“The trains are not running, at the moment; we’ve done nothing,” he said. “It was only with a big gigantic push that we did the Violence Against Women Act.”
He supported authorization of the Workforce Development Act, saying it was integrated in the approach to restoring and rebounding the economy, but also used examples from his home district in Philadelphia to stress the need for work-readiness programs, too.
“We’ve had 3,000 manufacturing jobs available for over a year; people don’t show up on time; they’re not ready to work,” he said.
In terms of justice-reform efforts, he was encouraged a growing coalition between justice-reform advocates and conservative members who were getting fed up with the high incarceration rate.
“There are nonviolent offenders taking prison space away from people who really have to be locked up,” he said.
Fulton County, Ga. Comission Chairman John Eaves expressed support for the Second Chance jail diversion program, which had seen its funding cut in the sequester. Fattah said, “We hope we’ll be able to increase funding but it’s a challenging proposition.”
Commissioner Sally Heyman mentioned Miami-Dade’s public purpose workforce housing initiative in the meeting, describing how public attorneys, teachers, nurses, firefighters and law enforcement officers can rent affordable housing to help establish credit and pay back loans.
The LUCC delegation with U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah as they conclude their May 8 meeting. Top row (l-r): Franklin County, Ohio Commissioner John O’Grady; Ramsey County, Minn. Commissioner Toni Carter; Fattah; Ramsey County, Minn. Commissioner Jim McDonough; Tarrant County, Texas Commissioner Roy Brooks and Fulton County, Ga. Commissioner John Eaves. Bottom Row (l-r): El Paso County, Colo. Commissioner Sallie Clark; Miami-Dade, Fla. County Commissioner Sally Heyman; Baltimore City, Md. Councilwoman Helen Holton, LUCC chairwoman; and Linn County, Iowa Commissioner and NACo First Vice President Linda Langston.
Large counties deliver Why Counties Matter message to Capitol Hill, Administration
County leaders from the nation’s largest counties carried the Why Counties Matter message to Capitol Hill and urged members of Congress and the Administration to support federal funding and legislative priorities affecting large, metropolitan counties and their residents.
The Large Urban County Caucus (LUCC) annual fly-in, May 7–9, in Washington, D.C. included visits to 35 congressional offices, a special leadership team meeting with House Urban Caucus Co-chair Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) and a joint meeting with White House staff.
The advocacy effort led by LUCC Chair Helen Holton, council member, Baltimore City, Md., focused on preserving the federal-state-local partnership for health care — especially Medicaid funding — the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds, and funding priorities for important housing and community development programs such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME) program and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.
LUCC is a bipartisan coalition of elected and appointed county officials from across the nation representing about 130 million people.
Participating in this year’s fly-in in addition to Holton were: Tarrant County, Texas Commissioner Roy Brooks; Ramsey County, Minn. Commissioner Jim McDonough; Miami-Dade County Commissioner Sally Heyman; El Paso County, Colo. Commissioner Sallie Clark; Fulton County, Ga. Commission Chairman John Eaves; NACo First Vice President Linda Langston, supervisor, Linn County, Iowa; Franklin County, Ohio Commission President John O’Grady; and Ramsey County, Minn. Commissioner Toni Carter.