Mayors ask for federal dollars to help with roads, housing | January 23, 2009 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Newsfront - January 23, 2009

Mayors ask for federal dollars to help with roads, housing

Arnerich joins with other Tri-Valley mayors to meet with legislators

by Geoff Gillette

Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich brought his concerns to legislators on Capitol Hill, meeting with Rep. Jerry McNerney (D., 11th) and others while in Washington, D.C., for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Arnerich joined the Tri-Valley mayors from San Ramon, Dublin, Pleasanton and Livermore to present a slate of six issues they hope to see addressed at the federal level.

No. 1 on the list is road improvements for the I-580 corridor. Their request in the area of roads was two-fold. First, on road projects that are currently under way through a combination of state and federal matching funds, they are asking the federal government to make up the state's portion of the cost if money needs to be pulled back due to California's $42 billion deficit.

Second, they asked for assistance in securing transportation bonds.

"We approved letting the state go out and sell transportation bonds," Arnerich explained. "Nobody will buy them."

They are asking the government to buy some of those bonds, and asking them to provide the "full faith of the U.S. government" to guarantee the bonds.

Other requests were an Emergency Communications System to allow towns throughout Northern California to coordinate in the event of a natural disaster; aid for the Tri-Valley Housing Opportunity Center; and funding projects relating to Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

Arnerich said the joint meeting between the mayors and the congressman was to allow the mayors to speak with one voice to the federal government and work toward getting some much needed help for the state.

"We all were asking Congress and the federal government to help California as a whole," Arnerich said.

He explained that because of the tight economic times and the demands being placed on the federal government it is imperative that the mayors work together and present a unified front in order to make their needs felt.

"People are asking for things at an extraordinary level, like you've never seen before," he said. "We have to make sure that we've done our homework and present our case the best we can."

McNerney, a Pleasanton resident, said he was pleased to see the unified stance by the mayors.

"It's delightful seeing our mayors working together to answer our Tri-Valley needs, and I hope to see progress," he said.

There could be some forward momentum if a stimulus package currently being considered in the Legislature is approved. McNerney said the package under consideration would provide help to the state of California in a number of ways.

"I've been told that there will be direct federal aid, direct to states," said the congressman, explaining there will be "significant" funds coming to the state for infrastructure and education, among other things.

"We're so pleased that you are so supportive of the things we are doing in our communities," Arnerich told McNerney in a conference call for the media. "There's a lot of excitement about change coming - and from California's perspective, change is what we need."

If a stimulus package is approved, McNerney said that out of the six issues presented by the mayors, it is most likely that federal dollars would go toward the I-580 improvements.

An area of concern expressed by legislators in Washington is that in order for federal aid to come to California, there needs to be a state budget to work with. Since federal funds are matching funds, the state has to have dollars or bonding authority in order for the federal funding to take effect.

Arnerich agreed, calling for immediate action at the state level.

"The state needs to get off their rears and make a decision," he said, adding, "The paper shuffling on the budget issues has been smoke and mirrors for five years."

Overall, the mayors were excited by their visit. Arnerich said he felt the response they received in Washington has been positive and he is looking forward to continuing the dialogue they've established as the new president is sworn into office and begins his term.

Arnerich and others from the mayor's conference stayed in the nation's capital for the inauguration of President Barack Obama on Tuesday.