Role of counties in economic recovery tops agenda at NACo legislative conference-El Paso County Colorado representation critical on national issues...
Washington, D.C. - In the last week, I had the privilege of carrying the county government message to Capitol Hill during the National Association of Counties' (NACo) 2012 Legislative Conference. The continued issues of the federal government's budget was a major focus as national officials reported and provided information on future funding for important local services which are mandated by law including public safety and transportation.
I was joined by more than 1,400 other county officials from across the country to convey to Congress and Administration officials the great challenges face by county government to continue to deliver essential services to the American people in a troubled economy. The conference was held March 3-7 in Washington D.C.
It was important for me to attend the many steering committees on which I serve: Justice and Public Safety, Veterans and Military Task Force, Arts and Culture, Membership, Policies and Services and my most recent involvement with Cybersecurity.
Last week, I was able to visit with staff members from Senators Udall and Bennet and Congressman Lamborn to discuss issues specific to El Paso County. As I head to the Hill tomorrow, I will accompany commissioners across Colorado to make our concerns for various issues known to our delegation members of the entire state including both rural and urban communities to speak with one voice and to add to the discussion and issues of NACo's leadership.
The gathering provided NACo, the only national organization devoted to the collective interest of the nation's counties, the opportunity to sharpen its message to the federal government that counties are playing a key role in helping communities grow their local economies and create jobs through business friendly policies.
During the five-day conference, county officials debated and set policies on issues and legislation important to counties and communities. The issues include justice and public safety, agriculture and rural affairs, taxes, environment and energy, telecommunications, economic and community development, labor and employment, public lands and transportation.
Washington needs to understand that in an economy struggling toward recovery, services at the county level are needed most and the mandates with the associated requirements provide challenges for local taxpayers and our elected officials. With the large amounts of dollars we send to the federal government, it's important for us to receive a return on investment for our local citizens...to build roads, to keep our communities safe and to reduce the onerous regulations that we must meet without the support to meet them.
A high priority at the NACo Legislative Conference was transportation infrastructure. A new NACo survey of county engineers found that the nation's roads and bridges, nearly half of which are under the financial control of local governments, are in desperate need of assistance for long-delayed maintenance and repair work. It's estimated that 86% of counties have roads in poor condition nationwide. This is especially troubling with the failure of Congress to pass a reauthorization of the surface transportation bill which provides infrastructure support for the federal highway system, a national responsibility which cannot be accomplished by passing the buck onto local community taxpayer dollars.
With the large number of military in El Paso County (estimated at 156,000 military, veterans and families), I am grateful to the have the opportunity to be on the Veterans and Military Task Force of NACo. Issues such as mental health, homelessness, healthcare and transportation were discussed and ways to serve those who have served us. The current Network of Care for service members and families is being managed by our own Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (www.ppacg.org) was highlighted as an excellent model for other communities to emulate.
Speakers at the conference included officials from top government offices and agencies, elected officials from both political parties including Rep. Kay Granger and Sen. Mike Enzi, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and political commentator Tucker Carlson. In addition, Ambassador Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade Representative, addressed the NACo International Economic Development Task Force.
I look forward to participating in more ways and representing El Paso County because we must be at the table to look for solutions and let our local voice be heard in the Nation's capital.
For more information, visit www.naco.org