I made a one day lobbying trip to Washington D.C. with two goals: update the Minnesota delegation in Congress on Minneapolis' agenda, and deepen contacts with other Minnesota officials in town for the League of Cities Conference.
My meetings with the delegation included Council Members Paul Ostrow, Scott Benson, Sandy Colvin Roy and Robert Lilligren. The top issue we talked about was the proposed massive cut in Community Development Block Grants (CDBG). These are the dollars that are the backbone of our affordable housing and job training program, many of our health initiatives, programs like Nokomis Healthy Seniors that keep seniors in their homes. This is the second time I've been on Capital Hill to lobby against these cuts and it seems there is progress. Both Minnesota's Senators are fighting them so please thank Sen. Coleman and Sen. Dayton. And, as always, Congressman Sabo is fighting hard to protect them.
During our vitists I also delivered a petition from some of our faith partners who are working in our coalition to fight the cuts. It was very effective to be able to give the Congress people these peitions, including the one from St. Mark's Cathedral that included people from all over the region.
Another of the major issues we talked about was the airport. I've been talking with our Congressional delegation to get their support for work in Minnesota on a statewide aviation strategy....a statewide look at how airports like St. Cloud, Duluth, Rochester, Willmar and even Mankato can be used to carry some traffic...improving air traffic into the state, opening access to low cost carriers and , in the process, hopefully giving our neighborhoods some relief from the worst traffic, esp. loud night flights and cargo.
After our meetings we had a reception the city hosted for Minnesota officials in D.C. for the conference. I estimate we had about 100 people there, including Mayors from many cities (Stillwater, Minnetonka, Crystal, Plymouth, Rochester, St. Cloud, Morehead) and lots of council members (including Debbie Montgomery and Dave Thune from St. Paul). Building these bridges with local officials in other parts of Minnesota is really helpful as we try to develop broader coalitions.
In the morning I heard a really great speech by Howard Dean, new chair of the party, who really rallied everyone there. It's great to see him in this position. ....he gets the need to fight hard for our principals, to not back down...but he also understands the need to build a strong grass roots organization. I'm really happy he's running the party.
Over the lunch hour I walked a couple miles through town and ran into a really interesting situation. A man who may well have been homeless was walking down the street barefoot. A few seconds after I noticed him, a woman in a bright yellow parka holding a walkie talkie approached him and very compassionately started talking to him. She moved him into the sun so he could get warm and then called on her walkie talkie for help. A homeless advocate arrived and left with the man.
I asked the woman who she worked for and found out she was a public safety ambassador who worked for the downtown association. She isn't a police officer...she works with them, identifying trouble spots before they become larger, giving people directions, making them feel safe. This is the kind of ambassador we have been talking about for downtown and some of our neighborhood commercial districts. After seeing this I called Sam Grabowski of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, who has been a strong advocate of this to say how well this works and that I want to continue to work on getting these in downtown. They are supported by the businesses and would be possible if we get the Special Service District we are proposing for downtown. I also stopped into the downtown association to hear more....so will you because this can really do a lot to improve safety and perception on our streets.