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Archive for Friday, September 30, 2005

Community leaders to lobby in Washington, D.C.

September 30, 2005

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Mayor Boog Highberger said he knew at least one hard and fast rule when it came to snaring federal funding for local projects.

"You'll never get it if you don't ask," Highberger said.

Highberger and a group of community leaders will leave this weekend for Washington, D.C., to meet with members of the state's Congressional delegation. The group - which includes representatives from the city, the county and the Chamber of Commerce - will be planting several seeds related to future projects that could use a federal boost.

"To be effective with lawmakers, you really can't wait until you have that one issue you must have," said Lavern Squier, president of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. "You have to build your case over time."

Squier organized the trip and said he would like to make it an annual event. Squier, who previously led an economic development organization in Hays, said western Kansas communities had been making similar trips to Washington, D.C., for years.

Issues that the group expects to discuss with lawmakers or staff members include future funding to replace the city's transit buses, continued funding of the Community Development Block Grant Program, support for designating the region a National Heritage Area, possible "brownfield funding" for a future purchase of the vacant Farmland Industries site and an update of the city's efforts to attract bioscience companies.

Highberger said he also planned to discuss the future of the South Lawrence Trafficway.

"I'm going to discuss my initiative to find an alternative route for the trafficway," said Highberger, who wants to build the road south of the Wakarusa River.

Wildgen, who has made several lobbying trips to the Capitol in the past, said the group will have to be in a defensive mode, too.

"A lot of it is about being protective," Wildgen said. "My theory is that there will not be a lot of new federal resources flowing our way, but we definitely want to protect what we have."

The group will leave for Washington, D.C., on Sunday and will meet with representatives from each member of the Kansas delegation on Monday and Tuesday.

Squier said a cost for the trip hadn't been determined but that each organization would be paying its own share for airline and lodging.

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