This week I attended my first NLC Congressional City Conference in our nation's Capitol, Washington, D.C. The Congressional City Conference’s central theme this year was Rebuild With Us, which urges Congress to develop and pass comprehensive legislation that rebuilds and reimagines America’s infrastructure in partnership with local governments that will serve local communities for the next 100 years. Along with the general sessions, there were panels, workshops, meetings, and networking events to attend, with the final day being Advocacy Day on the Hill. In order to cover more, and return to Sierra Vista with the most we could from the conference, Mayor Pro Tem Gray, Council Member Calhoune, and I divided up the workshops over the first 2 days. So as a side note, my experience and takeaways I share with you in this post might largely differ from those of my colleagues.
Some highlights from Monday and Tuesday:
I've learned a lot about water this week. (I know I've said this many times over the past year. It never ends does it?) One of the areas I want to highlight is what I learned about the Maui Water-Pollution case. This case was first mentioned to me last year but I think it was over shadowed by what I was learning about the Tribute Case and Gila Adjudication at the time. During the conference I was given a much better understanding of what it's all about and how it will have a great impact on us here in Sierra Vista. Is groundwater covered by the Clean Water Act? And if it is, then a federal permit will likely be required... and getting those can be really difficult and really expensive. In short, this is why the case matters to us. Last year the 9th Circuit Court upheld the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) finding that pollution discharged from Maui County municipal wastewater wells into groundwater, which eventually goes in to the Pacific Ocean, violated the federal law. And last month the Supreme Court agreed to hear this case.
I attended the Military Communities Council Meeting and along with learning about different organizations like Reveille Foundation and POLCO, we were given a helpful presentation by Major General Juan G. Ayala, part of which he discussed "BRAC-proofing". BRAC stands for Base Realignment and Closure. This is an issue that our council has had to deal with in the past and will likely have to address in the future. MG Ayala shared three things to look at when we talk about BRAC-proofing; 1) Operational Readiness, 2) Tangible Community Support and 3) Family Support. When I asked specifically what they were looking for in terms of Family Support he said the Commission would be looking at four main items, 1) Schools, 2) Public Safety, 3) Off Base Housing, and 4) Spouse Employment Opportunities. I shared this information with Senator McSally and Representative Ann Kirpatrick, and will be sure to make our state legislatures as well as our local school board aware.
Another topic of discussion that was covered in a panel I attended was Broadband Policy. In an effort to "densify" (not officially a word...yet) cities and towns with 4G network (and eventually, 5G) to support the growing need for fast and reliable wireless connection, wireless providers have been deploying small cells on city-owned infrastructure, such as street lights and traffic signals, to increase coverage in areas that are not being served or are underserved by traditional macro cell towers. The technology is called "small cell", but the equipment can be somewhat large (imagine a refrigerator with large antennas), and attached to utility poles that can be up to 50 feet tall. Without standards to manage where these new structures are erected and small cells installed, and how they will look and fit into a community, citizens will benefit from the increased network coverage but could suffer from the poor aesthetics, and possible decrease in property values. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had passed a wireless preemption order that it says will help streamline 5G small cell deployments and ensure that wireless carriers have low-cost access to public rights of way and existing support structures such as city-owned utility poles and street lights that went into effect this past January. Thankfully for us here in Arizona, we are one of the 21 states to have already passed legislation to address this very issue, and we have our own local policy and fees published. For cities and towns living in states without policy addressing small cell law, they have until April 15th to "publish" their own standards before having to follow those set by the FCC. All in all I was very impressed with how this panel broke down a very complex issue and made it easy to understand for all of us in attendance. Arizona delegates turned up in large numbers for the conference, so much so that we were one of a handful of states to receive our own reception at the end of the 2nd day. It was great to meet elected officials from Mesa, Goodyear, Eloy, Scottsdale, Nogales, and Glendale (to name a few). One of the intents of the League of Cities in addition to the training and advocacy, is bringing the cities together so we can learn the good and the bad of how other municipalities have faced state specific issues. It was so valuable to network and interact with the council members, mayors, and staff of other AZ cities and towns. And based on these interactions I hope to visit some of these other towns in the future as well as host visits here in Sierra Vista, so that our Arizona communities can grow stronger.
Summary of Advocacy Day on the Hill:
As you know we have three new Congresswomen representing us in D.C. We met with Senator McSally, Senator Sinema, and Representative Ann Kirkpatrick and spoke with them about issues directly impacting Sierra Vista. Issues discussed included investments in infrastructure, supporting and expanding missions on Fort Huachuca, veteran care, housing, homelessness, mental health, jobs, cross border commerce, tourism, water, and public education funding.
I feel so honored and humbled to have had the opportunity to represent our community in our nation’s Capitol this week but I'm very happy to be back home in Sierra Vista. As always please never hesitate to reach out to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) , I love hearing from you.
Your council member,