West Valley leaders pitch priorities in Washington, D.C.

West Valley leaders

Goodyear Councilwoman Wally Campbell (center) attends the 2017 National League of Cities conference 2017 in Washington, D.C., in March.(Photo: Jason Dixon/National League of Cities)

West Valley leaders defended community development grants, infrastructure projects and water conservation during a recent trip to Washington, D.C.

The mayors, council members, and some city staff attended the Congressional City Conference hosted by the National League of Cities, which advocates for local governments at the federal level.

The conference was held March 11-15.

Leaders from most West Valley cities made connections with congressional leaders, got training and learned about projects happening nationwide.

The trip toWashington came with a winter storm, in the midst of an election for mayor and three council seats in Goodyear and on the eve of a budget proposal from President Donald Trump.

Overall, West Valley leaders said the conference gave them a space to connect and strike a tone of collaboration with one another.

“We keep hearing from all the economic development people that the West Valley is prepared for growth. … We all want that growth to be positive. We want it to be meaningful,” Avondale Councilman Lorenzo Sierra said. “When we work together as a region we can have more impact. Any win in the West Valley is a win for all of us.”

These are some of the takeaways from the trip.

Luke Air Force Base

West Valley leaders

Luke Air Force Base is designated as a training base for pilots of the new F-35, which will replace the West Valley base’s F-16s. (Photo: Luke Air Force Base)

Several city leaders, including Mayors Jerry Weiers of Glendale and Kenn Weise of Avondale, had scheduled a meeting at the Pentagon to discuss the future of Luke Air Force Base and its F-35 and F-16 fighter jet program.

To the disappointment of the West Valley leaders, that meeting was canceled due to weather conditions.

“Our main focus is to continue the relationship our city has and the rest of the West Valley cities have with the Air Force and the Department of Defense,” Weiers said. “Luke is so important to our city, and for the U.S. to be able to train the best fighter pilots in the world.”

Weise said he also hoped to learn more about veteran issues, and how Avondale can better address the needs of its veterans.

The budget that Trump proposed to Congress could mean good news for Luke as it calls for a $54 million increase to national defense. The proposal, in part, could accelerate the acquisition of F-35 fighter jets.

The number of F-35s in the West Valley has gradually increased since the first one arrived at Luke in 2014.

The 50th F-35 was slated to arrive at Luke next week, according base spokesperson Capt. Rebecca Heyse. The base currently is slated to receive an additional 13  jets in 2017 and house a total of 144 jets by 2022.

Community Development Block Grants

City leaders participated in “Advocacy Day,” where they had one-on-one meetings with U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake and members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

All West Valley leaders interviewed by The Republic said they are confident Arizona representatives will stand up for the Community Development Block Grants program, which would be eliminated under Trump’s proposed budget.

Weiers said the grant funds are “so critically important.”

In Avondale, roughly $575,000 a year in CDBG funds helped revitalize the city’s historic core by making sidewalks ADA-accessible, upgrading aging utility infrastructure and providing low-interest loans to small businesses. The funds also aid low-income residents with emergency home repairs, such as fixing air-conditioners, electrical systems or plumbing.

“We count on that money,” Weise said. “It’s money that those residents have paid into the government, and those funds come back to them.”

Trump’s call for infrastructure spending

City leaders also learned that Congress will follow up on a request from Trump for a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan.

When the infrastructure bill comes down, West Valley leaders want to be ready to present proposals and secure federal funds for municipal and regional infrastructure projects, such as the Interstate 11 project that would connect southern Arizona to northern Nevada.

This I-11 project is eventually slated to become a Mexico-Canada corridor.

Mayor Jackie Meck of Buckeye said via email that the I-11 has the potential for bringing jobs and business to Buckeye.

Tolleson Mayor Anna Tovar said she’ll be looking for federal transportation initiatives that could help reduce commute times in the West Valley.

Goodyear Councilman Bill Stipp said he talked with U.S congressmen about supporting the planned upgrades in Goodyear’s water infrastructure to bring Central Arizona Project water to the southwest Valley.

Water, salt cedars, and the EPA

Water conservation and water shortage at Lake Mead — a vital water supply for Arizona, Nevada, and California — was also brought up in Washington, according to Avondale Councilwoman Pat Dennis.

Meck pitched a Buckeye-led Gila River restoration project that would combat invasive salt cedar trees in hopes of transforming the river bottom into a recreational amenity. He said the project has broad support.

In meeting with U.S. senators, Weise said he welcomed federal changes in the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We were told that the EPA is going to go back to an enforcement agency, to enforce environmental laws,” said Weise, who sees the new approach as positive for city-run water-delivery systems and landowners’ rights to water.

Republic reporter Perry Vandell contributed to this article.

West Valley leaders who attended conference

Peoria
Vice Mayor Jon Edwards
Councilwoman Vicki Hunt
Councilwoman Bridget Binsbacher
Councilman Carlo Leone 

Glendale
Mayor Jerry Weiers
Councilman Ray Malnar
Councilwoman Lauren Tomachoff
Councilman Bart Turner 

Surprise
Councilman Todd Tande
Councilman Roland Winters
Councilman John Williams

Avondale
Mayor Kenn Weise
Councilwoman Pat Dennis
Councilman Lorenzo Sierra
Councilwoman Veronica Malone

Goodyear
Mayor Georgia Lord
Vice Mayor Sheri Lauritano
Councilwoman Wally Campbell
Councilman Joanne Osborne
Councilman Bill Stipp

Tolleson
Mayor Anna Tovar
Councilman John Carnero
Councilwoman Clorinda Erives

Buckeye
Mayor Jackie Meck
Councilwoman Jeanine Guy 


Source: West Valley leaders pitch priorities in Washington, D.C.