Lobbying in Washington D.C.

Cathy Decker/Staff reporter

Thirteen years ago, the Quad City Development Group spearheaded the first lobbying trip to Washington D.C. The delegation involved about a dozen people prepared to talk to legislators about a handful of issues impacting the Quad City region. After five years, the delegation had grown to 46 additional leaders with a listing of 35 issues.

This year 60 community and business leaders traveled from the Quad Cities to Washington D.C. on March 17-19 to influence legislators on 64 regional and community specific issues.

Representatives on the trip came from Rock Island, Moline, Davenport, Bettendorf, Kewanee, Carbon Cliff, Silvis, East Moline and Mercer County. Area representatives included Wally Green and Joseph Miller, representing MERGO; Lee Celske, representing Aledo and Tom Harris, representing the Mercer County Board. Jenny Garner of the Mercer Economic Development Partnership was also in attendance. "I was there to be the go to person," said Garner. She said her position does not allow her to do lobbying.

On Tuesday, the Mercer County contingent had the opportunity to meet directly with staffers from the offices of Senator Dick Durbin, Representative Phil Hare and Senator Roland Burris, with additional discussions held with Senator Durbin's staff that evening.

Some of the specific projects reviewed included improvements to Knoxville Road, expansion of Mercer County Hospital, a wind turbine for the county, water improvements for Viola, a marina for Keithsburg, dredging of the Boston Bay and road upgrades for Aledo near the grade school.

"The Quad City Development Group does a great job of coming together to promote a unified agenda for the entire region," said Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Durbin points to the unified effort to keep the Rock Island Arsenal open, as an example of what can be done. "Now they are promoting projects like passenger rail service, secure water and sewer infrastructure and bridge upgrades," said Durbin.

The results of past lobbying efforts in the nation's capitol are clear. More than $200 million has been received for Riverfront Development, I-74 Bridge, flood control, trail development and many other area projects.

"Successes like these are due in large part to groundwork laid with our legislators during theses lobbying trips in Washington," said QC Development Group President Nancy Mulcahey. "No other Iowa or Illinois delegation goes to Washington with the representation that our bi-state region brings. Every year we receive positive comments from the offices we met with."

Aledo projects

One of the projects the city of Aledo is looking for federal funding for is the demolition of the original downtown water tower. The structure was built in 1908 as a 150,000-gallon legged tower by Chicago Bridge and Iron. A structural analysis by Missman-Stanley, an engineering firm, identified severe base footing failures along with main fill stem steel decomposition. Demolition is expected to happen once the south tower rehabilitation is completed.

The south tower is another 150,000 gallon legged type tower constructed in the early 1960s. A complete tank inspection is in the process that will outlay a full paint and or any repair design specifications. Painting / repair is expected in late spring 2009, with completion in the summer of 2009. The estimated demo cost is around $150,000 with refurbishing of the south tower at around $220,000.

The road widening proposal involves the area along SW 8th Avenue, which has been a longtime parking and safety concern for parents transporting their small children to Aledo's grade school. The roadway is approximately 25 feet in improved width, with concerned parents parking partially off the road on a steep drainage ditch. The city and school district have looked at alternatives and felt improving this portion of the roadway with a hard surface of 11 x 430-foot would provide a much needed relief from through traffic and protect a small child from being injured in an automobile accident.

This proposal is requesting $300,000 from the federal government.

Mercer County projects

Other efforts being lobbied for included a wastewater treatment plant in Viola, with requests for $475,000; a marina for the city of Keithsburg, with a $2,564,800 request; Boston Bay rehabilitation, for $20,000,000; Knoxville Road reconstruction, for $1,000,000; wind turbine construction for $5,000,000 and a request for $250,000 from the feds for phase 1 of the Mercer County Hospital renovation.

"The meeting we held on Capitol Hill on Wednesday evening provided elected officials and community leaders with a wonderful opportunity to discuss the area's future growth. The QC area is a vital economic development center, and I look forward to working with leaders to ensure we get people back to work and we stimulate our local economies," said Senator Roland Burris. "A special thank you to Mayor Celske of Aledo, Mayor Lohse of Silvis, and Mayor Schwiebert of Rock Island, all of whom are soon retiring, for their many years of service to the Quad City area."