The process has changed in recent years as legislators from both parties have agreed to move away from spending earmarks, but U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, believes that visits to D.C. from local delegations still have merit.
“Prior to no-earmarks, we would spend a lot of time on requests for specific amounts of money,” Grassley said. “Now, of course we don’t have earmarks.”
Grassley spoke to area media Tuesday, after meeting with a group of area leaders, who had traveled to D.C. to garner support for projects of local interest. City Administrator Jeff Horne, Mayor Mark Vulich and Ward 4 Councilman Paul Gassman have been in the nation’s capital this week to meet with legislators representing the region. Representatives from the city of Camanche and Fulton, Ill., also made the annual trek to D.C.
Grassley said that haggling over how many millions in federal funds should be allocated to specific projects is a thing of the past. But these trips still have value, he said, as they allow legislators to stay abreast of what is important to constituents on the local level.
“I consider this very worthwhile,” Grassley said. “I believe that if this delegation didn’t come out we would have some of these same requests of us, and we wouldn’t know (of) support in the local communities except for the people that contacted us.”
The delegation from Clinton and the surrounding area is consistently well-informed and focused, Grassley said.
“For almost every delegation that comes out, (they have) really studied their community,” Grassley said. “They’ve prioritized, they know where the disputes are.”
This year’s priority, the U.S. 30 renovation project, will require more attention from the legislators from Illinois. Grassley said that most of the work being done in Iowa is taking place west of Cedar Rapids.
But he said that he understood how important the project is to the area, as it would complement the Lincolnway Railport development.
Another project of local importance, the Liberty Square renovation project, will get a personal vote of confidence from Grassley.
“I did announce to them that I wrote a letter (of support) for the TIGER grant,” for the next phase of the redevelopment, Grassley said.
The TIGER grant program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation, awards funding to certain projects across the country that promote regional economies through infrastructure improvements. The city is requesting $2.5 million to finish restoration to Camanche Avenue.
The grant is highly competitive. The U.S. DOT received over $14 billion worth of requests for the last round of grants, which were pulled from a pot of $500 million. The city’s grant request for funds to help build a rail spur in the Lincolnway Railport was rejected in 2011, and city leaders believe the support of legislators could help swing things in their favor.
The delegation met with other area legislators and their aides over the course of a two-day lobbying trip. They are expected to travel back to Clinton on Thursday.