News in Depth
Cong. Millender-McDonald Thanks House Trans. Committee For Including "Projects of Nat'l & Regional Significance" In Massive House Transportation Bill; House Committee OK's Bill With Downsized Spending
Massive omnibus Transportation bill, supported by LB City Hall, now goes to House floor
(March 24, 2004) -- The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has approved and will send to the House floor a $275 billion national transportation bill that incorporates the concept of federal funding for goods movement projects of national and regional significance, incorporating a concept outlined in October 2003 legislation (HR 3398) by Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald (D., LB-Carson).
As first indicated in a report by LBReport.com, the House Committee held a March 24 "mark-up" of the omnibus national transportation bill. LBReport.com monitored and recorded the proceedings via the internet...and posts audio coverage of Congresswoman Millender-McDonald's presentation to the Committee regarding the national and regional goods movement verbiage.
Congresswoman Millender-McDonald, whose district encompasses roughly 80% of LB, is a member of the Committee.
As previously reported by LBReport.com, in October 2003 Cong. Millender-McDonald introduced HR 3398, a bill that would fund and facilitate goods movement projects of national and regional significance.
Goods movement pertains to cargo transportation, including containerized intermodal shipment. In the LB area, goods movement involves transporting cargo to and from the Ports of LB and L.A. by freeway, rail or both. Increasing the capacity of freeways (esp. the 710) and rail lines is desired by the Ports of LB and L.A., trade and business interests and most of local officialdom to handle what they call responsible growth. Others locally have questioned the wisdom of continued Port growth...and have begun to insist on reducing current levels of air pollution before inviting further Port growth.
In Nov. 2003, as first reported by LBReport.com, LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill used a Washington, DC visit in her capacity with the U.S. Conference of Mayors to support the omnibus national transportation bill. During the visit, Congresswoman Millender-McDonald publicly indicated she favored having her goods movement language incorporated into the omnibus Transportation Reauthorization Bill ("Transportation Equity Act" or TEA-LU, pronounced "tee-loo", formally known as HR 3550).
The Congresswoman succeeded...and the concepts and certain substantive portions she articulated in her original HR 3398 were rolled into the TEA-LU Transportation bill (not the exact language, but recognition of the concept).
The original House version of TEA-LU proposed $375 billion in spending...but has been downsized under a veto threat from the White House. The House TEA-LU spending level is now $275 billion...and spending for projects has been downsized accordingly.
House Transportation Committee staff told LBReport.com following the March 24 Committee mark up that funding for the goods movement projects of national and regional significance section is now $6.6 billion over six years, instead of $17.6 billion over six years as originally sought.
TEA-LU is strongly favored by LB City Hall since it includes funding for the Gerald Desmond Bridge at I-710 improvements.
The Committee vote comes less than a week after a March 19 forum (previously announced by LBReport.com held by Congresswoman Millender-McDonald, Assemblyman Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-SP-PV), and LB Vice Mayor Frank Colonna, Board president of the Gateway Cities Council of Governments entitled "Growing Our Region Responsibly -- Taking the Next Step".
The Senate-passed version of the Transportation bill doesn't include Cong. Millender-McDonald's goods movement verbiage...which means if the House version of the bill passes, the "national and regional significance" provision will have to survive a House-Senate conference committee.
LBReport.com posts below the "projects of national and regional significance" text from the House TEA-LU bill as submitted to the Committee. Some text changes may have resulted from technical amendments at the March 24 Committee session although that text isn't yet posted on the internet:
SEC. 1304. PROJECTS OF NATIONAL AND REGIONAL SIGNIFICANCE.
(a) FINDINGS- Congress finds the following:
(1) Under current law, surface transportation programs rely primarily on formula capital apportionments to States.
(2) Despite the significant increase for surface transportation program funding in the Transportation Equity Act of the 21st Century, current levels of investment are insufficient to fund critical high-cost transportation infrastructure facilities that address critical national economic and transportation needs.
(3) Critical high-cost transportation infrastructure facilities often include multiple levels of government, agencies, modes of transportation, and transportation goals and planning processes that are not easily addressed or funded within existing surface transportation program categories.
(4) Projects of national and regional significance have national and regional benefits, including improving economic productivity by facilitating international trade, relieving congestion, and improving transportation safety by facilitating passenger and freight movement.
(5) The benefits of such projects described in paragraph (4) accrue to local areas, States, and the Nation as a result of the effect such projects have on the national transportation system.
(6) A program dedicated to constructing projects of national and regional significance is necessary to improve the safe, secure, and efficient movement of people and goods throughout the United States and improve the health and welfare of the national economy.
(b) ESTABLISHMENT OF PROGRAM- The Secretary shall establish a program to provide grants to qualified entities for projects of national and regional significance.
(e) APPLICATIONS- Each qualified entity seeking to receive a grant under this section for an eligible project shall submit to the Secretary an application in such form and in accordance with such requirements as the Secretary shall establish.
(f) COMPETITIVE GRANT SELECTION AND CRITERIA FOR GRANTS-
(1) IN GENERAL- The Secretary shall--
(A) establish criteria for selecting among projects that meet the eligibility criteria specified in subsection (d);
(B) conduct a national solicitation for applications; and
(C) award grants on a competitive basis.
(2) CRITERIA FOR GRANTS- The Secretary may approve a grant under this section for a project only if the Secretary determines that the project--
(A) is based on the results of preliminary engineering;
(B) is justified based on the project's ability--
(i) to generate national economic benefits, including creating jobs, expanding business opportunities, and impacting the gross domestic product;
(ii) to reduce congestion, including impacts in the State, region, and Nation;
(iii) to improve transportation safety, including reducing transportation accidents, injuries, and fatalities;
(iv) to otherwise enhance the national transportation system; and
(v) to garner support for non-Federal financial commitments and provide evidence of stable and dependable financing sources to construct, maintain, and operate the infrastructure facility; and
(C) is supported by an acceptable degree of non-Federal financial commitments, including evidence of stable and dependable financing sources to construct, maintain, and operate the infrastructure facility.
SEC. 1305. DEDICATED TRUCK LANES.
SEC. 1306. TRUCK PARKING FACILITIES.
The LB City Council, which formally sets city policy, has discussed the Desmond Bridge and 710 funding publicly. However, to our knowledge HR 3398's goods movement language and federal powers to designate certain projects to be of "national significance" have not been seriously discussed by the Council.
The goods movement issue first arose at the November 4, 2003 Council meeting on the eve of Mayor O'Neill's trip to Washington when LB writer Bry Myown came to the Council podium and confronted city management and the Mayor, asking what lobbying role City Hall either directly -- or through the Port, U.S. Conference of Mayors, Gateway Council of Governments or SCAG -- had played in HR 3398.
"I think the public wants...[to] know what lobbying efforts are being undertaken," Ms. Myown said, noting that City Hall had publicly lobbied for other Port-related transportation funding by calling it a matter of "national security" and the public might be concerned "about our communication to you [on 710 expansion issues] being preempted."
Ms. Myown said she was concerned and surprised to learn that a release from Cong. Millender-McDonald's office listed the U.S. Conference of Mayors [in which Mayor O'Neill now plays a leadership role] as a supporter...and confronted O'Neill over her plans to testify before a House Subcommittee on Transportation on Nov. 4 in support of transportation funding.
"I guess what I'm asking, could we and the public have a little more specificity about what lobbying is being done on our behalf and could you share some of that lobbying with us before it occurs," Ms. Myown said.
Mayor O'Neill replied, "The lobbying is for not just Long Beach. The lobbying to the U.S. Conference of Mayors is to make sure that there is money in the transportation bill."
Ms. Myown tried to pursue the issue, noting that Millender-McDonald's office had listed the U.S. Conference of Mayors as a supporter of HR3398...but O'Neill did not respond to that point.
Ms. Myown's testimony prompted 7th district Councilwoman Tonia Reyes-Uranga -- who chairs a Council oversight committee on 710 freeway expansion -- to ask city management to provide a subsequent briefing on HR 3398.
The next day, as previously reported by LBReport.com, the LB Area Chamber of Commerce issued a formal "call to action" (including mobilizing its robust advocacy site www.longbeachadvocacy.biz) to support HR 3398.
To our knowledge, there's been no public briefing by management or public discussion by the City Council regarding the federal legislation to facilitate goods movement projects of national or regional significance.
Asked in November 2003 by LBReport.com whether Mayor O'Neill had lobbied on behalf of HR 3398 during her DC trip, Mike Sanders, Sr. Assistant to the Mayor, first contended the term "lobbying" was unclear, then said the Mayor was in DC for the Conference of Mayors event to support federal transportation funding...and yes, she supports Cong. Millender-McDonald's HR 3398 designating projects of national significance...and yes, the Mayor considers the 710 freeway project and the Gerald Desmond bridge among such projects.
In early 2004, in a publicly agendized voted action, the LB City Council adopted a federal legislative agenda which said that proposals and policies consistent with the certain items would be supported by the City. These included:
I-710 Freeway/Gerald Desmond Bridge: Advocate for TEA LU funding to enhance, beautify and maintain the 1-710 Freeway/Gerald Desmond Bridge, which serves as a
vital thoroughfare for residents , businesses and commerce.
Alameda Corridor: Support efforts to maintain and enhance funding for the Alameda Corridor, including improvement of federal job training and business development
International Trade: Support federal efforts to enhance international trade, which benefits local businesses, port development, and the overall local economy.
Transportation: 1. Support efforts to protect and enhance federal funding for the City of Long Beach, Port of Long Beach and Long Beach Transit, for mass transit, transportation projects, and needed infrastructure; 2. Encourage recognition of infrastructure demands placed on Long Beach due to the movement of goods through our City and region.
A number of LB area activists have expressed concern that designating certain projects to be of "national significance" could invite federal authorities to fast-track projects that override local concerns and invite port growth and pollution.
At a January 2004 Town Hall style forum in LB, Congresswoman Millender-McDonald strongly denied that her legislation promotes pollution and publicly vowed to look at pollution and also the area's dismal air quality (details below).
The City of LB's Manager of Public/Government Affairs, Carl Kemp told LBReport.com on March 17:
I don't believe that anyone locally, regionally or even federally is interested in fast-tracking a project that bypasses the required due diligence associated with getting necessary environmental information and appropriate community input.
I think the efforts undertaken by the Gateway Cities [Council of Governments] in general, and the specific efforts undertaken by Councilmembers Uranga, Lowenthal, Lerch and [Vice Mayor] Colonna in Long Beach, are evidence that there is no policy or political will to circumvent the community that will impacted by this project. [Councilmembers Uranga, Lowenthal, Lerch are part of the City of LB's I-710 oversight policy committee...and Vice Mayor Colonna chairs the powerful I-710 Major Corridor Study oversight policy committee.]
On the contrary, there is real interest including the community.
At the January 10, 2004 Town Hall style meeting, Congresswoman Millender-McDonald heard firsthand from residents who charged her goods movement bill would worsen Port pollution and harm area residents' health.
Dr. Gordon LaBedz: ...I am a family physician at Kaiser-Permanente and I am here representing the Sierra Club. We have 750,000 members in the United States and 58,000 members in this area.
And I'm showing you an AQMD map here...the black area [on the map] is what we call the "Diesel Death Zone." All of you live in this black area. Thousands of people die every year in this extra, according to the AQMD study that I'm showing you here.
And we'll be having a meeting with your staff to discuss this issue, because I was very, very concerned with some of the things you've said this evening about the Port.
The Port is the single biggest environmental issue in your district. Thousands of people die every year from Port pollution. It is the single biggest stationary source of pollution in southern California.
The ships burn the dirtiest fuel available. The trucks burn the second dirtiest fuel available.
And the 710 freeway, the Alameda Corridor, all contribute to that pollution.
Also objecting was Ms. Myown, who sparked a colloquy with the Congresswoman:
Ms. Myown: We do not believe the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are an economic engine for our community. They are job exporters. What they are is asthma engines for our children, cardiopulmonary disease and predictable excess cancer engines for our community.
And if you talk to our Mayor who is in the U.S. Conference of Mayors, if you talk to our Vice Mayor who is the chair of the Gateway COG [Council of Governments] and the Alameda Corridor, if you talk to our lobbyist who is paid more than half a million a year by this city to lobby you, you may think that we support [HR] 3398 and want $18 billion for goods movement infrastructure.
But if you read the local paper, you know that they did not share their plans for the freeway with us, that hundreds of people have attended meetings and asked them to scale back those plans, we believe...
Cong. Millender-McDonald: What plans? I'm not privy...
Ms. Myown: The I-710 major corridor study plans. And we in this community were shocked to read about your request for $18 billion targeted for goods movement infrastructure and your leadership of the goods movement caucus, because we believe that if people east of California want to lose their jobs and shop at WalMart, they can pay for goods movement infrastructure.
What we want is a transportation bill that gives us a clean, safe and employed community. [applause]
Cong. Millender-McDonald: Thank you very much. My bill does not in any way enhance pollution. [Audience interjection: Absolutely does.] It has not, it does not [more audible audience disagreement]. No, it does not. It does not.
What it does is to move goods that are already coming from these ports throughout this. We must move goods that are coming in from these ports. [audience interjection: no.] We have that obligation. What do you want us to do, to shut them down? [audience interjections. Yes.] We cannot do that folks. [cross talk] We cannot shut them down. This is not WalMart. This is a bill that I have introduced that will move goods and not clog them up on freeways.
[Audience interjection: They're killing us.] No, good are not killing you. [audience: The diesel emissions...].
Do not say that the bill is killing you. The bill is not killing you. It is the pollution of the trucks that we're trying now to get cleared up, sir, on these freeways. I have just begun to study the pollution of those trucks. The many trucks that are coming out of those ports are not in good shape. They are polluting and we've got to look at that, and we've got to find solutions to that.
But you can't shut down an economy, people, that should give jobs to you because of a Goods Movement caucus bill, please. [audience interjection seeking to be heard] Let's be sensitive to this. I'm only telling you that I am with you on the environment. I am with you on, [the] Goods Movement bill is not an environmental hazardous bill. It is only saying that we've got to move the goods that are in the ports more effectively, more efficiently and to send them off and over the country...
At the conclusion of the forum, Congresswoman Millender-McDonald pledged:
Cong. Millender-McDonald: I have heard you now and thank you so much. I have to also look out for your well-being on every front. I cannot just be so myopic, my dear friends, to look at one thing and one thing only. You would not want me to do that. And while I understand what you're saying, the bill [HR 3398] is going through without a doubt, but I also will look at the pollution and also the very dismal air quality down here. Now I'm telling you that I will look at that.
Because what I'm trying to do is, I will guarantee you that the Goods Movement bill will bring jobs...We must have jobs, people. We must also have good quality air. You should be looking at the Clean Air Bill, the Clean Water Bill, and don't let this [Bush] administration water that down which they are about to do.
So these are things that we're trying to stop in their tracks while I will look at what many of you have talked about and that's this Port and the very bad quality of air that you're breathing.
Now I do know that the Port has a heck of a lot of trucks coming out of it. It's going to quadruple over the next decade or two. We understand that. So we've got to move the traffic out of the 710...We understand what you're saying.
We cannot change Ports. We cannot close down Ports. We've got to live with them, but they have to also be amenable to what we're talking about and that is a better quality of life.
The Ports of LB and L.A. are adjacent to Congresswoman Millender-McDonald's district, which includes roughly 80% of LB. The Ports are in the district of Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R., HB-LB-PV).
March, 2004: Cong. Millender-McDonald, Ass'yman Lowenthal & Vice Mayor Colonna w/ Gateway Council of Gov'ts Schedule LB Forum On Strains To Transportation Infrastructure, Air Quality & Quality of Life From Region Becoming Nation's Primary Trade Gateway
Jan. 2004: Public Pounds Port-Related Pollution At Congresswoman Millender-McDonald "Open Mike" Town Meeting
Nov. 2003: Mayor O'Neill Lobbied In DC For Millender-McDonald Goods Movement Bill HR 3398 During Conf. of Mayors Event After Deflecting Public Questions About City's Lobbying Role At Council Meeting; Cong. Millender-McDonald Seeks To Make HR3398 Part of Six-Year Omnibus Nat'l Transportation Bill
Nov. 2003: Mayor O'Neill Attends DC Press Event As Part of U.S. Conf. of Mayors' Support for Proposed $375 Billion Transportation Bill
Nov. 2003: Reaction Pro & Con To Cong. Millender-McDonald's Proposed HR 3398 To Create System Of Fed'l Funds Fueling Goods Movement Projects of Nat'l Significance; Neighborhood Activist Confronts Mayor, Asks What Lobbying City Hall, U.S. Conf. of Mayors & Regional Gov't Groups Played in the Proposed Legislation; LB Area Chamber of Commerce Issues "Call To Action" With Suggested Form Letter Supporting the Bill
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