(Sept. 24, 2005) -- LB's highest ranking Port and City Hall officials held a Sept. 19 luncheon to thank Congresswoman Juanita Millender-McDonald (D., Carson-LB) for helping deliver $140 million in federal taxpayer dollars for projects that include rebuilding the Gerald Desmond bridge and I-710 expansion.
LBReport.com provides extended transcript excerpts below.
The event at LB's Museum of Art was attended by (among others) LB Mayor Beverly O'Neill, Councilwoman Laura Richardson, Chiefs of Staff to Councilmembers Lowenthal, O'Donnell, Colonna and Kell, LB Harbor Commissioners Hankla, Walter, Hancock, Cordero and Commission president Doris Topsy-Elvord, three LB Water Commissioners; PoLB Executive Director Dick Steinke and City Manager Jerry Miller and respective staff.
[Note: Some attendees visible in our photos, including the Congresswoman, wore denim as part of a PoLB employee charitable giving program related to Hurricane Katrina]
As the Congresswoman rose to speak, a LB Fire Boat pulled up along the coast and saluted her with a display of sprayed water.
As previously reported by LBReport.com, in late July Congress passed the "Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2005 ("SAFETEA-LU"), which included $100 million for the Gerald Desmond Bridge and I-710 freeway. The Desmond bridge rebuild (current cost estimate: approx. $700+ million) is a big ticket item for the Port because it would allow entry of 10,000 TEU mega-container ships (25% more than today's megaships at 8,000 TEUs).
As reported in August by LBReport.com. the Port's DC legislative advocacy firm, which City Hall has simultaneously used for many years to represent the city's interests, indicated (without city objection) that it worked to tie the funding for the Bridge rebuild to I-710 improvements.
Over a period spanning nearly two years, the Port and City Hall spent extra sums on DC legislative advocacy related to SAFETEA-LU. The efforts succeeded in inserting verbiage, carried by Congresswoman Millender-McDonald and backed by Mayor O'Neill in her role with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, designating funding for projects of "national and regional significance." The specific projects weren't listed as the bill progressed through Congress; they were inserted in the final version of the bill by members of a House-Senate conference committee...to which Congresswoman Millender-McDonald was appointed. When the bill left the Committee for final passage, it included the Gerald Desmond bridge and I-710 projects.
"We are especially thankful for Congresswoman Millender-McDonald's leadership as a [House-Senate committee] conferee and her laser-like focus on the importance of funding goods movement infrastructure projects," said Harbor Commission President Topsy-Elvord in a written release.
The Port and City Hall had sought $745 million in the bill for the Bridge rebuild and I-710 expansion; Congress approved $100 million...for now. In her remarks at the luncheon, the Congresswoman indicated she's now pushing a key House Committee chair to allocate $50 million more.
Our extended coverage follows.
Port Exec. Dir. Steinke: We are here this afternoon to celebrate a tremendous accomplishment. And, working together, the City of Long Beach and the Port of Long Beach and all of our community partners and friends and to recognize our champion, Congresswoman Millender-MacDonald. We are certainly proud to have Long Beach call you our Congresswoman. We thank you for all of the support that you have provided us in the past and we look forward to the tremendous relationship that we will continue to have with you in the future.
City Manager Miller: ...I'm not sure if there's been a time in the recent past when the City of Long Beach and the Port of Long Beach has gotten along better than they do now...It has taken, in fact, a team effort to support our Congresswoman on the important SAFETEA-LU transportation bill and we are so appreciative of her leadership with this important legislation...
Mayor O'Neill: We are gathered today really to show our profound thanks for for the work that she has done, especially in this recently passed legislation, SAFETEA-LU legislation.
Transportation is so important to this region...The dedication that she brought to this...and I have to tell you she worked tirelessly -- we were in contact I think every day in the last three weeks of this discussion that had gone on two years too long -- but when it finally got to that point there was constant communication between all of us, ,she helped us secure over $140-million directed to the Long Beach area.
We would not have received this funding if it hadn't been for her participation in the House of Represnetatives Transportation Infrastructure Committee, and as co-chair of the Goods Movement Caucus. We also got projects of National and Regional Significance Section, which is solving the goods movement that plagued the city and also for our high-priority projects.
And we have some projects that are finally going to be accomplished that have been needed for years and years and years. I was going to read them but she told me to hurry up. We have been trying to find funding for so long and we really are so pleased. And we look forward to working with her because she said 'I'm not done yet.' She said 'I'm going to keep working for the transportation of the City of Long Beach and for making sure that we have what our needs and to meet our needs.
Harbor Comm'n President Topsy-Elvord: Congresswoman Millender-McDonald is a true champion for our port, our city and for our America. In fact since the national tragedy of Hurricane Katrina struck our fellow Americans in the Gulf states, she has been very busy coordinating relief efforts locally to ensure that her Congressional colleagues in the affected areas receive the maximum benefit of her district generosity...
...Webster defines charity as generosity and helpfulness, especially toward the needy and the suffering. No one would argue that the Gerald Desmond Bridge, the 710 freway and other critical transportation projects in our city are needy and suffering. Whenever a bridge needs to wear a diaper, you know there is a need and suffering. And if you've ever driven the 710, well it speaks for itself.
No one in Washington has done more for the city than you, Congresswoman, and the words in this resolution presented to you by the entire board of Harbor Commissioners expresses our extreme gratitutde:
Whereas Congresswoman Juanita Millender-MacDonald, Representative of the 37th District of the United States House of Representatives, invested considerable effort to secure funding for the Port of Long Beach in the Safe, Accunatable,:Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act, known as A Legacy for Users, SAFETEALU, Transportation Act.
At this time it gives me great pleasure to bring forward the Congresswoman, our Congresswoman, everybody's Congresswoman, Juanita Millender-MacDonald."
Whereas without the Congresswoman's leadershhip the Port of Long Beach would certainly not have been granted the impressive $100-million for the Gerald Desmond Bridge-I-710 Freeway project that was included in the bill
And whereas the Congresswoman's vision, leadership and relentless advocacy on our behalf made possible the substantial funding that we now have to move the Gerald Desmond Bridge reconstruction project forward
And whereas the Congresswoman's focus on the issues of goods movement, her creation of the Goods Movement Caucus and her authorship of the Projects of National and Regional Significance category within the SAFETEALU bill are individually signifficant and combine to demonstrate her profound understanding of the importance of international trade
Whereas the Congresswoman continues to seek innovative solutions to issues related to world comerce that bemefit the national economy and which are facilitated by the Port of Long Beach
Whereas the Congresswoman has further demonstrated her commitment to all aspects of international trade in the Port of Long Beach
Congresswoman Millender-MacDonald: [Describes efforts to aid areas hit by Hurricane Katrina]...I have also asked, and I will meeting here with my Mayor here [LB Mayor O'Neill]...and all of the Mayors of the region as well as the emergency preparedness respondent folks in the region because we've got to now revisit our own plans to see whether they are sufficient, as we sit on a very powderkeg here with the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach...
...Some have asked why it is that we've passed such a Pork bill in Transportation. Pork bill? When we have not seen the likes of such bridges and roads across this country that need to be fixed? That we have not seen the growth like we've never had before in this country, especially in this state and this region? There should not be any question.
And those who say it's a Pork bill, tell 'em to come see me, because I'll show them why it is not a Pork bill but a bill that is critically needed for things such as the Gerald Desmond bridge, the 710, the Alameda Corridor East...
...In 1970, the amount of U.S. trade and goods totalled $83 billion dollars. Today that figure has grown to $2.2 trillion dollars, a nearly 28 fold increase in 35 years. Over the same period, the U.S. population has grown by 40%. The number of registered vehicles has increased by 100%, yet our road capacity has only increased by 6%. Anyone who says we don't need this bill should come and see us, because we need this bill.
The 37th Congressional district, the southern California area, is in the forefront of this historic growth. We know that California has grown, and so this is why I founded the Goods Movement caucus, because we need to examine and directly aggressively look at policy that will change how we do business in terms of transportation...
...[T]he National and Regional Significance legislation that's in the Transportation bill, that I placed in there, let me tell you how they would benefit California. An annual value of $93 billion, monthly value $7.8 billion. New York, $16 billion, monthly $1.3 billion. Illinois, $12 billion, monthly $1 billion. Texas, $11.8 billion, monthly $983 million. It goes on and on...
...And I want you to know that it was through my pot [of legislative funds] that the $100 million came to the Gerald Desmond bridge. It was my pot of money that I fought for, that the money went over $160 million to the Alameda Corridor East...
And of course now we talk about the 710, and everybody wanted to know why is it that chairman Bill Thomas [R., Bakersfield] got so much for his region and we did not get all for ours. Well, first of all you have to understand he's possibly the most powerful chairman in the House. Secondly, he was able to get the funding that we needed in order for the President to sign this Transportation bill, he was threatening to veto the bill.
So now I've gone to Bill [Congressman Thomas] and I said 'Bill, I need your help.' You have all the money, you have all the means, now let's find the ways by which you give us this money. I need $50 million for the 710 for their next phase. He says, 'Juanita, what did you say?' I say, '$50 million.' He says, 'Send me a list of what you need.'
That's how you work with those powerful chairmen, and chairwomen -- not one yet -- that's how you work to make sure you get those things done that are critical for this region. And that's how I have been able to work in a concerted effort with both Republicans as well as Democrats and Independents to get the amount of money that we have already here.
So don't despair when you don't have the $100 million yet for the 710. $50 million I'm working on right now with Chairman Bill Thomas, and I have given him the breakdown of why it's needed...