Saturday, March 08, 2008

Small-town mayor fights to talk straight to Congress

A newly elected, small-town mayor has been rebuffed in her attempt to testify at the House Budget Committee on how unfunded mandates from the federal government affect her town.

Gloucester, Mass., Mayor Carolyn Kirk wants to turn the situation into a grassroots revolution. The chairman of the House Budget Committee, Rep. John Spratt. D-S.C., has decided that non-federal officials will not testify before his committee on budget matters. Local governments have lobbying groups, such as the National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties, but that can "lead to a watered-down message," Kirk told
Richard Gaines of the Gloucester Daily Times.

Gloucester's representative in Congress, John Tierney, has been no help. "It was considered doable by U.S. Sen. John Kerry, who has charged his staff with engineering a setting and a time for Kirk to explain how a near-perfect storm of federal policies has helped lay low the nation's oldest fishing port," population 30,000, Gaines reports. "Environmental mandates are forcing the city to spend more than $100 million on infrastructure upgrades," mainly the sewer system. (Read more)

In an editorial The Times acknowledged that Congress can't accommodate testimony from a host of local officials, but "
to say that they can't hear from one or two as representatives of others — especially those who reach out to participate — is an outrage. Considering that one congressional committee recently spent an entire day listening to Roger Clemens and company spout off about an issue as relatively trivial as steroids in baseball, the Budget Committee's turning thumbs down on Kirk's proposed testimony seems nothing short of absurd." (Read more)

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