More than 50 officials from cities and towns in Utah pleaded for help from Utah's members of Congress this week to protect programs and funding important to them.
They met with each member of the congressional delegation - often squeezing into small offices and even drawing straws to see who had to sit in the hall - while they were in Washington for meetings of the National League of Cities and Towns.Among their top priorities is trying to persuade Congress not to turn over the federal Community Development Block Grant program to the states as President Bush has proposed, said Tom Godfrey, president of the Utah League of Cities and Towns and chairman of the Salt Lake City Council.
"It is one of those federal programs that has worked," Godfrey said about the money that has gone directly to cities to improve low-income areas.
He said cities worry that if the funds are transferred to states for oversight, the states may take huge chunks for administration or use them in other ways to solve state budget problems.
Another priority that Godfrey said the group discussed "was ensuring that members understand that programs for cities now compete with all other domestic programs . . . It's like a shark tank" because of restructuring in last year's budget agreement.
Several city and town officials said some congressmen don't seem to understand that, even though it was caused by an act of Congress.
For example, city officials said one Utah member of Congress said he would like to buy "more planes and guns" with money he would like to see saved by changing environmental regulations. They worry he may not realize that defense doesn't compete directly for funding with other military programs - and that cities want domestic, not defense, spending increased.
Godfrey said cities are also concerned about the upcoming reauthorization of the Clean Water Act. "We want to make sure they don't mandate new programs without funding them. That's a constant problem," he said.
Godfrey said cities also want to have a closer working relationship with Congress, and they feel they are often damaged by its actions unnecessarily because they are rarely consulted.
Among those who lobbied Congress were officials of Bountiful, Layton, Murray, North Ogden, Ogden, Orem, Provo, St. George, Salt Lake City, Sandy, South Ogden, South Salt Lake, West Jordan and West Valley City.