From Jan. 28, 2009 issue
By Jack Durham
Dennis Mayo is going to Washington, D.C. to lobby on McKinleyville’s behalf.
But before the McKinleyville Community Services District (MCSD) director visits the capital, he wants to hear from residents about their priorities for the town.
The MCSD is inviting residents to attend a special town-hall meeting next week to give input on McKinleyville’
s long- and short-term needs. The meeting takes place at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 9 at Azalea Hall, 1620 Pickett Road in McKinleyville.
Public input from that meeting will be used to create what the district calls a “needs assessment” that will be used as the basis for lobbying lawmakers.
“What I’m looking for is this community to have a far-reaching discussion about our wish list,” Mayo told his fellow MCSD directors at their Jan. 21 board meeting.
That wish list, Mayo said, could include any number of projects, both within and outside the scope of the MCSD.
The district is concerned with sewer, water, street lights, parks and recreation in the unincorporated community.
MCSD, he explained, might lobby for funds to upgrade sewer and water facilities. Or it might seek grants to build a solar project.
It might even go outside the district’s responsibilities and ask for money for road repair, Mayo said.
Those lobbying priorities will ultimately be decided by the MCSD board when it meets in February prior to Mayo’s attendance at the Association of California Water Agencies’
Washington, D.C. Conference Feb. 24 through Feb. 26.
That conference will include educational forums and give attendees an opportunity to hobnob with lawmakers.
At last week’
s meeting, the MCSD board voted unanimously to fund up to $2,000 in travel expenses for Mayo to attend the conference and represent the MCSD.
Mayo told the board that he was optimistic that there will be money available for McKinleyville in the new economic stimulus package and other legislation being considered by Congress.
“I think it’s the right time,”
said an enthusiastic Mayo.
“This is a big deal, and the cost for us to go to D.C. is minimal,”
Although the vote was unanimously in favor of the trip, some concerns were also expressed.
Director Helen Edwards questioned whether the trip would be effective. She warned that the district would be part of a “feeding frenzy,” and said the district wasn’
t prepared to look at its future needs.
Although it was Director John Corbett who seconded Director Jeff Dunk’
s motion, Corbett too raised some questions about the lobbing effort.
The idea, Corbett said, has lots of potential, but there could also be problems. The trip, he said, could be seen as a junket – a trip funded by the public but used for pleasure –
whether it is or not.
Corbett also made it clear, after Mayo suggested he might lobby to relax environmental review standards, that the board, not just Mayo, would determine the legislative agenda.
Manager Tom Marking also expressed skepticism about the effort, pointing out that the district already belongs to associations that are actively engaged in lobbying efforts.
Marking informed the board that the district already has a legislative agenda –
something which came as a surprise to most directors.
“I’m writing letters all the time,”
“You’re doing a great job,” Mayo responded. “But I see this as a complement, in addition to that.”
Mayo acknowledged that there is no guarantee that the lobbying efforts will result in any immediate payback for the district.
It may, he explained, be a long-term investment. As an example, he brought up his successful lobbying to prevent Redwood National and State Parks from phasing out commercial beach fishing.
Mayo began that project in 1999, but it wasn’
t until 2007 that the fishermen were protected in legislation introduced by Congressman Mike Thompson.
The lobbying effort, Mayo said, is also not limited to the Washington, D.C. conference. The wish list that will be created by the board can be used by individual directors as they meet local, state and federal officials.
That effort, Mayo said, should be ongoing.