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Three Manteca leaders making pitch in DC for federal funds

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POSTED March 31, 2009 5:19 a.m.
Three Manteca City Council members are trekking to Washington, D.C., next month in a bid to snare federal dollars.

Council members Debby Moorhead, John Harris, and Steve DeBrum are going as part of the unified San Joaquin One Voice effort organized by the Council of Governments. The cost is under $1,500 per participant for air fare and hotel rooms. Manteca is picking up the tab for DeBrum and Moorhead while the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission is covering Harris’ bill.

“I pick up my own meals,” Harris said. “It is only right as I would have to eat any way.”

What is at stake are millions of dollars in federal transportation and economic stimulus funds that a combination of private and public sector leaders from throughout San Joaquin County will make a coordinated pitch to obtain.

The lobbying trips are credited in the past decade with securing almost $57 million from the federal government for communities throughout the county. The One Voice was organized after local leaders were getting frustrated with unsuccessful efforts to obtain federal funds while many other areas – mostly back East and in larger metro areas – were receiving more tax dollars than were taken from their areas.

Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford is not a big fan of such trips.

“I’m not the right person to ask,” Weatherford said. “I believe we can get more out of (elected leaders) in face-to-face meetings during their election cycles.”

Harris and Moorhead would disagree.

Harris, the veteran of nine straight trips paid for by primarily by the Council of Governments said it is critical to make person-to-person contacts with the staff of elected leaders from congressmen to U.S. Senators from California.

Harris noted that it is the staff that does the grunt work at securing appropriations. It helps that they can build a relationship with the potential recipients of federal funds plus they can be armed with detailed information as well as have the knowledge it is a united effort.

“We all go back there literally as One Voice,” said Moorhead who made her first trip as chief executive officer of the Manteca Chamber of Commerce several years before being elected.

Moorhead said the chamber had its doubts about the effectiveness of the trips. After she went on the first one, she saw how effective One Voice was in opening up doors and giving San Joaquin County and its cities a chance at federal dollars that would simply go elsewhere.

“Even if money doesn’t go to Manteca (but to elsewhere in the county) it benefits us as a region,” Moorhead said. “It is important that they (key bureaucrats in various federal departments plus congressional staff) know there are multiple cities and groups behind San Joaquin County projects.”

Moorhead, who serves on the Stockton Metro Airport advisory board, noted it would be a big boon to Manteca if business park and industrial development takes place at the airport just 10 miles to the north.

She noted employment opportunities that keep Mantecans employed don’t end at the city limits. And the large business park at Arch Road and Highway 99 on the airport’s eastern side has the potential of creating jobs for thousands of Manteca residents.

Surveys by the San Joaquin Partnership, as an example, shows the No. 1  community benefiting from jobs that group has helped create in Lathrop are Manteca residents followed by Stockton residents, and then Lathrop residents.

Manteca has landed $1.9 million in federal funds from the One Voice effort over the years. The biggest was an initial $1 million grant for Give Every Child a Chance – the free community-based tutoring service – that has been followed up with $300,000 federal grants in subsequent years.

The city also received $250,000 to help with design work for the proposed McKinley Avenue and Highway 120 Bypass interchange.

This year the One Voice is making a pitch for $131.9 million to help fund projects totaling $1.3 billion.

Manteca is seeking $2.5 million for preliminary work needed for the $140 million Austin Road/Highway 99 interchange project and $5 million of the $10 million needed for a central trunk line south of the Highway 120 Bypass.

Lathrop is seeking $4.6 million toward the $36 million Louise Avenue and Interstate 5 interchange project and another $5 million for the $27.9 million in planned improvements at the Louise Avenue and Interstate 5 interchange.

Ripon is hoping to snag $10 million toward the $12.3 million cost of securing a part of the South County Water Treatment Plant capacity and piping water to Ripon. Another $2.2 million is being sought to go toward the Ripon-Manteca bikeway connection that would tie into the Tidewater Bike Way to Manteca.

Harris and the rail commission are seeking $240,000 for a study for alternative locomotive fuels and $20.5 million toward the $150 million needed to acquire the Almont Commuter Express corridor from the Union Pacific.
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