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Two City Officials Lobby In Washington

Conference focuses on transit funding, water

Mar 17, 2003 | Ventura County Star

Two Simi Valley city officials went to Washington, D.C., last week to attend a national conference, meet with federal regulators about perchlorate pollution and lobby for transportation dollars.

Councilman Steve Sojka and Assistant City Manager Laura Magelnicki visited lawmakers and government agencies in Washington while attending the annual National League of Cities Congressional City Conference.

The size of Simi's delegation was pared down this year to save money in the face of an uncertain budget.

Still, officials believe it is important to attend the convention and give Simi Valley some visibility in Washington.

"The greatest advantage in traveling to the capital is the opportunity to directly advocate on city priorities with federal officials," Magelnicki said.

The conference, held each March, is designed to educate city leaders about federal priorities and how the federal agenda affects local government. It also serves as a grass-roots legislative forum.

Magelnicki said transportation funding and water-quality issues were emphasized during the conference. Magelnicki and Sojka also visited the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to share concerns about the discovery of the pollutant perchlorate in Simi Valley ground water.

Sojka said the meeting did not provide any immediate solutions but "raised the bar of awareness" about the local problem. "At least we put a face on the city," Sojka said.

Possible federal relief for local traffic problems also is promising, Sojka said. Transportation projects the city is pushing for include widening Highway 118 from Tapo Canyon Road to Highway 23 and from Tapo Canyon to the Los Angeles County line. The city also is seeking money for more landscaping along freeway ramps and for completing the Arroyo Simi bike trail.

Simi Valley joined scores of other cities in lobbying for compensation for the costs associated with homeland security. The federal government has been slow to pay for costly mandated programs, such as training and equipment for police officers and firefighters.

"The money is going to the bigger cities," Sojka said.

Sojka also attended sessions on affordable housing and said they affirmed the city's approach to the problem. Simi limits affordable housing to 25 percent within any given apartment or housing project.

Other cities have grouped affordable housing in one location and are finding the areas are stigmatized.

"I think the trip was very productive with who we talked to and what we discussed," Sojka said.

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