Returning from a recent trip to Washington D.C. to attend the 84th Winter Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. said his team “managed to accomplish” what they set out to, after meeting with Hawai‘i’s congressional delegation, their staff and federal partners.
On his first full day on Capitol Hill, Carvalho scheduled nine appointments, including a meeting with representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to county officials.
“We talked about the landfill challenges we’re facing on Kaua‘i relative to the Endangered Species Act and the methane gas capturing system that we’re developing at the landfill,” Mayor Carvalho said in a press release. “After the EPA has had a chance to fully review our situation, we will follow up with a conference call, and hopefully they can assist us.”
Carvalho also huddled with transportation officials to check on grant opportunities for replacing old buses and other transit projects.
“The programs offered by the Federal Transit Administration, which fall under the U.S. Department of Transportation, have been a great source of funding for us,” he said.
Another federal agency that the mayor contacted while in D.C. was the U.S. Department of Education. He discussed a grant that the County of Kaua‘i applied for to support innovative educational programs for youth on the island.
Carvalho also met individually with U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono and U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz as well as with the staff of U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and U.S. Rep. Mark Takai. He provided the senators and the representatives’ staff with an update on several key projects including: the adolescent treatment and healing center; landfill and resource recovery park; Lima Ola, a large scale affordable housing project in ‘Ele‘ele; Kaua‘i Creative Technology Center and the Hanalei Valley Overlook.
“Building and strengthening relationships with all levels of government is important as it enables us to connect and discuss our shared goals,” Carvalho said.
During the USCOM meeting, Carvalho and approximately 300 other mayors from across the country discussed a wide range of issues facing U.S. cities and counties including aging infrastructure, traffic, affordable housing, job creation and homelessness.
“Although we come from different locations and our populations vary in size, we still share some of the same challenges,” he said.
He noted that the session on homelessness drew a lot of interest, as the mayors were eager to find out how others are handling this complex issue and what new sources of funding are available to support this effort.
As a member of two USCOM standing committees, Tourism, Arts, Parks, Entertainment and Sports and Transportation and Communications, Carvalho participated in small discussion groups. He also made a short presentation on the $13.8 million TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant that the County of Kaua‘i received approval for last fall for the Līhu‘e Town Core Mobility and Revitalization Plan.
“When I went to Washington D.C. for the conference last year, I showed our draft proposal for the TIGER grant to our congressional delegation and transportation officials and asked for their feedback,” Carvalho said. “Thanks to everyone’s input, we were successful with our application.”
The USCOM meeting also provided its members with many networking opportunities.
“I introduced myself to a lot of the mayors including the youngest mayor in the nation, Jasiel Correia, II of Fall River, Mass. He’s 24-years-old and the populations that we serve are about the same size,” Carvalho said.
Another highlight of the mayor’s DC trip was attending a reception at the White House with President Barack Obama and some of his cabinet members.
“President Obama shared his plans for his final year in office and how he intends to ‘leave it all out in the field,’” Carvalho said. “He also said that he respects our roles as mayors as we are on the front lines and interact with our citizens on a daily basis.”