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Sarasota Wednesday, Mar. 30, 2022 4 months ago

City commissioners visit D.C. to learn how federal funds can be brought to Sarasota

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Sarasota commissioners attended the 2022 National League of Cities Conference.
by: Blake Fussell Staff Writer

Several Sarasota city commissioners traveled to Washington, D.C. on March 14, where they discussed civic issues with elected officials from a federal funding perspective, during the National League of Cities Congressional Conference.

Commissioners attended speeches by President Joe Biden, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg during the conference. Commissioner Hagen Brody said learning from others about the appropriation of federal funds was one of his biggest takeaways.

“It was an opportunity for us to get together with other elected officials from across the country,” Brody said. “We talked about issues effecting our communities and how different communities have handled similar issues. We shared ideas and information which focused on the federal side of things, rather than the state.”

This year’s conference was the first for Brody, but at least one commissioner typically makes the annual trip. This year, every commissioner attended the event, with the exception of Mayor Erik Arroyo.

Brody said he left the conference with ideas from other elected officials that he will look to implement in Sarasota, but also learned about specific federal programs that could help projects already in the works for the city.

“We do a lot with our own state delegation to bring back money to Sarasota but not so much with our federal partners,” Brody said. “I think that’s critically important, especially now when there’s so much money for cities to move forward with important projects.”

Conferences with federal officials have been impactful in the past, according to Brody. He said that Sarasota received $2 million for bay restoration in the federal appropriations budget and received $2.5 million for Bobby Jones wetlands restoration previously.

In addition to continuing projects already funded through federal dollars, Brody said that the conference was an opportunity to discuss funding projects he is currently passionate about, which helped him choose to make the trip.

“There’s a number of streetscape projects that I’ve been lobbying for,” Brody said. “Like Shade Avenue improvements, Main Street improvements and St. Armands Circle sidewalk and streetscape improvements. One that I was really focused on was Legacy Trail extensions.”

Referencing the recent passing of the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, Brody said that funds have been made available in several different categories for cities to use. He said it was crucial to learn how to draw fro each category to fund the needs of Sarasota.

Brody met with the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation to discuss his ideas for street improvements for Sarasota. The meeting helped him learn about specific funds available for the programs he had proposed.

“As we put together the funding mechanism for some of these bigger projects, the typical way to do it is to gather it from different areas,” Brody said.

“And with so much money coming down from a federal level, I feel that it is critically important that we learn how to navigate the process to receive those dollars and build the relationships to make sure we’re at the front of the line,” Brody continued.

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