Some people question the value of North Iowa officials making an annual trip to Washington to seek funding for local projects.
Why spend the money, they ask. Why not express concerns in a phone call? Why not talk to the senators and congressmen when they come here?
I have accompanied the North Iowa delegation to Washington three times (with the Globe Gazette — not the government — covering my expenses) so I could see firsthand what goes on.
I can’t tell you for sure what projects have received funding because of the Washington trips — but I can tell you why conference calls, emails and talking to the Washington folk when they’re in North Iowa won’t work.
• While in Washington, the local officials meet with many people, not just the congressional delegation. This year, for example, some met with Federal Aviation Administration personnel to stress the importance of continued federal aid for commercial air service to places like Mason City.
Face-to-face contact and learning the names of the movers and shakers is important in case further contact is necessary. You just can’t do that over the phone.
• When I accompanied the group, I saw how important it is for local officials to make contact with congressional aides — the people who do the grunt work for the senators and congressmen. They each have areas of responsibility such as highways or agriculture or economic development.
Having a working relationship with the staff people is important and it starts with meeting them in person and developing a relationship. You can’t do that over the phone.
• Often, local officials have to use maps, drawings and charts to make their point — another thing you can’t do over the phone.
• None of this can be done when the senators and congressmen swing into town for an hour or two because they are on tight schedules and simply won’t have the time. And they don’t bring the FAA with them.
Another reason the Washington trip is necessary is because so many other cities and counties are doing it.
If Sioux City and Spencer and Waterloo and Council Bluffs and Ottumwa and Dubuque are all sending delegations, and North Iowa isn’t, who is more likely to get a piece of the federal pie?
None of this addresses the monetary value of the trips to Washington.
Hopefully, it explains why it can’t be done over the phone.
I know. I’ve been there.
Reach John Skipper at 421-0537 or firstname.lastname@example.org.