Mrs. Muoio goes to Washington

Mayor Jeri Muoio

Mayor Jeri Muoio has been in the nation’s capital this past week, shaking the money tree and the policy tree.

The mayor, along with City Attorney Kimberly Rothenburg, has taken the city’s issues to U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings and Lois Frankel, to Sen. Bill Nelson and a member of Sen. Marco Rubio’s staff. She’s met officials of the Justice and Transportation departments and the Coast Guard.

If you’re trying to connect the dots between those people and agencies and West Palm Beach issues, here’s the big picture:

The mayor said she went to the Army Corps of Engineers to express her administration’s continued opposition to extending State Road 7 along the western perimeter of the Grassy Waters Preserve, “and our hope they will not grant them a permit.”

“They know us now and they always have been helpful and open to discussion so we talked to them.”

We’ll see how that works out. Word down here is that the state is weeks away from putting shovel to dirt for the project, which would link Northlake and Okeechobee boulevards.

She also spoke with the Coast Guard to ask whether the Royal Park drawbridge can stay down during morning rush hour. When it opens at 8 a.m. every weekday, it tends to lock up downtown traffic.

“They told us there’s an application process and how to do that,” she said, encouraged. The city will have to use data from its mobility study to make a case for the change. “It’s amazing to me they have an application process to do that. Obviously we’re not the first one to ask.”

The West Palm officials also spoke to people at the Department of Transportation, about how to get money for infrastructure, such as a transit hub downtown, a dedicated express bus lane, or even light rail. Light rail is an expensive option, certainly but, “It’s a blue sky goal that I’ve had, but if there’s federal funding….” All the transportation money is hard to get but worth pursuing, Muoio said.

She said she also was urging our congressional delegation to fight cutbacks in block grants for housing, some of which in the past has gone to providing housing for the city’s homeless.

She also pressed for support for the Drone Federalism Act, a piece of bipartisan legislation that would give localities the power to control where and when drones can be used, currently a matter mainly of federal law.