Mayor Ron Nirenberg plans to meet with legislators and federal staffers next week in Washington, D.C., as members of Congress work toward reaching an agreement on federal infrastructure legislation.
Priorities for San Antonio include bolstering multimodal transportation with federal funding, Nirenberg said, but he also will advocate for anything that falls under the concept of “connectivity.”
“We’re talking about digital connectivity, broadband connectivity, we’re talking about alternative modes of transportation — anything that falls into the category of connecting people to people, people to schools, people to businesses,” he said. “That’s what we’re talking about with connectivity, and so that’s what we’ll be prioritizing, not only in the [American Rescue Plan Act funds] but also the infrastructure plan and ultimately our bond programs as well.”
Legislators have not finalized infrastructure spending, though Senate Democrats said Thursday they had agreed on a $3.5 trillion deal covering President Joe Biden’s “human” infrastructure priorities such as health care and climate change. That is one of two infrastructure bills in the Senate; the other bipartisan $1.2 trillion package covers more traditional infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, and highways.
“The language of the legislation is not final,” Nirenberg said. “And I don’t expect this to be the only advocacy that we do, and certainly not our only trip. But right now we are advocating for shaping the legislation that’s favorable to local communities, that proportions infrastructure dollars in a way that is meaningful to a community like San Antonio, and also getting in front of the congressional leaders that may be considered swing votes to get favorable legislation passed.”
Nirenberg will be in Washington from Sunday through Wednesday. Though he did not coordinate his trip with any other Texas mayors, his priorities are aligned with his counterparts across the state and the country, he said. That includes pushing for direct grants to local governments instead of having states distribute funding.
“Mayors across the country, including our big-city mayors here in Texas, have agreed that the infrastructure plan is vitally important for the nation’s recovery,” Nirenberg said. “And so we are working very hard to advocate this passage in Congress. Specifically to San Antonio, we’ll be going up to make sure that our voices are heard and that San Antonio is thought of high on the list in terms of needs for infrastructure in an equitable manner.”
Nirenberg did not provide a list of people he would speak with while in Washington but said the trip’s agenda was as broad as the infrastructure bill’s priorities.
“It’s safe to say that we will talk to every department in the administration that has anything to do with the grants that are going to be put out to local communities,” he said. “So transportation obviously is an important part of the infrastructure development, but it goes far beyond that to Housing and Urban Development, it goes to the Department of Defense, it goes to the [Federal Communications Commission] and many other agencies that are involved with the restoration of those funds.”