Written by Rockville Centre Mayor Francis X. Murray
Mayor Murray traveled to Washington, D.C. last week to attend events and activities sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM). He also attended a special Martin Luther King, Jr. Day event and visited several local Congress members. This is his report.
Monday, Jan. 16
I had the privilege of being invited to attend the Let Freedom Ring celebration to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. My wife Barbara and I were invited by Georgetown University President John J. DeGioa.
This year the John Thompson, Jr. Legacy of a Dream Award was presented to Professor Clarence B. Jones, scholar-in-residence at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, whom I had met and talked with in Rockville Centre earlier this month.
Professor Jones spoke eloquently about his many memories of working with Dr. King. His talk was followed by a musical performance with Bobby McFerrin, Jr. and the Let Freedom Ring choir.
The highlight of the night was the attendance of President Obama and his wife followed by a private reception.
Tuesday, Jan. 17
I attended a pre-conference session with mayors and small business leaders to discuss best practices and strategies for developing the workforce of tomorrow. Later we discussed public / private partnerships of the kind that I have been working on over the past few months in Rockville Centre.
That afternoon I went to Sen. Schumer’s office in the Hart Senate Building and met with staffers Brant Kerr and Eric Morrissette for an hour. We are seeking funding through the Main Street Program and I explained our need for a “streetscape” grant. There are also federal grants that could bring solar-powered street lighting to Maple Avenue and other parts of the village.
I am also looking to secure a Department of Homeland Security grant to build an emergency management facility in Rockville Centre that might service a number of communities in our area. Such a facility could be built in conjunction with the planned reorganization and renovation of the Village’s firehouses.
Later in the day I met with a California engineering firm called ABM about lowering the costs of Village operations through comprehensive energy auditing and equipment evaluation as well as designing and implementing “green” operations.
Wednesday, Jan. 18
After attending a special USCM orientation for first-time mayors, I met with Congressman Peter King, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, alone in his office for over an hour. He asked many pertinent questions about Rockville Centre and our future plans. I urged him to support a federal grant for an emergency management office that might be located in a renovated firehouse at 103 Maple Avenue.
Later that day, I attended a session on energy chaired by Miguel Pulido, mayor of Santa Ana, Calif. One of the panelists, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, said that cutting U.S. oil imports by 15 percent would nearly eliminate our dependence on Middle East oil. He advocated the use of biofuels to replace oil imports.
In the afternoon I had an appointment with Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy. I was greeted by her legislative assistant Georgette Sierra who led me in to the congresswoman’s private office. The three of us sat at a table and discussed grant opportunities for Rockville Centre, including surveillance cameras for our water towers and electric plant, as well as securing our water wells.
At 4 p.m. I joined 200 mayors who were bussed over to the White House to meet the President. Upon arrival we went through three security checks, a bomb-sniffing dog and a metal detector. It was my first time inside this magnificent home.
We enjoyed receptions in the West Room, the Red Room, the Blue Room (where the White House Christmas Tree is decorated every year), and then the famous East Room, the largest in the White House.
President Obama addressed us for about half an hour on various issues, including keeping jobs in the U.S.A. “Let’s ‘in-source’ not out-source jobs,” he said.
I spoke with him for about 10 seconds. He said, “Looking good, mayor! How’s Rockville Centre? And Happy New Year.”
Visiting Washington, D.C. as your mayor was a great experience. As a delegate from a very local level of government, I had the opportunity to lobby and learn from those at the highest levels of elective office. I hope I will be able to report soon that my meetings helped bring home some federal grant dollars to Rockville Centre.