April 22, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

4J joins with local agencies in ‘United Front’

5 min read
Eugene School District 4J joined the coalition of local government entities known as the "United Front." Members come together to advocate for federal funding.

Eugene School District 4J adds its voice to what’s known as the United Front. At the LTD board meeting Sept. 20:

Brett Garson (SDA): I’m Brett Garson. I’m the CEO at Smith Dawson & Andrews, and I’m joined by my colleague, Kiersten Stradford.

[00:00:13] A little bit of background on Smith Dawson & Andrews: We’re a government affairs firm based in Washington, D.C. with over 40 years of experience. The founders worked in the White House and the Department of Transportation. We have particularly strong experience and interest in public transportation.

[00:00:30] And we’ve been focused on that area for a very long time and have worked with Lane Transit District for over 20 years as part of the United Front, which is the coalition of Oregon local governmental entities that includes Lane County, city of Eugene, city of Springfield, Willamalane Park and Rec District, Springfield Public Schools as well as, of course, Lane Transit District and 4J now. So we’re really happy to be with you.

[00:00:57] The last few years, you guys have been incredibly successful. I would never take credit from SDA for all the work that your staff does. They are instrumental in getting a lot of these grants. They’re experts, they do a really nice job, and they’re great partners.

[00:01:13] Starting out three years ago in FY21, you all received the funding for the five electric buses out of the bus and bus facilities program.

[00:01:22] In FY22 you received a congressionally directed spending funding for both the mobile wallet trip planner and the EV replacement, which was a huge win to get two projects included.

[00:01:35] And then again, in FY23, you got the congressionally directed spending, fleet fall protection crane project that was awarded.

[00:01:43] And one of the competitive grants that your team successfully applied for was the FEMA transit security grant program.

[00:01:51] It’s a testament to the work that you do. We assist with some of the political support and assist with making sure that you’re in front of the right people at the right time. But we couldn’t do it without all of you and your staff.

[00:02:05] You’re familiar with the United Front coalition, and that’s a very powerful voice in Washington. But each one of the members of the United Front, including Lane Transit District, we also give individual attention and make sure that your specific priorities are elevated. And if anything comes up, we are ready to assist and provide information, intelligence, or set up meetings that are necessary.

[00:02:30] We regularly engage with the Association for Public Transportation, the bus coalition. We have a very strong relationship with that group and you guys have done a really nice job working with them and they do a really nice job in Washington, D.C.

[00:02:43] We regularly talk to DOT, to FTA, and also now with more and more zero-emission vehicles being prioritized all over the U.S., we’re talking more and more to the Department of Energy and other places.

[00:02:57] And I know that it’s a priority for you all to find any federal resources, so we’re certainly going to continue to engage in agencies, such as Health and Human Services and Homeland Security and others to see whether there may be some other resources for Lane Transit District.

[00:03:13] We’ll be coming out to Oregon and hear your priorities and we have a pretty good sense just talking with folks, (CEO) Jameson (Auten) and Pat (Walsh) and others, and knowing that you’re pretty aligned with your regional priorities, things like transit-oriented development, making sure there’s the appropriate amount of resources for your public transportation and making sure that all folks have access to public transportation.

[00:03:41] I’ll turn it over to Kiersten.

[00:03:42] Kiersten Stradford (SDA): Thanks, Brett. Brett has kind of highlighted several occasions where LTD has been successful in pursuing federal dollars over the last few years, but I want to take a few minutes to describe the work that it takes to get there.

[00:03:54] We think the key to that success is the work we do behind the scenes in collaboration with the LTD team. On a weekly basis, we have a check in call with Pat Walsh and the United Front partners. This gives us an opportunity to brief LTD on federal updates, but more importantly, it provides us and the partners a regular opportunity to discuss what’s happening at a local and regional level.

[00:04:16] We’ve seen this open dialogue strengthen the partnerships with the individual entities and be a very collaborative space to discuss ideas within Lane County.

[00:04:25] We also spend that time discussing funding opportunities from a weekly grant announcement that we will traditionally send out to Pat and others on the LTD team.

[00:04:35] In the months ahead, we will continue our engagement with staff from the Oregon delegation and DOT officials while tracking relevant transportation policy and executive actions by the White House. These are activities that we, generally, we typically do very regularly and provide LTD with updates as we receive them.

[00:04:54] We are planning a visit to Lane County in the fall to meet with partners to discuss the United Front agenda and priorities. We’re looking at an early November timeframe for that trip. And we’ll usually use that time to have very in-depth meetings with members of the United Front.

[00:05:10] Specifically on LTD’s side, we’ll meet with Pat (Walsh) and other members of the team to discuss any projects or priorities. And when we return to D.C., we’ll finalize the agenda with the partners and begin planning our 2024 Washington, D.C. fly-in.

[00:05:26] The agenda that we reference is a compilation of all the partners within the United Front priorities, which we’ll take to the Oregon delegation once everyone is in town for the fly-in, as well as relevant agencies.

[00:05:41] So that’s what we’re looking to in the next few months. We’ll open it up for questions.

[00:05:48] Susan Cox (LTD board): I was just curious, you mentioned that 4J is now part of the United Front. That’s a recent development?

[00:05:56] Brett Garson (SDA): That is a recent development. They approached the United Front partners at our firm last year and indicated interest in potentially joining the group. And following that they came back to us, I would say about three months ago, and said there really is interest, we really want to be collaborative.

[00:06:16] And we had conversations with each individual partner to gauge where they felt and whether they had feedback on that. And after talking with everyone, they agreed to allow 4J as part of the partnership, and 4J is now included in the United Front group.

[00:06:34] John Q: Eugene School District 4J joins the United Front. Coalition members will meet this fall to share their 2024 priorities.

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