Amazingly, the pace of policy action actually quickened after the AAA campaign.
On top of our usual efforts to cultivate and grow our grasstops and grassroots
partners, we started off the year with a new—and very different—U.S.
Congress. From losing our long-time champion in the House of Representatives,
Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-Minn.), to seeing increased efforts to cut our core
funding programs, we stood on shakier political ground than we’d experienced
in many years. Yet with the help of our freshly galvanized supporters, RTC
was able to keep our message at the forefront of the national debate.
Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), chair of the influential Transportation and
Infrastructure Committee, held a series of “listening sessions” in the winter
and spring, ostensibly to gather a sense of what communities around the
country desired in a future transportation bill. What became clear from
these meetings, however, was that Rep. Mica intended to eliminate dedicated
funding for our core programs in the transportation bill he was crafting. RTC
realized we had to ramp up the pressure. Coordinated through our Florida
state office, we worked tirelessly with partners in Rep. Mica’s district to pass
county and municipal resolutions calling for the preservation of core
programs that fund trails, walking and bicycling. These resolutions provided
fodder for substantial state and local media coverage—including op-eds in
two major Florida dailies, as well as in the D.C.-based
upbraiding Rep. Mica for ignoring the will of his own constituents.
Later that spring, our policy team engineered several other large-scale ini-
tiatives: Hosting a strategy session with our Campaign for Active Transportation
partners in March to discuss plans with the new Congress; holding briefings
in the House and Senate to demonstrate the need for continued federal invest-
ment in our core programs; drumming up support for a “dear colleague” letter,
authored by Reps. Tom Petri (R-Wis.) and Michael Michaud (D-Maine), to
defend the Recreational Trails Program; joining with the Sierra Club and League
of Conservation Voters to deliver more than 66,000 signatures on a petition
calling on Congress to end our dependence on oil, cut pollution and provide
clean, efficient and affordable transportation options (see next page); and
preparing for and protecting our programs from a $2.2 billion rescission alert
to be handed down to states from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Finally, as FY11 came to a close, we faced the first of ultimately three
targeted and very specific attacks on our programs. In September, Sen.
Coburn (R-Okla.) introduced an amendment to eliminate the dedicated
Transportation Enhancements (TE) set-aside (largest source of funding for
trails, walking and bicycling), and threatened to filibuster to hold up an
impending extension of the transportation bill—hijacking maintenance of the
nation’s transportation system to gain leverage to undercut TE. RTC hand-
delivered letters to every Senate office with state TE spending for the history
of the program, a list of state TE projects and other relevant background. Sen.
Coburn ultimately withdrew his amendment, and the extension passed by a
vote of 92-6. The victory proved short-lived, though, and we had to regroup
quickly for the next set of attacks.