Mayor Lobbies for Kalispell in D.C.

By Beacon Staff

Kalispell Mayor Tammi Fisher was in Washington D.C. last week lobbying Montana Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester for more direct funding to municipalities that could be used to put private contractors to work.

Fisher joined mayors from cities like Raleigh, N.C., Dubuque, Iowa and Chattanooga, Tennessee as part of a group called Climate Communities aimed at encouraging further federal block grants to cities for energy efficiency upgrades and infrastructure improvements. That work could then boost the local economy, Fisher said, when cities hire local private contractors to carry out the work.

Kalispell received roughly half a million dollars in such grants to carry out renovations on the justice center building, and Fisher believes more grants are necessary to boost the local construction industry – since tax incentives for new hiring are simply not enough to spur job creation when the work isn’t there.

Fisher met with Baucus and Tester July 28 and said she presented them with a list of Kalispell needs. The block grant funding request was at the top. Other requests included: changes to give biomass energy development equivalent incentives to alternative power sources like wind and solar; recognition by the Environmental Protection Agency of biomass as a carbon-neutral energy source; a transit system connecting the Flathead’s communities that could boost tourism; opportunities for cities and counties to refinance debt. She also discussed the concept of making the Flathead a “showcase community” for Montana with a biomass-powered convention center.

Though she doesn’t necessarily agree with current U.S. energy policy or spending decisions, Fisher hopes to use any incentives or funding for alternative energy to maximum benefit in the Flathead.

“If that’s where the money has been appropriated or directed, my goal is to get as much of that money to the Flathead Valley as possible,” Fisher said. “I’m obviously playing the cards I’ve been dealt.”

Fisher’s plane ticket and three nights of her hotel stay were paid for by Kalispell, and she said she paid for all other expenses personally. Her itinerary also included meetings with the staff of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, White House staff and the Department of Energy. But despite the tour, Fisher said the nation’s capitol left her unimpressed.

“Maybe it’s because I’m pretty conservative but it’s really hard to stomach the amount of money that is spent on our public buildings in D.C.,” Fisher said. “Where has all the money gone? Washington D.C.”