Sacramentans lobby for more federal money

Jeff vonKaenel

There were 300 of us. That’s right: 300 well-informed Sacramento residents flew to Washington, D.C., a couple of weeks ago to explain to numerous government officials why Sacramento is a hell of a good place to deposit federal dollars. It was all part of the 40th annual Sacramento Metro Chamber Cap-to-Cap program.

We heard from CIA Director Leon Panetta. He cautioned that the next big terrorist attack could likely be a sophisticated hacking of our country’s computer system. We also heard from Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu, who speaks less like a politician and more like someone who has a Nobel Prize in physics, which he does (1997). He was cool, as was the reception at the National Postal Museum and dinner at the National Museum of Natural History.

Yet these were sideshows. The meetings were the main event. There were lots of them. With amazing logistical skills, the Cap-to-Cap staff set up an incredible 249 meetings with members of Congress, Cabinet members, federal agencies, committees and the administration. We were there to present the Sacramento story.

And we had a very good story to tell.

Sacramento Metro Chamber pulled together a diverse group of people and put us all to work. There were representatives from public-utility companies and labor organizations. There were people from the Sacramento Area Council of Governments. There were participants from UC Davis, Sacramento State University and the Los Rios Community College District. We had 43 elected officials and seven mayors. And of course, there were representatives of local businesses, like me.

First, we needed to develop smart, effective recommendations. So the Chamber set up 12 teams, which studied the priorities of the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress. These teams brainstormed ideas, narrowed down the proposals, and then researched and wrote position papers. We produced proposals in every imaginable realm. The amount of work and coordination was jaw-dropping.

Finally, position papers in hand, 300 well-prepared, superinformed Sacramentans were ready to make their case. If you are a wonk who loves studying arcane policy papers, then you would have been in paradise on this trip. I was on the green technology team, which had an incredible group of players. I was the third-string defensive halfback, required to speak only if there were a massive attack of food poisoning among the starting lineup.

I am glad I went. The process of coming together, developing partnerships, pleading our case and spending time with so many amazing people was truly rewarding. I am certain that Sacramento will receive more federal dollars and create more jobs because of the efforts of these 300 hardworking Sacramentans. And that’s cool.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.