ICMA President Lee Feldman and ICMA Executive Director Marc Ott met with William Kirkland, White House Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, to discuss infrastructure and disaster recovery challenges. They gave examples of ways that the Stafford Act, which was designed to bring an orderly and systematic means of federal natural disaster assistance for state and local governments, slows down recovery efforts on such challenges as debris removal after the recent hurricanes. Debris challenges are mounting in Texas and the Southeast. Earlier this month, Coral Gables City Manager Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark told the Miami Herald, “There are more than 40,000 trees that this city has in its portfolio. This is a long process."
Kirkland encouraged ICMA to share specific suggestions for any improvements that can be made to regulations and said the administration is especially interested in ways to streamline the permitting process. Feldman pointed out that the Stafford Act requires that local governments get a permit for the site to be used for debris deposits. It is a pro forma process, but it typically takes at least two days. Small delays can make a big difference in getting roadways cleared. Another issue related to debris removal involves private homeowner roads. The process to clear debris from those roads requires a city to go to a county, the county to go to the state, and then the state to go to FEMA for approval. All that local governments can do in the meantime is just push the debris aside.
“This was a great opportunity to begin to get our agenda in front of the administration on a very timely topic. We plan to engage with the White House more frequently on matters of importance to our membership,” Ott said. The White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs is a part of the Executive Office of the President and serves as the primary liaison between the White House and state, county, local, and tribal governments. The Office of Intergovernmental Affairs works with federal agencies and departments to ensure appropriate coordination between state, local, and tribal governments and the federal government.