New Port Richey mayor will go to D.C. in search of federal money

NEW PORT RICHEY — The list of attendees to the U.S. Conference of Mayors seminar in Washington, D.C., this month has plenty of big-city names.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown. Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin.

But here's a name more familiar to Pasco residents: New Port Richey Mayor Scott McPherson.

New Port Richey has joined the national trade organization, and McPherson is attending its two-day seminar in Washington in an effort to begin seeking federal money, a source of revenue that the city has rarely pursued on its own.

That means spending city money up front, including a $1,100 membership fee and $775 for the seminar, plus travel and lodging for the mayor. Those costs will come out of the $5,000 budgeted for City Council travel and training expenses.

But officials say they think the investment could pay off as the city looks for ways to shore up shrinking revenue.

"I was very enthusiastic that he saw the value in it," council member Marilynn deChant said of McPherson. "I've worked with other City Council members over the years who were, let's say, parochial in their views. I think he's very progressive."

New Port Richey is far from alone in trying to be more aggressive about getting federal funding. Many local governments are aiming for a piece of President-elect Barack Obama's proposed stimulus plan, part of which is aimed at putting people to work on public infrastructure projects.

Pasco County last month revealed its $1.4-billion wish list of new roads, buildings and water pipes.

McPherson noted his big-city counterparts at the conference would be talking about larger-scale projects and problems. Still, he said, in New Port Richey, "We still have those needs, the need to put people to work."

He said he hopes to talk to a lot of people in Washington, learn about some potential funding sources and basically do "as much PR work as possible."

The seminar runs Jan. 17-19 and features committee sessions on subjects ranging from community development to transportation. Billionaire oilman-turned-wind man T. Boone Pickens is scheduled to give an address on energy independence.

McPherson is leaving on the 19th, the day before Obama's inauguration. He said he found a $200 plane ticket and is staying at a Red Roof Inn.

"I want to make it clear that this is not some kind of junket," he said.

Travel and training costs for City Council members have been controversial at times, and McPherson said he struggled with the decision.

"But we felt that the upside was such that it made sense to go ahead," he said. "The grants that are out there are going to be extremely competitive. I just want to make sure we're on the ball."

City Manager Tom O'Neill said he encouraged McPherson to take the trip. "He's very conscientious," said O'Neill. "We're all facing brand new realities in government. He's very, very earnest in what he does."

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtill man@sptimes.com or (727)869-6247.

New Port Richey mayor will go to D.C. in search of federal money 01/08/09 [Last modified: Friday, January 9, 2009 10:30am]

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