Last week, a few days before President Obama was set to deliver his annual State of the Union address, RCAP spearheaded an initiative and wrote a letter to Obama that 27 rural groups signed on to. The letter asked Obama to publicly commit to working with Congress to reauthorize the Farm Bill in his speech to Congress and the nation.
In his address on Tuesday night, Obama did not touch on rural issues. His speech laid out an ambitious plan for the final year of his term, a design to fashion an “America built to last.” But he did not include any specific points on rural America, a key pillar of the American “structure” that Obama wants to rebuild.
As a follow-up to the speech, the White House has been holding an “office-hours marathon” for the remainder of this week. Administration officials have been holding half-hour chats on Twitter focused on one issue area at a time.
On Friday, Jan. 27, Doug McKalip, the administration’s Senior Policy Advisor for Rural Affairs, took questions from RCAP and others about rural concerns.
RCAP was first to ask a question about what the administration plans for replacing aging water infrastructure beyond commitments to address other infrastructure, namely roads and broadband.
McKalip’s response: “POTUS [President of the United States] pointed out that 69% bridges are structurally deficient and will build upon water resource investment from ARRA.”
RCAP wants to raise the visibility of the pipes in the ground as being just as important to our infrastructure network as the road the pipes run under. RCAP is committed to helping the nation’s decision makers understand the critical importance of the water and wastewater network to the public’s health and undergirding to its economic development.
Another Tweet from user nstraw10 (Nancy Straw) asked, “Water infrastructure in rural nearing end of useful life. Can we afford to repair/replace all, or will towns go without?”
McKalip’s reply: “Administration has invested heavily so far. POTUS stated, let's take half of savings from wars and nation build here!”
RCAP took the opportunity of the Twitter conversation following the State of the Union address to continue to raise with the Obama administration the importance of rural issues, especially those that relate to drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.
RCAP’s first initiative related to the speech, the letter to Obama, attracted some attention from other quarters, however. By Monday, four outlets – assorted blogs and news services – had referred to the letter and pointed to it on the RCAP website.