Des Moines mayor Frank Cownie has been is in Washington, D.C. at the winter meeting the U.S. Conference of Mayors as they discuss the potential impact of the new administration on operations at the local level.
“We’re concerned about how we work with various departments in the federal government. Certainly transportation is a big one, certainly HUD is a big one. EPA is a big one — especially for a city like Des Moines we have sewer separation and other things going on that we have to negotiate with them,” Cownie says.
While the confirmation hearings are underway for the leaders of several of those departments, Cownie says it seems there are a lot of decisions yet to be made for those lower in the organizations.
“I do have some concern as to how quickly these departments are going to get up and running with new direction from an administration when I’m not quite sure that they have even selected some of those people to go into those positions,” according to Cownie. He says there won’t be an immediate impact as the new leaders take over.
“I don’t think it has a direct day-to-day impact,” Cownie says. “So next week as the new administration is in — is that going to affect how we operate at city hall in Des Moines? No.” Cownie says the leaders of cities in Iowa and across the country need to keep an eye out to see if there are small changes or big changes in philosophy. He doesn’t expect many major changes in programs.
“Is it a 180-degree turn? I would guess not. But even five or 10 degrees — it’s sort of like a battleship — it moves slowly and you’ve got to calculate what those changes are going to be and how much of a change in direction that will be,” Cownie says. “And then we have to look at our programs that depend on some of those federal dollars.”
Cownie says all those things will play out in the coming weeks as the new administration gets things in place. The mayors began meeting in Washington on Tuesday and Cownie says they’s seen things change there as the setup for the inauguration got underway. He says all the planning made it tougher to get to the U.S. Capitol for a meeting with lawmakers.
“Just getting there with all the barricades going up and even the preliminary work that was happening the last couple of days…it was very noticeable,” Cownie says. He says it made for some slow going.
“Just going from the area around the White House up on the hill to the Capitol, that was a 35 minute trip. Usually you can make it much, much more quickly than that — 10 to 15 minutes,” Cownie says. He returns to Iowa today after the conference ends.