Report by Commissioner Cruickshank
Thursday July 20th
After arriving this afternoon I was able to attend a Special Dinner Event for Past Presidents of NACo held offsite. Several Past Presidents attended with one being from the 1980’s. It was interesting listening to their reflections of their year as NACo President.
Friday July 21st
My morning started off with a Policy meeting to discuss with the Committee Chairs how many Resolutions would be heard in their respective committees. This is also the time when a committee may request to have the resolution also heard in their committee if they have common intent. Resolutions were presented on Drones and low altitude use, Airport Security, Indian School Bus Route funding, Impediments to effective Federal Aid Projects, Federal Aviation Administration funding cuts and Autonomous Vehicles.
Next I attended the Transportation Sub-Committee meeting to hear a presentation on Legislative issues for transportation by NACo staff Kevan Stone. Bridge Building: Doing More with Less by John Brown, County Executive, North Hampton County, Pennsylvania who spoke on greater spending power while increasing safety for residents.
Successful Partnerships that Save Money and Increase Safety with James Barna, Assistant Director and Chief Engineer, Ohio Department of Transportation and Andrea Stevensen, Administrator, Office of Local Programs, Ohio Department of Transportation who spoke on how can Local and State Governments work together to improve infrastructure safety and can it be done at a substantial savings.
Ballot Measures for Infrastructure Improvement: How to Win with Stanford Lynch, Associate, Engineering firm of Freeze and Nichols who spoke on counties across the country have utilized ballot measures to increase their infrastructure needs. The public buy-in for infrastructure can bring needed relief to strained budgets.
To start my afternoon, as the NACo Western Region Representative, I attended the NACo Executive Board meeting where we had an Audit Report, approved doing an RFP for 2018 for the next Audit, Nationwide being selected again for our Retirement plans, Finance Report showing 8.4 % growth, adjustments in new technology and discussed increasing membership.
Matt Chase, NACo Executive Director provided his report where we heard about efforts to support county elected who have been invited to Washington DC to meet with the President’s Administration, expanding the participation in NACo Committees and reviewing Grants that NACo works with.
Late afternoon we were able to meet with Jack Nicklaus and hear his history of golf and building golf courses across the United States, including one in Sandpoint, Idaho.
Tonight I attended a baseball game at Huntington Park, which is owned by Franklin County, and watch the Columbus Clippers play ball. I had a seat on the 1st baseline from home plate. Four foul balls came my way and two were caught by fellow county elected folks who were seated in the same area. Unfortunately the Clippers lost this game.
Saturday July 22nd
My morning started with attending the First Time Attendees breakfast and assisting with helping folks coming to the Annual Conference on what opportunities are available for them with NACo at the conference and elsewhere. There were about 100 in attendance this year which is great as they are learning the value of NACo and the work NACo does to support counties.
I then attended the Rural Action Caucus meeting where we heard about Schools as Hubs for Health Issues, Resources for Families to connect kids with schools, more data use from NACo’s County Explorer, addressing poverty and housing needs.
Anne Hazlett, with USDA updated us on Administration Priorities for Rural Infrastructure Funding, Investment in Mental Health Facilities, Aging Public, Rural Broadband needs, losing farm land to development, understanding one size doesn’t fit all, USDA being a primary resource for Housing Financing and being a Key Component to Economic Development.
Michael Melt, spoke for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on their efforts to provide grant funding to help increase health in people, asking why Longevity of Life is decreasing for the first time since 1993 and the Opioid crisis.
This afternoon started with the Western Interstate Region (WIR) Board meeting. We reviewed the Finance Report where we are showing a trend of lost revenue with less attendees, discussed the PILT Fly-In for September, October Board meeting in Sublette County, (Pinedale) Wyoming, heard a legislative update from Jonathan our NACo Liaison on House Appropriation Legislation, cuts to the Land Acquisition funds, Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT), Secure Rural Schools (SRS) still waiting to be reauthorized, Historic Rights of Way under RS 2477 status, Health Care and Tax Reform.
Larry Schoen, Blaine County, Idaho, Commissioner, showcased the upcoming opportunities, for the 2018 WIR Annual Conference that will be held in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Ted Boling with the Council on Environmental Quality spoke on efforts to reduce the NEPA timeframe which takes up to 10 years now to a 2 year time. He also mentioned efforts of a new aspect of Cooperating Agency Status.
My next meeting was the NACo Board Forum where we listened to a panel discussing, Federalism and State Preemption of Local Governments. In this discussion we heard why states are working to limit revenue resources local governments can use. Some efforts to eliminate the tax deduction on Federal Income Tax could provide over one trillion dollars to the Federal Government however the tax would then be shifted to local property taxes which are limited by state government. With mandates by the Federal Government and States for certain programs now the funding is not there to perform. Some comments were counties would be cutting other essential services to meet demands or filing bankruptcy. Counties need to start providing current data to show how this will impact their citizens so we have factual information to share. Better communication and education outreach is needed. It takes Political Courage to tell the message as the information is useless without personal discussion. NACo works hard to keep the discussions non-partisan however when speaking with congressional folks this is tough in today’s climate.
This afternoon was the opening General Session where we heard from the following people.
Piper Kerman, New York Times Best Selling Author, “Orange is the new Black” Her book is based on her being held in a Woman’s Prison for 13 months. It raises questions about the criminal justice system in America, and how incarceration affects individuals and communities across the nation.
Todd May, Director, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and Dr. Marla E. Perez-Davis, Deputy Director, NASA’s John H. Glenn Research Center spoke on NASA’s work for space flight and the potential to send spacecraft to Mars.
Kirt Walker, President and Chief Operating Officer Nationwide Financial spoke on Nationwide’s involvement with helping folks.
Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture spoke on the work to include economic development using agriculture and housing. I was able to personally speak with Secretary Perdue for a moment and ask about Natural Resource use. Secretary Perdue mentioned that our Natural Resources have a value we need to work from to help with revenue needs and supplying our nation’s needs.
Tonight I attended the National Conference of Republican County Officials and sat on a panel to discuss what I see from the western region of the United States.
After this meeting was a NACo Board of Directors Reception to end the evening.
Sunday July 23rd
Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming attendees met for breakfast. With all of these states having smaller representation at the conference we all get together to network and discuss our issues. Many other states have large attendance and have individual similar meetings.
From 9AM until Noon was the NACo Board of Directors Business and Resolutions meeting where we approved prior meeting minutes from the WIR Annual Conference meeting, approved new board members, heard a report from Nationwide Retirement Services, had reports from the following NACo Board committees, Audit, Finance, Membership, Information/Technology and Programs/Services.
Then outgoing President Desloge provided his report followed by NACo Executive Director, Matt Chase providing his report.
Matt spoke on NACo’s Focus on Vision and Mission to tell our story of Why Counties Matter. We also discussed tomorrow’s membership vote to change the voting for counties due to population change over the years. Dr. Emilia Istrate provided an update on NACo’s Counties Future Lab and how recent data can be used, learning from peers and focusing on benchmarks.
NACo’s Legislative Director, Deborah Cox then provided a legislative update on Health Care in the Senate, Tax Reform and impacts to counties, plan to expect budgetary uncertainty, there is more questions than answers on infrastructure, the White House saying they will work with Rural America and NACo’s new Advocacy Toolkit on issues.
Bill Jasien and David Thompson provided an update on the Financial Services Corp of NACo where the revenues are increasing with more participation, helping county employees with retirement options and investigating new investments.
The NACo Board of Directors then reviewed, discussed and voted on the proposed Resolutions that the committees were brought to the conference for approval.
To end this meeting we heard reports from the Rural Action Caucus (RAC), Large Urban County Caucus (LUCC) and the Western Interstate Region (WIR).
My next event was a workshop on making the Most out of your NACo Membership where we learned about the NACo Prescription Drug program which is available to all residents of a county including Dental and Vision. There is also a portion of this program that allows Pet Prescriptions. Navigating the NACo website primarily the Counties Future Lab where data can be found on individual states or counties on multiple facts including economic and health data.
Early evening I attended the County Leadership Institute (CLI) and Next Generation (NexGen) reception for folks who had attended CLI and the under 40 attendees for NexGen. It was good to connect with fellow CLI folks and see the young folks coming up to be part of county government.
To end the night was the LUCC/RAC reception held at the Ohio Statehouse.
Monday July 24th
This morning was a Policy Committee meeting to discuss any last minute issues on resolutions before they are voted on by the General Membership.
A General Membership meeting was then held where the Resolutions were approved, updated By-Laws were approved which included the new Weighted Vote formula, election of new NACo officers which now include Roy Charles Brooks, President, Tarrant County, Texas, 1st VP, Greg Cox, San Diego County, California, 2nd VP, Mary Ann Borgeson, Douglas County, Nebraska and Immediate Past President, Bryan Desloge, Leon County, Florida.
The end of this session was the announcement of Committee Leadership appointments where I was again named as a Vice Chair for the Transportation Committee.
At noon was the Western Region Caucus meeting where an election was held for the position of NACo Western Region Representative for a two year term. This person will sit on the NACo Executive Board to represent the fifteen Western States. In February I had been elected to this position as an interim position to finish out a prior term. I was fortunate to be re-elected to represent my fellow county elected officials.
Then with all the changes to the NACo Board by prior events I attended the New Board Organizational meeting where vacant committee assignments were filled, report of the elections of the South and West Regions, Conflict of Interest Policy and Disclosure Statements were signed and upcoming NACo Board meeting schedule was reviewed.
Our closing General Session included a presentation by Ed Viesturs, Record-Breaking Mountain Climber, who lives in Sun Valley, Idaho. Mr. Viesturs is the only American mountaineer to have climbed the world’s 14 highest peaks without supplemental oxygen. His autobiography, No Shortcuts to the Top, documents his 16 year journey summiting peaks and his strategies to manage risk in extreme environments.
The final speaker was Lou Dobbs, who hosts FOX Business Network on Lou Dobbs Tonight. Mr. Dobbs spoke on the political perspective as he sees it in the current atmosphere. Mr. Dobbs has been doing this for the past three decades. I had the opportunity to visit with Mr. Dobbs backstage and discovered he lived in Rupert, Idaho and went to High School there. He had also been in McCall, Idaho in his early years from time to time so we were able to visit about his trips to McCall.
Tonight was the Conference Wide Event Closing Celebration Reception.
All presentation materials from Workshops and sessions will be posted on the NACo Website in the next week or so and stay there for the next 6-8 months. So if you missed a workshop or session the information is still available for a limited time.
I appreciate the opportunity to represent Idaho as the NACo Representative at these NACo events. Thank You.
This concludes my report on what I experienced, saw and heard while attending the 2017 NACo Annual Conference held in Franklin County (Columbus), Ohio.
Gordon Cruickshank, Commissioner
Valley County, Idaho