RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Close to two dozen North Carolina officials were in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday for the Communities in Action: Build Back Better North Carolina event.
This day was a bit of a victory lap as the administration touts the local impacts of the Build Back Better Plan. It was also a chance for leaders working at the ground level to bring forward issues facing everyday people.
Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin was among the leaders in D.C.. After two years of social distancing, she said it was an opportunity to collaborate with other officials.
“We can learn from each other and learn together,” Baldwin said.
She says it was a productive conversation touching on mental health and food security. Leaders also brought forward concerns about clean water, broadband, and inflation. Baldwin’s biggest focus was infrastructure funding.
“In a growing region like Raleigh and the Triangle, we need commuter rail and that is something that we’ve seen the price skyrocket on,” said Baldwin.
The proposed Triangle commuter rail would span from Durham to Johnston County. Initially estimated to cost between $1 billion and $2 billion, it could now surpass $3 billion.
Baldwin said, “We need help.”
Baldwin said using and requesting federal funds can be complex so hopes that can change.
“Maybe we need simpler policies. Maybe we need simpler processes,” said Baldwin.
While American Rescue Plan funds have been useful, Apex Mayor Jacques Gilbert said more help is needed.
“There are families in hotels that got displaced, evicted and things like that. Small business owners have been saved and relieved from the ARPA funding,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert says his city is largely affluent. Census data estimates median household income is over $100,000 in Apex. Still, the mayor can’t forget about those in need.
“People depend on us and that’s what we’re there for, and I want to make sure I represent everyone in my community,” said Gilbert.
Mayor Baldwin’s message to lawmakers —
“Be bold. Be creative,” she said.
Both Baldwin and Gilbert hope that can done with bipartisan cooperation.
“Democrat, Republican, it doesn’t matter. We have to work together to achieve what’s best,” said Baldwin.
Gilbert said, “I hope that continues to be the theme and the message going forward. That’s how we get things done,” Gilbert said.