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Sunnyside councilman working to promote interests of smaller communities

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. - Sunnyside Councilman Jim Restucci wears many hats, and has recently added a new one to his collection.

Restucci was elected as the representative of Washington and Oregon to the National Association of Regional Councils at the organization's 44th annual conference held in late June.

One of Restucci's first jobs in this role is trying to preserve the current system of metropolitan planning organizations, which is being threatened by new legislation proposed by Congress.

The National Association of Regional Councils works to promote the interests of smaller regions, particularly the transportation plans of those regions, at the federal level of government.

Restucci attended the conference in St. Petersburg, Fla. to learn more about a number of subjects that will help the residents of Yakima Valley. He's getting his chance immediately as a new representative in the association, and he's bringing a wealth of regional experience to the job.

As the chair of the Yakima Valley metropolitan planning organization, Restucci regularly works to get federal funding for transportation projects in the area and to unify regional planning.

Federal law requires the federal government to work with metropolitan planning organizations, which currently are defined as organizations serving areas with a minimum population of 50,000 that makes policy on transportation in the area.

New legislation just passed through the U.S. Senate would raise the minimum population to 200,000, a move that Restucci said will shut down most of the metropolitan planning organizations in Washington state. That, in turn, will cut off many places in the state from direct access to federal transportation funds.

At the conference in St. Petersburg, Restucci worked on a letter to members of the House of Representatives about the problem with the new legislation. The House version of the bill raises the minimum to populations of 100,000 but grandfathers in existing organizations. The Yakima Valley organization covers an area with a population of approximately 130,000.

Restucci also attended a number of breakout sessions during the conference on subjects that may impact the Yakima area. Those sessions included information about how the Department of Defense's Base Closure and Realignment Program may affect regions, information on Homeland Security and a session about creating a disaster resistant region.

Restucci described St. Petersburg as "gorgeous but muggy," and said he learned a lot. That knowledge will go to benefit both Sunnyside and the Yakima Valley as he wears his many hats.

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