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Filner seeking support for border authority commission

June 26, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Bob Filner, D-Chula Vista, is trying to drum up support for legislation he has co-sponsored that would create a commission called the "Southwest Regional Border Authority."

The legislation was written by Filner congressional colleague Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas.

If it passes — it's dry-docked in a House Financial Services subcommittee now — the authority would be a federally funded commission run by one Senate-confirmed presidential appointee and the governors of New Mexico, Texas, Arizona and California.

The authority's governing structure is modeled after that of the Appalachian Regional Commission. The Appalachian commission was created by Congress in 1965 to help funnel money to economically depressed counties in 13 of the country's coal belt states.

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The Southwest border authority would be formed for a similar purpose of helping economically depressed counties, according to Filner.

"The federal government doesn't know we exist or understand the unique situations at the border," he said Tuesday.

Imperial County would be one of the counties that would qualify for assistance.

While that sounds like good news for Imperial County entrepreneurs and government agencies who would stand to receive funds from a border authority for business start ups or infrastructure needs, respectively, Filner said passage of Reyes' legislation this session will be tough.

"We're putting in out there for future discussion. As Democrats in a Republican-controlled Congress we know they ain't going to take up much of what we want. We don't have any illusions," he said.

In addition to Filner and Reyes, the other three sponsors of the legislation are Democratic.

Filner hasn't yet enlisted the support of Imperial County's congressional representative, Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, and he isn't sure if Hunter has even heard of the bill.

"Sometimes the purpose of introducing a bill is to create discussion, start a framework for future action," Filner said.

He added: "Anything that brings the border regions into cooperation I support," he said.

In the past few years, the Appalachian Regional Commission has come under fire for mismanagement. The Columbus Dispatch, one of Ohio's leading newspapers, repeatedly has taken the commission's leadership to task for misallocating federal dollars to areas where the money is not needed.

Filner said the Appalachian commission isn't perfect but he likes the concept.

"Regional people are making the decisions. It's a good model," he said.

Since Gov. Gray Davis, or likely one of his appointees, would have a big role in any Southwest commission, Filner was asked if Davis has been brought on board as a supporter of the bill.

"That's a good idea. (The governors) should be included in some of the discussions. They become good lobbyists," Filner said.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or aclaverie@aol.com

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