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Gwinnett officials hobnob, seek funding in D.C.

Six weeks after his last trip to the U.S. Capitol, Gwinnett Chairman Charles Bannister flew back to meet with local congressmen about transportation.

The former state representative has formulated a policy within the county government to periodically hobnob with state and federal elected officials to try to enhance relationships between the governments.

With so many pressing needs in Gwinnett and few dollars to spend, Bannister went to Washington to plead for a little help from his friends.

"It was a general conversation on transportation assistance," he said of a full schedule at Capitol Hill on Thursday.

Along with County Administrator Jock Connell and Transportation Director Brian Allen, he met with U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss and Reps. John Linder, Lynn Westmoreland, Nathan Deal and David Scott. An appointment with Rep. Jack Kingston had to be canceled because the congressman was called to a last-minute meeting.

Bannister said he talked specifically about the Sugarloaf Parkway extension, a project that received federal funds in a reauthorization bill last year, and a proposed extension of McGinnis Ferry Road that would have it cross Interstate 85.

He said he was having a hard time getting promises of more money so close to the reauthorization.

"But they're not saying no to us," he said. "We're growing still, and since we're doing this bit with Sugarloaf, we thought we'd talk about our expense. ... We feel an urge every now and then to update folks."

In March, Bannister spent time in Washington attending a National Association of Counties meeting, then touring with the local Chamber of Commerce.

The timing this month was off, though, because senators were arguing over how much money to send to the war in Iraq.

"We're making progress," he said. "But it's tough up there."

Keeping touch with voters

Speaking of Linder, he hosted his first tele-town-hall meeting last week.

Linder, who represents much of Gwinnett County, hosted callers throughout his district with questions ranging from immigration, government spending and his national sales tax legislation.

"This was our first attempt to utilize technology to bring together the entire 7th District. I was extremely pleased with the results and I think the participants were as well," Linder said of phone conferences held Tuesday and Saturday.

Linder began the conversation with a brief statement and then launched immediately into a question and answer session.

"What a great opportunity for this district to come together and exchange ideas," he said. "Quite apart from the literally hundreds of dollars in gasoline saved by eliminating the commute of those who attend my traditional in-person meetings, this tele-town hall was an opportunity to reach out to constituents who have not been able to attend my town hall meetings in the past."

The Duluth politician said he was not going to discontinue his traditional in-person town hall meetings, but wanted to make an effort to ensure that all of his constituents have a frequent opportunity to communicate their ideas and concerns.

Politicians up for auction

Barrow County commissioners aren't pandering for votes this week - well, not entirely.

Instead, they are auctioning themselves off for a good cause.

The men have agreed to be auctioned off to raise money for Relay for Life, which helps the American Cancer Society.

Depending on the commissioner, the politicians have agreed to some manual labor, from washing cars to mowing the grass, to bush-hogging. Commissioner David Dyer is offering some accounting advice, and Isaiah Berry, who is a track coach, is offering some personal coaching to a person or a team.

A silent auction will be held all day Tuesday at the Barrow County Annex, and a live auction for the politicians will begin at 6:30 p.m., just prior to that's commission meeting.

Some of the commissioners and state Sen. Ralph Hudgens will also be serving lunch Monday at Fatz Cafe on Monday as part of the fundraiser.

Everson was there, too

I knew I was running the risk of forgetting someone when I ran a list of the elected officials who attended a rally for Sonny Perdue last week.

And my fears were realized, when Rep. Melvin Everson called me Friday.

The Republican from Snellville did attend the rally and in fact even blessed the barbecue.

So sorry he wasn't mentioned in Thursday's notebook.

Political Notebook appears in the Thursday and Sunday editions of the Gwinnett Daily Post.

Camie Young can be reached via e-mail at camie.young@gwinnettdailypost.com.