The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Federal Cochairman Chris Masingill to Speak at Sept. 21-23 Delta conference in DC

Posted on July 19, 2010 at 03:56 PM

Delta Regional Authority Federal Cochairman Chris Masingill will be one of the key participants at the Delta conference in Washington, DC on Sept. 21-23, and we encourage all the Delta Caucus partners to turn out and have a dialogue with the DRA, Members of Congress and Obama administration officials about economic development in the eight-state region from southern Illinois to the Louisiana coast and eastward to Selma, Alabama. There is great enthusiasm in the region for the new leadership at DRA under Chairman Masingill.

The US Senate confirmed President Obama’s appointment of Chris Masingill on June 25, and he was sworn in before a packed house at the Arkansas State Capitol last week. Chairman Masingill will have a very prominent speaking role at the conference, along with DRA Alternate Federal Cochair Mike Marshall and Bill Triplett, Chief of Staff.

KEY ISSUES: In DC we will focus on job creation/economic recovery, health care for the underserved Delta including the new health care reform law and the innovative Community Health House Network, the oil disaster in the Gulf, expansion of renewable energy, broadband access, opposition to FEMA’s ill-advised plan to escalate flood insurance costs across the region, progress on the Delta Development Highway system that includes I-69 and other infrastructure, education improvements, and other key issues for the eight-state, 252 county region from southern Louisiana to southern Illinois.

On Thursday morning, Sept. 23, 8:30 a.m. to 12:30, there will be a fundraiser/issues forum for victims of the oil disaster and Hurricane Katrina at the sanctuary of the Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill, 212 East Capitol near the US Supreme Court. Information on the entire schedule, registration and group hotel is listed below in this email.

This is the first time a Federal Cochair of the DRA has addressed a Delta Caucus event, so please help us turn out and support the DRA before the Congress, national administration officials, and the media. Chris Masingill has excellent knowledge and experience for this post, as he was formerly a senior aide to Gov. Mike Beebe of Arkansas, for whom he managed the stimulus economic development package, was the liaison to federal and DRA officials, and was involved in a wide variety of other constructive activities. Gov. Beebe is widely recognized as one of America’s most able and effective governors, so Chris’ experience there was invaluable.

Earlier he was an aide to Congressman Mike Ross, and before that worked for Sen. Blanche Lincoln when she was sponsoring the legislation in the Senate to create the DRA. Sen. Lincoln was the original Senate sponsor and Rep. Marion Berry was the original House sponsor for the DRA bill that President Clinton signed into law in 2000.

We look forward to ushering in a new era at the DRA under the leadership of Chairman Masingill.

The conference as a whole will feature Members of Congress, high-level administration officials, and a group of grassroots leaders from the Greater Delta Region. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, Rep. Mike Ross (AR), Sen. Mary Landrieu (LA), Rep. Joseph Cao (LA), and Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (MO)have already confirmed, and we expect to have Sen. Mark Pryor (AR), Rep. Marion Berry (AR), Rep. John Tanner (TN), Rep. Jerry Costello (IL), Rep. Bennie Thompson, Rep. Travis Childers, Sen. Thad Cochran (MS), Rep. Charlie Melancon and Sen. Claire McCaskill (MO), as well as Obama administration officials from USDA, DOT, HHS, FEMA and other key departments.

DRA Alternate Federal Cochair Mike Marshall was formerly Missouri co-coordinator for the Delta Caucus, mayor of Sikeston, Missouri, a banker and economic development expert, and a long-time leader for the region. Mr. Marshall will speak at the event. The Delta Caucus has applauded President Obama and the Congress for the selection of two excellent public servants like Chris Masingill and Mike Marshall to lead the DRA.

We are also very pleased to have the participation of Bill Triplett, the DRA Chief of Staff who has extensive expertise and experience in our region’s economic development.

QUICK SUMMARY OF DRA ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Despite being hampered by the Bush administration budget cuts in the years from 2001-2004, the DRA has still leveraged its modest funding to achieve significant results for our region. We want to reiterate to the Members of Congress and that the current $13 million DRA budget is far too small and is dwarfed by the vastly larger budget of the similar economic development regional commission, the Appalachian Regional Commission. There should also be an independent stream of funding for the Delta Development Highway System, akin to the ARC model.

From a low point of a $5 million budget in 2004, our Congressional delegation and grassroots leaders advocated an increase for this meritorious agency, and funding has risen to $13 million. The first Obama administration budgets more than doubled the Bush administration request of $6 million up to $13 million, so that is a step forward.

As a candidate, Barack Obama pledged to increase the DRA budget to at least $20 million. We need to continue exerting constructive pressure on the administration and Congress to follow through on that commitment.

Even with a limited budget, here are estimated results of the first eight years of the DRA:

–The DRA used $74.5 million in its federal funds to leverage $353.8 million in federal, state and local funds and $1.154 billion in private investment for a total investment of $1.89 billion.

–These investments led to over 34,000 jobs being created or retained, over 33,000 families with improved water and sewer, and more than 6,300 people receiving job training.

–The Delta Doctors program has placed over 100 doctors in underserved areas of the Delta at no additional cost to the taxpayers, by allowing foreign medical graduates to stay and practice medicine here in the Delta in underserved areas. Each placement is carefully scrutinized so that the Delta Doctors are not displacing American doctors.

–The Healthy Delta Initiative and other programs for attacking diabetes and other health maladies in the region, which have a debilitating impact on our economic development.

–Strategic planning such as the Delta Development Highway System plan, a plan on information technology and other strategic plannning designed to expedite action for regional economic development.

DRA’s rare statutory authority to count its federal funds as the local match: The DRA has a rare statutory authority whereby its federal funding can be used as the local match for funding applications. In the past, a small impoverished community might not be able to afford even the relatively small local match, and thus would lose opportunities for access to an entire funding package.


OPENING SESSION: Tuesday evening, Sept. 21, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., B-339 Rayburn House of Representatives building

SENATE SESSION: Wednesday morning, Sept. 22, 8:30 to noon, Room 385 Senate Russell building

USDA SESSION: Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 22, USDA national headquarters on the Mall, Williamsburg Room 104A, USDA Whitten building

FINAL SESSION: Thursday morning, Sept. 23, main sanctuary of the historic Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill near the US Supreme Court, 212 East Capitol–this will be a combined fund-raiser for victims of Hurricane Katrina and the oil disaster in the Gulf and an issues forum on the oil disaster and FEMA’s controversial plan to escalate flood insurance costs.

REGISTRATION: You register by sending in the early registration fee of $85 by Friday, September 3. After Sept. 3 the registration increases to $100. There is limited space for the first two days’ sessions and that will have to be determined on a first come-first served basis. The final session at the sanctuary of the Lutheran Church of the Reformation will be in the large, historic sanctuary of the Lutheran Church of the Reformation so there are no space considerations for that session.

Please make out the $85 early registration fee to “Delta Grassroots Caucus,” and mail to:

Delta Grassroots Caucus

(Attention: Lee Powell)

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

GROUP HOTEL: We were able to get a reduction in the Radisson Reagan Airport rate to $215, which is a fairly good rate for a DC hotel that is a short taxi ride from the meeting rooms at the very busy time of year of September. There are no meetings at the group hotel so if you would prefer to stay elsewhere that is fine.

You would call the Radisson Reagan Airport at (703) 920-8600 and say you are with the Delta Caucus group to get the reduced rate for the nights of Sept. 21 and Sept. 22. We will have groups of taxi cabs to depart from the Radisson each day of the conference.

TRAVEL AGENCY: Becky Hawkins’ Travel Consultants International in Blytheville, Arkansas is very good at finding cheaper air fares and they can be reached at 1-800-764-7660 or

We wish former Federal Cochairman Pete Johnson and Alternate Federal Cochairman Rex Nelson all the best. They were there in the early days of the DRA when the fledgling agency was undergoing growing pains, and we appreciate their hard work and dedication in the agency’s beginning stages. The agency has greatly improved in recent years and we look forward to even more productive results from the DRA under their new leadership.

Thanks very much. Lee Powell, executive director, Delta Grassroots Caucus (202) 360-6347