FEBRUARY 17, 1998

I want to welcome everyone to today's hearing of the Environment and Public Works Committee. Today's hearing will focus on the coordination between the General Services Administration and local officials in the Federal building leasing process. My comments will be brief so that we can have plenty of time to hear from all of our witnesses.

For the benefit of those folks who are here from outside of Montana, I want to start by giving a very brief history of this area of Helena -- which is my hometown.

We are holding this hearing today in the heart of Last Chance Gulch. Gold was discovered right here over 100 years ago. Four miners from Georgia worked tirelessly to make the big hit. When they had exhausted all of their resources, their time was running out. So they decided to work diligently and took one last chance at striking gold. They did. And without their determination and grit, Helena, the Queen City of the Rockies, would still be a dream.

So it is appropriate that we are in this location to discuss ways in which to improve the process of leasing Federal office space. The location of Federal office space within a community is an important matter. There are tremendous impacts from the decisions made with regard to leasing Federal office space.

We have three Montana communities experiencing the same difficulties with the GSA. There seems to be a systematic problem with the coordination process between the Federal government and local communities. I do not believe that the process to date has been handled as it should have been. We are here today to discuss this problem and work to find solutions.

I am afraid that sometimes the Federal government comes to town feeling it knows best -without regard to the thoughts of people who live in these communities. I believe GSA ought to reach out more to local folks. Local residents are a vast resource that the Federal government should tap. GSA should work with communities in order to understand their development plans and needs for the future.

I believe we can resolve some of these issues. We all want to do the right thing for our communities and the Federal agencies involved. If we pledge to listen closely to all of our witnesses, we will be able to learn and improve the coordination process. And with that, we will improve the relationship between GSA and the residents of Montana.

Again, I want to thank all of you here today. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses. We have a full slate, so let's begin.