City will hire lobbying consultant

Port Orchard’s city council voted nearly unanimously on Tuesday to approve a budget for the upcoming year.

A $25,000 allocation to a lobbying firm, however, presented a major obstacle against a unanimous vote.

Councilman Fred Chang, who placed the only vote against the budget, said the lobbying firm’s price tag seemed too high for the state’s current economic environment.

“I find it very disconcerting that the city would spend money to basically get blood out of a turnip,” Port Orchard resident Gil Michael said during the portion of the council meeting reserved for citizen’s comments. “The state doesn’t have any money. They’re cutting funds to schools. They’re cutting funds to homeless to meals programs to interpreters.”

“I think that spending $25,000 on a lobbyist is a waste of money,” he said. “It’s a waste of time. And it doesn’t make good sense. I’d ask that you strike that from the budget.”

But Mayor Lary Coppola argued that the lobbying firm is a smart investment.

“I made it plain to the lobbyists,” he said, “that they need to bring in more than they cost. They need to pay for themselves and then some.”

That handshake deal between the city and the firm isn’t legally binding, and the city can’t ensure it happens, but Coppola assured the council that he thought it would.

Coppola chose Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs to represent the city, after interviewing several other firms.

Gordon Thomas Honeywell represents several nearby cities and businesses including the city of Tacoma, the Northwest Energy Efficiency Council and the city of Gig Harbor, and has offices in Seattle, Tacoma and Washington, DC.

The firm will report to the city each week with information about upcoming relevant bills and meetings.

It also will create and implement a lobbying strategy for the city.

The contract lasts from Nov. 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011.

During that period, the city will pay out $2,500 per month, and the remaining $5,000 will cover additional expenses the firm accrues along the way.

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