Monday, April 23, 2018

Metro spends over $1million a year to lobby the State and Federal for more money. Should they?

by Rod Williams - According to an article in The Tennessean on March 2, Nashville increases lobbying contract by 58 percent to more than $1 million, it was reported that on Feb. 8th the Barry administration approved a $409,000 increase to the large multi-state law firm of Adams and Reese. This firm lobbies the state and federal government on behalf of the city. That increased the annual payout to the firm to $1.1 million.  Part of the justification for increasing the lobbying expenses is that the firm will be working to secure federal funding for the mayor's $9 billion transit proposal.

Controversy was generated relating to the law firm when a partner in the law firm wrote a letter asking District Attorney Glenn Funk to recuse himself from the criminal investigating into Barry's affair. That is highly inappropriate. A legal firm hired to represent the city should not be coming to the assistance of the mayor facing criminal charges. Thanks to Councilman John Cooper for raising a stink about it. By the way, I want to say that I think John Cooper is one of the best three or four members of the Metro Council. I did not vote for his election, but if he runs again I will. I watch every Council meeting and often watch meetings of the Budget and Finance Committee as well and Councilman Cooper often ask probing questions and looks out for the interest of the taxpayers. When he talks he knows what he is talking about. To stay as informed and on top of it as John Cooper one has to be doing a lot of homework. Now, back to the topic at hand.

The inappropriateness of the firm advocating on behalf of Mayor Barry aside, should the city hire lobbyist? I think not. We have state representatives and state senators to represent the interest of the citizens of the city at the state level, and U. S. representatives and senators to represent the interest of the citizens at the federal level.  A mayor can pick up the phone and call any of them and I am sure they will take his call. A mayor can write a letter explaining his logic of why the basic education funding formula should be changed to benefit the city or why the city needs a federal grant to fund a transit program. And, the mayor has staff to help compose the letters.  The Metro Council can pass memorializing resolution asking for funding or policies that benefit the city. Citizens have the right to partition their government, but it seems inappropriate for one unit of government to lobby for increased funding from another unit of government. In effect, Metro lobbying the state or federal government is Metro lobbying for greater state and federal taxation of the citizens.

Also, I think it would be inappropriate for a school board to hire lobbyist to lobby a mayor and a council for more funding.  I think it would be inappropriate for The University of Tennessee to have a lobbyist to lobby the state legislature or the governor. Not only is in inappropriate, I think it should be illegal. Since it is not illegal, as the Metro Council considers the budget I think they should take a long hard look at the amount of money the city pays for lobbyist and make sure it is appropriate and justified.  A million dollars paid to a lobbyist if instead was added to the school budget, could go a long way in restoring the social worker positions cut from the school budget.

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1 comment:

  1. Just when are we going to demand some transparency and honesty from our local government?