News

City council opts for lobbyists’ help

Firm seeks federal dollars for Sequim projects


by MATTHEW NASH

A Portland, Ore., firm soon will be working to bring funds for special projects in the city.

City councilors unanimously approved a contract with lobbyists Conkling Fiskum & McCormick, CFM, for a fixed $3,200-a-month rate for the remainder of 2011.

City Manager Steve Burkett said he thought Sequim needed help finding federal financial assistance with upcoming projects.

Those projects include:
• Annexation of the Sequim Marine Sciences Laboratory, commonly referred to as Battelle, with water, sewer and transportation resources
• Completing other east Sequim projects, including the West Sequim Bay/Whitefeather Way corridor infrastructure
• Finishing the Sequim portion of the Olympic Discovery Trail
• Making downtown improvements
• Re-establishing a school resource officer
• Finishing the Simdars interchange.


While researching the firm, Burkett said staff from the cities of Battle Ground and Longview, also CFM clients, reported receiving much more than their investments back in funding. Battle Ground received funds for a school resource officer, which Sequim also seeks.

Other federal CFM clients include the cities of Lacey and Vancouver, the Oregon Institute of Technology and other Oregon entities. CFM staff lobbied for redeveloping Vancouver’s waterfront and in two years brought in $10.6 million. The firm also brought in millions for transportation to other cities and groups.

Mayor Ken Hays, Mayor Pro Tem Laura Dubois and Burkett met with Joel Rubin, vice-president of federal affairs for CFM, and found Rubin very interested in working for Sequim.

Burkett said he didn’t investigate other lobbyists because the firm came recommended from a former Sequim contract employee.

“It’s going to be a competitive process and in order to compete successfully, we need someone who knows (Washington,) D.C, closely,” Burkett said.

Councilor Ted Miller said he was naturally skeptical about lobbyists and wondered why the city couldn’t use local delegates.

“A lot of people are leaving letters on Rep. Norm Dicks’ desk,” Burkett said.

“We’re buying some knowledge and knowledge where money would be in federal departments and building ongoing relationships with delegates.”

Councilor Erik Erichsen said lobbyists are effective but need a catalyst, someone who has the ability to articulate what the city wants.

“It’d be a cheap investment if we come up with that individual,” Erichsen said.

“We need to find someone to be our ‘evangelist.’”

Councilors agreed to work on summarizing their goals for each project in simplified documents.

The firm will be paid from $150,000 budgeted for contingency by city staff. Other expenses include flying a few councilors and a staff member to Washington, D.C., to reinforce the city council’s goals.

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” Burkett said.

“I have a good feeling about this.”

For more on Conkling Fiskum & McCormick, CFM, visit www.cfm-online.com.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

 

 

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