The City of Homer’s contracted lobbyist attended last week’s city council meeting to defend her job. Several city council members opposed renewing the city’s year-long contract with the Anderson Group. It was argued the lobbyist’s $40,000 fee should be spent in other places.
Homer’s newest city council member, Heath Smith, introduced the proposal to not renew the city’s contract with the Anderson Group (City Council Supplemental Packet pg.5). Smith claimed elected officials and the Alaska Municipal League can voice the city’s concerns in Juneau without the additional cost.
“So these are things that are going to be addressed on larger scales [and] broader spectrums. That’s what AML is for and our elected officials that we currently have in office. I think they’re going to do a decent job helping defend that,” said Smith.
Smith suggested the council spend some of the Anderson Group’s fee on books for the Homer Public library and that it put some in Port and Harbor Reserves.
Linda Anderson with the Anderson Group says not renewing the contract would be a mistake. She says the Alaska Municipal League is most effective working non-specific issues.
“We successfully in [a] 60 day session in 2013 passed legislation (SB 148) very specific to the City of Homer and the port. To advance economic development through the Port of Homer. That’s not something the municipal league can do,” said Anderson.
Smith’s argument centered on the unlikelihood that the legislature would allocate new money to the city in the middle of the state’s budget crisis.
“I know that our lobbyists in the past have gotten us a lot more money than not having a lobbyist but zero times any number is still zero. I just want to get the biggest bang for our buck. If [that] means we have to call Juneau more then we should do it,” said Smith.
Anderson says in the past she’s represented municipalities during three economic downturns. She argues her job is more involved than asking for money.
“I can assure you that it is all about legislation and proposed law. As those bills wind their way through the process there are 60 legislators, there are a dozen committees, [and] each bill will have at least six to eight hearings on each side. Our job is to influence the outcome of those proposals,” said Anderson. “It’s often seen that a lobbyist’s role is limited to capital projects. That couldn’t be further from the truth.”
She says now the city needs her services more than ever because legislators will try to pass off costs to local municipalities.
The city council was split on the decision with three voting to renew the Anderson Group’s contract and three voting against it. Mayor Beth Wythe voted in favor of the renewal to break the tie.