BURBANK — A proposal that would have required lobbyists to register with the city before meeting with city officials failed Tuesday night 3 to 2. The lobbyist ordinance was last proposed in 2006 by Councilwoman Marsha Ramos, who said it was a way to ensure a transparent city government.
“Everyone has recognized that lobbyists play a role in government and political decisions,” she said. “They have an important voice . . . however, it is important for the public to know who these lobbyists are meeting with.”
Councilman David Gordon agreed with Ramos, but Vice Mayor Gary Bric and Councilwoman Anja Reinke said they did not see a need for the ordinance.
“If I was seeing a problem, I would support this, but at the moment, I am not seeing compelling reasons to do it,” Reinke said. She also mentioned the council’s public disclosures concerning any officials they met with at weekly meetings.
City Atty. Dennis Barlow provided the council with a research report of similar ordinances passed in the state, such as those enacted in San Francisco.
He said the ordinance was unnecessary for a small town like Burbank.
“Based on the size of the town, you know most of the people, you see the same lobbyists on a routine basis,” he said. “It would also require the staff to oversee its enforcement, and if they did that, they wouldn’t have time to do their jobs.”
Similar ordinances in areas with reduced populations have required lobbyists to register, such as Santa Clarita and Malibu, Barlow said.
“We think we live in a small town, but in reality, we live in a complex and dynamic city,” Ramos said. “The city is also full of multibillion-dollar interests.”
Even though most people know the identity of local lobbyists, an ordinance is a good idea, resident David Piroli said.
“There is a difference between a resident being in favor or opposed to something happening in the city versus someone who is being paid to say it,” he said. “Even though in most cases we know who they are, what’s the harm in being up front and honest about it?”
Resident Don Elsmore agreed with Piroli.
“I absolutely support this ordinance,” Elsmore said. “We want full disclosure and want to know who is paying them off.”
City Manager Mary Alvord said she doesn’t have any strong issues with the ordinance, but sees the pros and cons of enforcing it.
“I haven’t seen any major issues here in Burbank,” she said. “But at the same time, I understand the concern. Everyone wants the government to be transparent to the public, and the ordinance would be another tool to achieve that.”
A similar proposal was denied in 2003. However, Ramos said this track record won’t deter her.
“I am very committed to this issue,” she said, “and I will propose it again before I leave office.”