Glendale seeks political muscle from lobbyists

Seeking a stronger political voice in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., Glendale City Council members voted Tuesday to hire a state lobbyist and enter into negotiations with a federal lobbyist in the hope of steering policy decisions and grant money the city’s way.

Discussion on the issue grew contentious, however, over which federal lobbyist to choose, and over concerns about applicants’ previous clients.

Glendale had kept Washington lobbyists on the payroll since 2003, but cut back on advocacy spending in 2011 and went without them last year amid city budget concerns and reduced federal funding opportunities.

But with City Manager Scott Ochoa citing evolving regulatory issues as reason enough to get back into the fray, council members voted 3-2 to negotiate a new federal lobbying contract with a firm that previously represented Glendale, and 5-0 to also hire a state lobbying firm that currently represents Burbank and Pasadena.

Sacramento-based Emanuels Jones and Associates will receive $70,000 to represent both Glendale City Hall and Glendale Water & Power at the state capitol for one year, with work set to begin next month.

Pasadena pays the firm $48,000 per year and Burbank pays it $31,200 annually for advocacy on city issues, according to spokespeople for those cities.

The price of a one-year federal lobbying contract was left open to negotiations after some council members balked at the top two firms recommended by city staff and voted to open talks with the third choice, the Ferguson Group, which represented Glendale in 2010 and 2011.

The Ferguson Group had proposed a fee of roughly $73,000, while second-choice firm Van Scoyoc Associates was the low bidder at $60,000 and first-choice Carpi & Clay Inc. quoted $65,000.

City staff’s top picks fell out of contention after Councilman Ara Najarian raised concerns about some of their previous clients.

Najarian said he would not vote for Carpi & Clay because of its past work for military contractor Blackwater, which is now known as Academi. He said Blackwater had helped train the Azerbaijan military, which has clashed with the Republic of Armenia.

Ken Carpi, managing partner of Carpi & Clay, praised the interview and selection process used by city staff during a phone interview on Wednesday. He said he was disappointed the council didn’t consider that work and pointed out that the firm only briefly represented Blackwater for a land-use proposal in San Diego that was later dropped.

Najarian also criticized Van Scoyoc due to the firm’s previous work for Pakistan, which does not officially recognize the Republic of Armenia.

Mayor Dave Weaver refused to support any of the three, saying the city should instead hire David Turch and Associates, which represents Burbank in Washington for $72,000 per year and had represented Glendale on Capitol Hill from 2003 to 2009.

Glendale received $5.8 million in federal funding while working with Turch, according to reports, but switched to the Ferguson Group after former Councilman John Drayman criticized that figure as too low.

Weaver and Najarian voted against moving directly to talks with the Ferguson Group, saying council members should instead publicly interview prospective lobbyists.


Follow Joe Piasecki on Twitter: @JoePiasecki.


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