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Lobbying contract renewed

ENCINITAS — City Council voted 4-1, with Councilwoman Teresa Barth opposed, to extend its contract with a lobbying firm for an additional three years. Carpi & Clay — a longtime government relations contractor of the city — has offices in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.
The deal will cost the city $75,600 a year in fees to the firm. While the cost is a 10 percent reduction in the fees the firm charged the city last year, Barth said she was unconvinced that the services offered by the firm were necessary.
Barth said she didn’t understand why the city needed its own lobbying firm when it is a member of the League of California Cities, an association of California city officials. It advocates for its members and tracks legislation of interest to them, she said.
“The same thing happened in 2001, 2002,” she said. “What have you done for me today?” Barth asked. She offered a substitute motion to extend the contract for one year and have an analysis of exactly what services are providing benefit to the city.
Barth also raised concerns over the timing of the contract renewal. “I am concerned that what we have here is an expired contract,” she said. Barth said it felt like the council was forced to continue the contract because of the work the firm is doing on the extension of grant funds in Beacon’s Beach. “It does feel a little over a barrel,” Deputy Mayor Maggie Houlihan agreed.
“Their knowledge of the legislative process is what the city pays for,” said Bob McSeveney, a senior management analyst for the city. Some of the services include an e-mail of pending state legislation tailored to the city’s legislative program McSeveney told the council.
At least two residents expressed concerns about the contract. Tony Kranz, a City Council candidate, asked for some adjustments to the contract. “Perhaps this (contract) is a luxury,” he said. He didn’t deny that a lobbying firm might be necessary, but said the contract didn’t spell out what exactly the firm did to benefit the city.
Kevin Cummins was more adamant about his objections. “We shouldn’t have to ask the staff what they are doing for us, it should be in the staff report,” he said. “We have already hired someone to work for us in Sacramento, it’s our assemblyman,” Cummins siad. “A subscription to the Sacramento Bee would be a lot cheaper than an $84,000 contract.”
He also objected to the fact that the contract is noncompetitive and recommended that the city make an effort to analyze other lobbying firms’ services.
Councilman James Bond noted some of the advantages to retaining the lobbying firm. “They’re (lobbying firm) totally, totally nonparty aligned,” he said. Bond recalled that the firm was responsible for a regional effort to bring more sand on the beaches. “I was the one who suggested we hire them way back in 1998.”
“It might seem like a lot of money and it might seem kind of silly that we have to hire somebody to work for us when we have elected representatives,” he said, “but they can do things that we (the city) could never do.”