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IC officials: new lobbyist will boost state communication

BY ASMAA ELKEURTI | NOVEMBER 15, 2011 7:20 AM

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Iowa City officials hope a city lobbyist will help to create more fluid communication between city officials and the state Capitol.

Though legislators elected in Iowa City serve in the Statehouse, officials said a lobbyist would give the city access to state officials outside the immediate district, as well as educate legislators on local government issues.

"Somebody who is at the Capitol as issues pop up can address them on Iowa City's behalf, and frequently these issues are not just important to Iowa City, but they involve other cities in the state," said City Councilor Mike Wright.

Adam Bentley, an administrative assistant to the city manager, said a lobbyist would allow Iowa City to communicate with different facets of the state and federal government.

"A lot of it's about being able to communicate with both sides of the aisle with issues that pertain to Iowa City," Bentley said. "It's about having the ability to communicate with both the Republicans and the Democrats, the executive branch, and other government agencies as well."

Rep. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville, said he believes current communication between cities and state legislators has been effective even without a lobbyist.

"I think we're utilizing every medium for communication, but I'm a hard grader, and we can always do better," he said. "We're in constant communication with [Mayor Matt Hayek] … there are always opportunities to talk."

Jacoby also said he believes a lobbyist would better convey problems for local governments to state legislators who are otherwise unfamiliar with Iowa City.

"I think the lobbyist could really work to fully educate other legislators," he said. "There are a number of legislators who don't understand local government funding at all. They just don't have the experience, and, quite frankly, some don't have the interest, so I think that'll help in that particular area."

An evaluation committee is in place to go over requests for proposals that have been submitted to the city.

Each application is reviewed under certain criteria that include experience and personnel, references with other clients, the projected work plan, and pricing, said Jeff Davidson, the city director of planning and community development.

City Attorney Eleanor Dilkes said the city has budgeted $30,000 for a lobbyist.

Seven applications have been submitted to the city, which were passed out to each member of the evaluation committee. Each person on the committee is supposed to have narrowed the applications down to two or three by next week, Davidson said.

Once applications have been cut down, the remaining couple will be interviewed by the committee. Recommendations are projected to be made to City Council by or before the Dec. 6 meeting, Davidson said.

"Once legislative activity starts in Des Moines, that's when the lobbyists really spring into action," Davidson said. "They're our eyes and ears at the Capitol."


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