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Manteca retains federal lobbying firm for 2 years

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POSTED July 7, 2013 11:44 p.m.

The return of federal earmarks such as the one that helped Manteca land $6 million for the Yosemite Avenue and Highway 99 interchange has promoted elected city leaders to continue retaining a federal lobbying firm.

The City Council voted 3-1 with Mayor Willie Weatherford dissenting and Councilman Vince Hernandez absent to continue using the services of Van Scoyoc Associates.

And while it looked like Manteca got a deal since the firm dropped their per year fee down from $75,600 to $60,000 after the council deadlocked on a vote whether to continue retaining the lobbyists last month, the deal approved Tuesday locked the city into a two-year contract. The multi-year deal has a possible out for the city since it is predicated on funding being available in the second fiscal year. The city is tapping into restricted accounts such as sewer, water, and transportation since lobbying efforts are focused on those areas whether it is for money or to combat costly proposed changes in federal regulations.

Weatherford was against spending money for what he believes should be the function of elected congressmen to work on behalf of their districts.

But Councilman John Harris, when prompted by colleague Steve DeBrum, related how former Congressman Richard Pombo repeatedly voted against hiring a lobbying firm to represent Tracy when  he was a council member in that city but changed his tune once elected to Congress. Harris said Pomo related how lobbyists often know how the federal government works better than congressional staffs, make it their bushiness to know every detail in proposed bills, and have established working relationships with key bureaucrats and staffs of elected officials.

The council had previously deadlocked 2-2 on vote to continue a relationship with the lobbying firm. Councilman Debby Moorhead was absent from that meeting. She asked for the item to be brought back before the council for another vote.

Harris had voted against continuing the contract in June. But after it was confirmed earmarks would be back in the federal budget after being banished Harris said he “reluctantly” changed his position.

The most effective way to go after earmarks is direct lobbying with federal agencies that are provided blanket funding for specific purposes. It is how Give Every Child a Chance working with the San Joaquin One Voice effort involving lobbying by local officials was able to secure $1 million in federal funds for its after school tutoring programs serving students in Manteca, Lathrop, Ripon, Weston Ranch, Escalon, and Banta.

The lobbying firm is working with the city to secure federal funding for Austin Road interchange improvements and possible infrastructure in connection with the proposed Great Wolf Lodge. The lobbyists also have advocated city positions on proposed national regulations such as storm water that could have an adverse impact on the city financially. Van Scoyoc Associates is also credited by city staff for helping secure $150,000 in federal funds for the purchase of new self-contained breathing apparatus for the Manteca Fire Department.

The cost for the lobbyist is proposed to be divided equally — $20,150 each — from the transit fund, sewer fees, water fees and bonus bucks accounts. There would be no general fund money used.

The contract also calls for up to $5,000 annual in reimbursable expenses.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, e-mail

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