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Manteca: Going for cut of $800B?
Council may hire DC lobbying firm to go after money
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Manteca may be spending money to snag money.

Mayor Willie Weatherford is advocating a strategy that could significantly increase the chances of Manteca getting a slice of the nearly $800 billion stimulus bill just passed by Congress.

It would require the City Council obtain the services of a Washington, D.C., based lobbying firm with strong working relationships with civil servants who administer the actual funding programs. City Manager Steve Pinkerton noted that time is of the essence as federal leaders expect to start distributing the bulk of the money within 90 to 180 days.

The City Council Tuesday is being asked to fast track a request for proposals seeking lobbying firms to help the city take advantage of the legislation.

The goal is to approve a contract by the April 20 meeting some 45 days before the guidelines and the allocation process for the $800 billion is expected to open.

Weatherford said it would make sense for Manteca to try and obtain federal funding in the stimulus legislation as “our residents are going to be paying for it” through taxes in the coming years.

The mayor said there are a number of projects ready to move forward to construction that could meet the requirement of spending money by specific dates to create jobs including the upgrading of the Union Road interchange on the Highway 120 Bypass that could cost in excess of $15 million.

In a memo to the council, Princeton noted “What is striking is how much of the money will be directly available to cities from the federal government on a competitive grant basis. The two major exceptions are water infrastructure and highways where money will be allocated by states. Even in these two programs, however, a small amount of funding will be provided by the federal government on a competitive grant basis.”

Pinkerton pointed out other cities in the Central  Valley have experienced “great success” by utilizing lobbyists to access federal funds in past years. Included is Stockton that has gained more than $40 million in federal money for projects in the past decade.

“Typically you get 10-fold to a 100-fold more money when you have a lobbyist help you (in Washington),” Weatherford said.

Pinkerton’s memo noted the reason for that is lobbyists tend to have a stronger relationship with committee chairs, congressional staff and key people in the federal bureaucracy. The city manager noted Manteca has a strong working relationship with elected leaders such as Congressman Jerry McNerney, several nearby congressmen and both U.S. Senators Barbra Boxer and Diane Feinstein but that for getting grant money in this case it is more effective to have a close working relationship with the people actually deciding how to distribute the money.

The City Council meets Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.