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More concerns about Agenda Item 1-3: Mercury Public Afffairs Lobbying Firm

From: domainremoved <Lynne>
Date: Sun, 5 Nov 2017 11:20:55 -0800

Dear Council and Staff,


I am also concerned about Agenda Item I-3, hiring the Mercury Public
Affairs lobbying firm, for the primary reasons below:

· *Firm’s questionable business practices and *ethics. Many people
have written on this topic. Our city should stand for clean government and
ethics. Everyone working for our city and/or on behalf of our city should
have impeccable integrity.

· *Too much outsourcing/temporary employees. *Our City continues to
hire consultants for expertise that we don’t have within. While the need
for some contractors/consultants is understandable, some have been hired
for skills and to do work that seems like something that an existing
employee should be able to do and/or learn. Instead of more outsourcing,
let’s build up the expertise within our City employees to also give them
broader potential career growth path opportunities.

· *Lack of a regional approach*. Transportation and housing are
regional problems requiring a regional solution. Let’s find out if our
neighboring cities have hired lobbyists and for what strategic purposes. If
so, and what they are doing seems justified, let’s seek to "join forces" to
reduce costs and to increase results. A quick Google search tells me that
the City of Palo Alto
<https://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2014/10/14/palo-alto-to-ponder-its-lobbying-priorities>
has had a least one meeting to discuss their “legislative” strategy and to
collect public input. The Open Secrets Organization
<https://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/clientsum.php?id=F127899&year=2017> also
lists San Mateo County Transportation Authority as hiring a lobbying firm.
More digging might turn up even more. Our city should work with neighboring
cities on solutions. We should also work with our elected officials in
Congress and their staff on issues. Instead of the silo approach, let's
work with others. (Let's also work in a more proactive way instead of
letting problems pile up and then responding reactively.)

· *Lack of public input. *Instead of this rushed process, let’s
take the approach done by the City of Palo Alto.
<https://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/2014/10/14/palo-alto-to-ponder-its-lobbying-priorities>
Let’s have an open meeting where the public can weigh in on our
“legislative priorities” and the best way to accomplish them. At this
meeting, let’s also invite our neighboring cities to send participants and
let’s invite our elected representatives. This would also be an
opportunity to establish a municipal benchmark for this type of activity.
While the process would take longer, we would have a better result.

· *Inadequate Report.* Staff should be supplying complete and
unbiased information that gives Council enough background context and
fact-based information to allow them to make an informed decision. This
report does not. The report is too light on actual facts, details and
justification. Instead, the report is filled with too many platitudes. The
argument is also often repetitive and circular. The policy issues section
supplies no real specifics, but instead vague generalities. The background
section reads as though the content could have been written by Mercury
Public Affairs as it contains mostly “fluff,” buzz words and jargon. The
vagueness continues with the bulleted items on page two. Instead of the
list, supply specifics and don't make the reader have to go through the
Mercury Public Affairs marketing material (attached at the end) to try to
find -- or possibly need to infer -- the missing details. The report also
does not name the employees who ranked the RFP responses, but instead
refers to a "select group of staff." Why not name these people? I also
wonder if all relevant employees were involved in the writing and review
process. Before ending, the report refers back to the City Council work
plan as the (circular) justification for hiring the lobbying firm. While
council might have given a general “in theory” okay when the work plan was
being produced by staff, they now need specifics. The report also lacks a
clear way to measure results. With all due respect to the employee who
wrote this -- who probably was given little time to produce the document
and who might also have been told to keep it as general as possible -- we
need a much, *much*, *much* higher bar for staff reports.

Sincerely,

Lynne Bramlett
Received on Sun Nov 05 2017 - 11:25:31 PST

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