By Mike Dunn
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A veteran Harrisburg lobbyist and former lawmaker says Philadelphia City Council’s decision to hire its own lobbyist does not bode well for the city as it seeks help from the state on a wide range of issues.
City Council hired the lobbying firm of Triad Strategies to represent its interests in Harrisburg. Traditionally, city lobbyists are hired by, and answer to, the mayor, and in fact the Nutter administration retains two lobbying firms for advocacy in Harrisburg.
But City Council president Darrell Clarke says Council needs its own lobbyist, in part, so that Council is up to speed on what state lawmakers are doing.
“The lobbyist that the (Nutter) administration has does not report, does not reach out to us about issues, so we’re pretty much operating in the blind with respect to what happens, other than (learning through) the local media,” Clarke said today.
In addition to keeping Council up to speed, Clarke says, the firm will lobby on positions in which Council and the mayor disagree.
“In an ideal world, we would all be on the same page — we’d love that,” Clarke tells KYW Newsradio. “But sometimes the ideal world doesn’t present itself. We want to make sure that our position is known.”
But Bob Jubelirer, former Republican president of the state senate and now a prominent lobbyist, believes it’s a bad move to have the city speaking with two voices:
“My experience is that when you are united, you can get a lot of things done. But as a very famous president once said, ‘A house divided cannot stand.’ And that’s the situation here.”
And that is particularly true, Jubelirer says, with the current makeup of the state legislature.
“There is a very strong Republican majority in both the House and Senate. And so it even makes it more important that they be united and not divided. If they’re divided, likely nothing much is going to get done,” he said today.
Compounding Philadelphia’s difficulties in Harrisburg is the loss of influence compared to years past.
“There really isn’t a lot of clout, so to speak, in Philadelphia,” Jubelirer says, “so I think it becomes more important for them to be united and make their case as strong as they can. Their base is really hurting. And when you’re hurting, I think the worst thing you can do is be divided.”
For his part, Clarke downplays the likelihood of sending mixed messages.
“More often than not, we’re on the same page as the administration,” he says. “But when we’re not, we want to make sure that the perspective we have on these various issues is known to the General Assembly, and some of the things we’d like to see done.”
Clarke said the city’s second casino license and the extension of the higher Philadelphia sales tax are examples of issues dealt with in Harrisburg on which Council disagreed with the mayor’s position.
Triad, the lobbying firm, will be paid $15,000 through June 30th for its work on behalf of City Council. Clarke says he is uncertain if the contract will be renewed in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1st.