Lobbyist is back on the 2018 budget

Tim Lovain to be paid $72,000 to secure funds for transportation projects
By Brian Soergel | Dec 29, 2017
Tim Lovain

As expected, the City Council voted last week to retain Washington, D.C., lobbyist Tim Lovain, reversing a decision made Dec. 7 during final deliberations on the city’s $92.8 million budget.

Councilmembers Mike Nelson, Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, Kristiana Johnson and Thomas Mesaros voted yes. Councilmembers Neil Tibbott, Dave Teitzel and Diane Buckshnis were not in attendance at the special meeting, which was not originally on the agenda.

Nelson, Fraley-Monillas, Buckshnis and Johnson originally voted to not retain Lovain – in a budget amendment Nelson proposed – whose $72,000 salary, included in the Community Services and Economic Development portion of the general fund, is meant to be renewed annually.

In addition, the council unanimously voted to establish a $200,000 allocation in the Parks and Recreation portion of the general fund for the possible purchase of open space in 2018.

Mayor Dave Earling was clearly disappointed by the original Dec. 7 vote, arguing that a federal lobbyist was essential for the city’s quest for federal transportation funds, particularly for the redevelopment of Highway 99 and the proposed Edmonds Street Waterfront Connector.

The latter would allow medical emergency service, as well as free-flowing traffic to and from the ferry, due to a train derailment or other unforeseen incidents at the two at-grade crossings on Main and West Dayton streets.

Earling could have vetoed the council’s original 4-3 votes, but talks away from the public spotlight led to the reversal.

“In my conversations with the mayor after the vote, it was clear he had some strong reservations with some of the council’s amendments,” Nelson said. “I was also disappointed because I really wanted to set aside funding for open/green space land acquisition, which had failed to pass.

“Evaluating the potential options before us, it was clear the mayor could exercise his right to veto the budget. The next step would be for the council to possibly overturn his veto. Based on our council’s past budget votes, this seemed very unlikely. Therefore, the only other option would be to have all of us go back and revise the budget again and again until we reached an agreement by December 31, or risk a government shutdown.

“As a result, the mayor and I set aside our differences to avoid an ultimate stalemate, and worked together in finding a solution we could both agree on. While I still have concerns about the federal lobbyist, I am willing to give the lobbyist another chance and wait until the end of next year to reexamine whether it is still a necessity.”

Earling said that conversations with Nelson were fruitful.

“You know, he’s the incoming president; I’m the mayor. We can talk to each other. We wanted to come away with a more satisfactory viewing of both his point of view and my point of view. And we met. We just kind of talked the whole thing through and came up with a solution. The good thing is, the council agreed.”

Earling said he did not include the open-land acquisition in his budget because he was trying to be frugal.

“That was (Nelson’s) starting point, and something that he’d like to have. And I know there are a couple of councilmembers who feel passionately about that.”

Earling said the budget for open space could be used for a park, for example, if the city wanted to expand its parks system. The $200,000 could be leveraged to raise more money, he added.

 

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