Monday, May 21, 2018
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Ordinance would require local lobbyists to register

With nearly $2 billion worth of construction projects pending in Toledo, City Council is looking to ask lobbyists to put their financial cards on the table.

Council President Peter Ujvagi has circulated the draft of an ordinance that would require lobbyists to register their activities. The lobbyists would have to identify the legislation they're interested in and disclose any financial arrangements they or their employers have with any members of council.

“I just feel that this is a good way, that it's very clear to everyone that there's transparency,” Mr. Ujvagi said.

Mr. Ujvagi plans to base the proposal on a 1997 Cincinnati law. Only 10 people are registered as lobbyists in Cincinnati, a spokeswoman for the city clerk's office there said. Mr. Ujvagi said he believes more than that would have to register in Toledo.

Hospitals, electric and natural-gas utilities, advertising companies, state universities, retail interests, construction and development firms, and labor organizations are among those who sometimes send staffers or consultants to try to influence the course of legislation.

The lobbyist legislation is expected to be introduced in the next several weeks.

Mr. Ujvagi proposed the lobbying law in October, 2000, after an argument between him and then-Mayor Carty Finkbeiner in which each accused the other of having ties to consultants for firms who were attempting to get a piece of the city's upcoming $400 million sewer improvement project.

Mr. Ujvagi said a lot of construction projects involve city council, directly or indirectly. “Ultimately, every one of those construction contracts is going to come back to City Council to act on,” he said.

City Council will have direct oversight of the $400 million reconstruction of the city's sewage treatment system.

But other projects are in the works that may involve indirect council action, such as for zoning or tax abatement. They include a proposed $100 million expansion of Southwyck Shopping Center, the $191 million Marina District project, construction of a $200 million Toledo Hospital, a $220 million I-280 bridge over the Maumee River, and the proposed $800 million school construction under consideration by Toledo Public Schools.

James Ruvolo, a lobbyist at the state level as well as in Toledo, said he would have no objection to such rules.

“Everybody who has a position would like to get their position in front of council. That's part of the democratic process,” he said.

Violation would be a fourth-degree misdemeanor.

Also in the works is a new ethics policy for city employees being drafted by the administration.

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