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Published: Wednesday, 4/6/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Toledo council OKs spending for city lobbyist in Columbus

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A divided Toledo City Council authorized the Bell administration Tuesday night to spend up to $60,000 a year over three years to hire a Columbus lobbyist.

Council voted 7-4 to take the money out of the city's general fund budget.

Councilmen Paula Hicks-Hudson, Adam Martinez, Joe McNamara, George Sarantou, Steven Steel, Phillip Copeland, and Mike Craig voted in favor.

Voting against were Rob Ludeman, Tom Waniewski, Lindsay Webb, and D. Michael Collins. Council President Wilma Brown was not present.

City Finance Director Patrick McLean, who offered the idea, said the contract with the person or company would include a 10-day cancellation clause. He said he wants the city to be represented in Columbus by a person on a day-to-day basis, promoting its needs.

Speaking in favor of the idea, Mr. Sarantou said other large Ohio cities employ lobbyists and get a return on those investments.

"Toledo does not get its fair share," he said.

Mr. Collins said the city would benefit more from a lobbyist operating out of the mayor's office rather than in Columbus.

Ms. Webb, who pointed out that the $60,000 cost would come close to covering the annual salary of a police officer, suggested the lobbyist appear for regular committee hearings with council.

In the past, Lucas County, the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority, and the city were among other groups funding the Northwest Ohio Legislative Consortium, which had a lobbyist for the Toledo area. Former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner stopped the city's contribution.

Council Tuesday night also authorized Mayor Mike Bell to sign a memorandum of understanding with the port authority to create the "Toledo -- Better Buildings Program," which is to be crafted to save energy and improve the environmental performance of city buildings.

City officials said they want to improve the energy efficiency to reduce costs. Legislation for any money needed to implement ideas from the program will need later council approval.

In other business, council:

● Agreed to spend up to $20,000 to repair the Civic Center Mall War Memorial downtown, which officials say has fallen into disrepair. The planned repairs include removing and refurbishing bronze plaques, repairing or replacing existing flag poles, acid cleaning the marble base, and repairs to the eternal flame star shaped assembly.

● Authorized spending $26,738 for a bullet-proof security enclosure for water department employees working in the customer service area at the Ohio Building downtown.

Contract Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171.



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