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WatchSonoma Watch

Santa Rosa adopts lobbyist regulation

By KEVIN McCALLUM
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

An ordinance requiring lobbyists to register with the City of Santa Rosa and pay an annual fee will go into effect Jan. 1 as a result of the city council’s approval Tuesday.

With no comment from the public and little more from the council, the new ordinance passed 7-0.

“I think the overriding goal here is transparency and making sure the public is aware of who is conducting the public’s business,” Vice Mayor Gary Wysocky said.

The law requires anyone who is paid to influence the council, board and commission members and city staff on administrative and legislative matters to identify their clients and pay a $90 annual fee.

Mid-year changes to lobbyists’ client lists would require an additional $30 fee.

The law defines lobbyist as anyone who communicates with a city official “in an effort to persuade” city officials to take any action on a “municipal question.” No specific lobbyists were identified during the brief public hearing on the matter late Tuesday night, but in the past council members have said they had individuals like Herb Williams in mind with the new law.

Williams is a campaign consultant who also represents various development and business interests in their dealings with the city.

Some council members have said they haven’t always been aware of Williams’ role in lobbying for a project until told by a third party. Williams says he makes no secret about his work or his clients, but has said he’ll be happy to abide by the law.





7 Responses to “Santa Rosa adopts lobbyist regulation”

  1. Exedra says:

    I assume that all the local/regional/national environmental organizations that are paid to influence local policy will be subject to these requirements as well. Reading their Mission Statements and Action Plans is informative.

  2. Ben Romeu says:

    Silly Season.

    The mayor called it silly season, and she, again, is the silliest one of them all, with her “bully” Gary Wysocky doing the dirty work.

    Imagine creating a ordinance aimed at her opposition’s political consultant. How about an ordinance promoting jobs? Vote out Jacobi and Gorin!

  3. Jason Valez says:

    What a joke! As if it’s not clear who is down there pulling influence. Wysocky made that obvious with his ‘public’s business’ comment. The fact that lawyers, architects, hired planners, don’t have to say that they’re lobbyists cuts out a lot of them, so much for transparency.

    And when you have Wysocky appointing a lobbyist, Michael Allen, to sit on the Planning Commission, this whole thing gets nastier and murkier. Who needs lobbyists when they’re actually the elected officials themselves or their appointees.

    This was a fake ordinance designed to make the council look like it’s interested in transparency. Political grandstanding at election time.

  4. Bradley Miller says:

    I also had trouble with Wysocky’s statement because it sounded like he was saying that other people besides elected and appointed people were doing the public’s business. While that could be true, it should not be. I would like him to further explain just what he was referring to.

    Is the requirement to register lobbyists supposed to tell us who is calling the shots at city hall? Does this mean that votes are influenced by representatives of outside groups? Unless Wysocky can explain his comment about outside lobbyists doing the public’s business, an investigation needs to be commenced as soon as possible.

  5. Lyn Cramer says:

    I thought the most troubling sentence in the article was Wyscocky’s: “I think the overriding goal here is transparency and making sure the public is aware of who is conducting the public’s business.”

    There two kinds of people who should conduct the public’s business: the people we elect to conduct that business and those our elected representatives appoint, e.g., city manager. No one else.

    One can only hope Wysocky misspoke.

  6. Bradley Miller says:

    Lyn makes an excellent point. It shouldn’t matter who is assisting a person get their point across to city council members. Unless of course a council member is catering to certain individuals. The transparency we need is with the city council members themselves, finding out what their connections are and who they’re serving. The city needs to be unbiased in all circumstances and I’m afraid that sometimes they’re not.

    This new ordinance is just a smokescreen to cover up what the real problems are, conflicts of interest. We need to find out if any council members are receiving money or benefits for their influence in their elected or appointed positions.

    The timing of this ordinance leads me to believe that this is a campaign stunt to try to discredit candidates that are being assisted by Herb Williams. What’s wrong with him doing his job anyway? I can’t think of any benefits to passing this ordinance. What will happen if someone suspects that someone is being paid to influence the council? Will there be an investigation? This new ordinance is misguided.

  7. Lyn Cramer says:

    This law would appear to have some legal problems.

    If I apply for a zoning change and hire someone to represent me before the planning commission, will that person be forced to first register with the city and pay $90 even though his representation of me will be public and obvious?

    None of this would be needed if council members decided issues on merit alone, not which faction they’re supported by. Then the fear, all too real, that council votes are for sale wouldn’t exist.