Wednesday, October 04, 2006

New D.C. Lobbyists to Work for Solano

New D.C. Lobbyists to Work for Solano
By Erin Pursell/Staff Writer

Solano County has new representation in the nation's capital under a three-year contract approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors.

To the tune of $126,000, the supervisors hired Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, LLP (Akin Gump) to serve as the county's federal lobbyist.

The cost for the new team is a significant bump up from the $72,000 paid the current lobbyist, but will come with a higher level of service, and was negotiated down from Akin Gump's original asking price of $240,000, according to staff.

"They were way ahead of what the going rate in Washington was," said Gail Feldman, a senior management analyst with the administrator's office, adding that the firm responded immediately when asked to reduce its fees. "I think mainly they're very invested in working here, so they'll make it work."

The fees, which include travel expenses, are earmarked in the County Administrator's Budget and will be adjusted by 5 percent annually.

"The prices (of bids) were clustered surprisingly close, so price wasn't that much of an issue," said Supervisor Mike Reagan about the role cost played in the board's decision. "It's really about the capability of the firms."

Seven qualified firms in Washington, D.C., responded to Solano's request for proposals in August.

The field was then narrowed to five after proposals were scored by an evaluation team composed of the chair and vice chair of the Board of Supervisors and the administrator's office legislative staff.

Feldman said "60 percent or more was how they responded to the technical proposal." He was speaking of the weight the evaluation team reviewers placed on that facet of the bids. He noted that this category deals with how they would approach the scope of the work.

Akin Gump was selected based on this, as well as its depth of experience and the knowledge of its staff.

"Focusing on the county agenda makes a lot of sense and I think they have a strong focus on that," commented Supervisor Duane Kromm.

Both staff and the board noted the strong competition for the job.

"It was a very difficult decision because each of the firms had a different approach," Reagan said.

The scope of work for the new three-year agreement includes:

• consulting county staff and the Board of Supervisors to identify federal issues that have significant impact on Solano;

• preparing the county's annual Congressional Appropriations Requests and Legislative Platform for Supervisors' approval;

• maintaining liaison between Solano and Congress;

• and, making inquiries to federal agencies regarding funding oppor-tunities and the likelihood of successfully securing funds through the budget process.

Several residents expressed concern over whether contracting federal lobbying services is even necessary, to which the board responded that outside assistance from those who are expert in the process is critical for the county's ability to have influence on a federal level.

Solano has retained federal lobbying services since 2003, and current provider David Turch and Associates will continue through October to ensure a smooth transition.

In other action, the board amended a county ordinance containing outdated references related to business license taxes and solid waste disposal mitigation fees.

The changes merely will streamline the process for collecting fees and will not affect the actual costs.

Erin Pursell can be reached at

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