Friday, January 16, 2009

Dunwoody Hires Lobbyist

I'll have to admit that I am not privy to the information that is available to our mayor and city council members, nor to the advice being doled out by city manager Warren Hutmacher. However, hiring a lobbyist at a cost of $55,000 seems rather extreme, at least on the surface. Is this how our tax dollars are best spent? I'd love to hear your opinion.
By April Hunt
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Dunwoody has hired a lobbyist —- at a cost of more than $4,000 a month —- to give the new city leverage at the Statehouse in a looming conflict with DeKalb County over parkland.
Voting on a last-minute addition to its agenda, the City Council voted 6-1 to hire a lobbying firm, ConnectSouth, to work on state issues.
City and county officials have been negotiating on a variety of issues since residents voted to incorporate last year. But now with a deal reached on police protection, tensions have shifted to the question of parks.
The city wants to take over county parks and receive about $7 million officials believe remains earmarked for Brook Run park from a 2005 bond referendum. The county is continuing the talks through the County Commission, but so far it has balked at the city’s taking over the parks.
Supporters of the lobbyists said hiring the firm —- at $4,583 a month for the year —- would be another tool to use in negotiations.
“We have at times had an adversarial relationship with some of the county commissioners,” Councilman John Heneghan said. “We are negotiating in good faith, but we have to be looking at other legal means as well.”
The sole dissenting vote came from Councilman Robert Wittenstein. He objected to the $55,000 overall price tag, noting that the cost is not in the city budget and will need to come from contingency funds.
He also said the move to hire ConnectSouth was more about “pushing something through the Statehouse” than reaching a deal with DeKalb County on the takeover of property, most notably parkland.

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