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Menlo Park: Public outcry over city's plans to hire lobbying firm

Original post made on Nov 3, 2017

The Menlo Park City Council is facing lots of objections to a proposal by city staff to hire a Washington, D.C.-based firm, Mercury Public Affairs, to lobby on behalf of the city in Washington, and maybe in Sacramento, too.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, November 3, 2017, 5:23 PM

Comments (25)

44 people like this
Posted by whatever
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 3, 2017 at 7:03 pm

Are the city staff and council out of their effing minds! First off why do we need a lobbying firm for our little city, what a joke. And to waste $96K a year which can be spent on true resident needs...time to recall the council and replace some city staff members.


35 people like this
Posted by Jenson
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 4, 2017 at 6:07 am

This is the dumbest idea this council/ staff has come up with yet. This firm won't do anything for Menlo Park except pad their pockets. Besides what in the world could the city need to have lobbied for. If the city has $96,000 to spend why don't they use it for something that matters. Let's see a library upgrade in belle haven or road improvements. What about the bike tunnel at Middle ave. Can't wait to vote again on council appointments so the current ones can be kicked out the door


35 people like this
Posted by Brian
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 4, 2017 at 10:25 am

Brian is a registered user.

Huge waste of money and more proof that our City Council is out of touch with the residents and needs to be replaced.


27 people like this
Posted by nanc
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 4, 2017 at 7:42 pm

The City Council authorizing expenditure for a lobbyist is crazy, the City Staff choosing a lobbying firm that is under federal investigation is ludicrous. makes one wonder if these folks are wholly incompetent.. or worse.


34 people like this
Posted by Stu Soffer
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 4, 2017 at 9:00 pm

Terrible ideas.

I think the city will need to hire a PR firm just to fumigate this faux-pas.


17 people like this
Posted by Nanc
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 5, 2017 at 10:38 am

True, Stan. Unless the City Manager already signed a contract with Lanza, the Council would be wise to scrap this whole thing. I already made my views known by emailing the council at [email protected] If they are going to proceed with their plan to hire a lobbyist, and the most corrupt one at that, with the belief that Mr. Lanza will convince his pal Trump to give the City of Menlo Park funds to improve the Dumbarton transportation corridor they will indeed need to be hiring a public relations firm to help them out of the swap they dove into head first.


19 people like this
Posted by Nanc
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 5, 2017 at 12:20 pm

PS
It would be enlightening to see the City staff emails on this topic and find out why Mr Lanza was chosen - and any personal relationships City management or City Council might have with him. Smells fishy.


21 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 5, 2017 at 1:35 pm

Sounds like the cart before the horse if they don't even know WHAT they would be seeking funding for! Isn't it the city council's job to weigh cost vs. benefit before spending our tax dollars? And then to justify their selection of the most expensive firm with the "bonus" of Bryan Lanza's experience in the California state government when they're not even sure if Mr. Lanza would represent the city "just in Washington or in Sacramento, too". COME ON PEOPLE, WAKE UP AND SHOW UP! We may not be able to curb the corruption in DC, but if we turn a blind eye to what's going on in our own city, we will get what we deserve!


27 people like this
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Nov 5, 2017 at 2:34 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

What strange priorities!

The Fire District has voted to pay for half of the cost of a Hawk signal array on Middlefield to protect pedestrians and bicyclists and even offered to loan the City the other half of the cost and the City says it does not have the time to do this until FY 2019!

Yet the City has the time and the resources to spend on lobbying in Washington.

Why lobby for money when you don't even have the ability to spend what another agency has already given you???


24 people like this
Posted by Say What?
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 5, 2017 at 2:38 pm

It is a fantasy that our little town would get anything substantial from a lobbyist acting solely for our city government. IF - and I mean IF - there is a need to lobby any body AND - and I mean AND - there is a substantial likelihood that such lobbying would make a positive difference, then Menlo Park should band with similar other cities so there is some clout and a reason for a legislator to listen.

Then, to seriously consider a tainted candidate is even more ridiculous.

It is utter nonsense and the height of hubris (city manager? council?) that this matter has even made it onto a council agenda. Don't touch this. Don't approve ANY lobbyist, not just this one.


20 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Nov 5, 2017 at 4:22 pm

Abhorrible. I'm sure our power grubbing council and city manager are behind this stupid, stupid move.
Get facebook and stanford to pay for the infrastructure improvements - they are whom the improvements benefit.
Abhorrible.


18 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 5, 2017 at 8:25 pm

Menlo Voter. is a registered user.

This is stupid. Just what does the council think they will get by lobbying Washington? My opinion: ZERO. Don't waste our money.


23 people like this
Posted by Louise68
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 5, 2017 at 10:21 pm

Even thinking of hiring this person is horrible, but seriously putting him near the top of the list is awful. Our City Council members are selling their souls, and for what? A slim chance that a man, a trump insider, who works for a corrupt company (which is under federal investigation) will NOT just take our money and do absolutely NOTHING for our once-fair city? Why would any Trump insider do anything to help Menlo Park?

Hey, City Council - get out of the swamp you have dived into before you drown in it!


21 people like this
Posted by no to hiring lobbyist
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 6, 2017 at 2:41 am

Does MP City Staff not know about the previous hiring of a lobbyist?

Certainly Rich Cline knows. The City spent many thousands of dollars years ago and hired a Sacramento lobbying firm, which was to work for the City's interests in dealing with High Speed Rail. It resulted in a total wast of funds.

Rich Cline was a big supporter of the hiring. It took several years to finally cancel the contract.

The firm accomplished nothing of note; the expenditures were a complete waste of City funds.

Don't go off on such a venture again. Learn from the Past. I'm disappointed that our City Manager would allow this item to be brought forward. Who on Council is pushing this?


18 people like this
Posted by Stu
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 6, 2017 at 7:28 am

I suggest that people forward their comments to the City Council email, which is their official channel.

[email protected]


20 people like this
Posted by Lobby Day
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Nov 6, 2017 at 8:37 am

Last year Kirsten Keith and Cat Carlton went to Washington DC with the City Manager. Did the City of Menlo Park paid for their trip to go? Afterwards Kirsten Keith approved this item on the agenda.


10 people like this
Posted by W Brown
a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle
on Nov 6, 2017 at 11:03 am

There are really 3 questions:
1) What are we asking of the federal government? (Big money for rail grade separation is one obvious need)
2) Do we need a lobbyist to help us, or can we obtain the funding with direct help from Feinstein, Harris, Eshoo, and State Agencies?
3) If we need lobbyists, is this the right firm?

A knee-jerk anti-lobbyist response ignores the city's needs and the realities of politics.


19 people like this
Posted by Nanc
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 6, 2017 at 1:15 pm

You know what, I hope the City Manager and the City Council just go ahead with their scheme to hire a corrupt lobbyist. At this point the damage is done and they might as well show the voters exactly who they are and how they have no problem wasting our tax dollars. if they want to swim in the D.C. Swap with the worst of the worst, that stink will stay with them a very long time. Stay on this story, Alamanc news - and follow the money..


13 people like this
Posted by Conscience
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 6, 2017 at 1:55 pm

Agree with all of the above comments. The City should start by building consensus with its neighboring cities that Dumbarton rail is a priority and then work collectively to make sure that Dumbarton Rail is included in the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's regional priorities.


16 people like this
Posted by member
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 6, 2017 at 2:35 pm

This is nuts. Spending tax payers money to have someone B.S. around Washington.
Let the residents vote to show how assinine this idea is.


4 people like this
Posted by Julie
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Nov 6, 2017 at 6:32 pm

Hmmm, didn't the City Manager recommend a similar action at his prior place of employment? Perhaps, he will share the result of that expenditure of local public monies? Might be helpful in evaluating this "staff" recommendation.


8 people like this
Posted by Nonsense
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 6, 2017 at 10:26 pm

$175,000 to send cops to meditation to pad the Chiefs resume? Now over $90,000 for a PR firm. They can’t even say no to Facebook and have made traffic ten time worse. None of this is in the public’s interest


17 people like this
Posted by Jen Wolosin
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Nov 7, 2017 at 11:02 am

Jen Wolosin is a registered user.

I just emailed the Mayor and the City Council to request that Agenda Item I3 (Contract with Mercury Public Affairs) be moved up the agenda so that it can be discussed with the greatest amount of public participation (City Council meetings tend to run very late).

From reading the emails that have been sent to City Council about this issue (67 against hiring Bryan Lanza, 3 for), and the NextDoor and Almanac threads, it appears there are a handful of common concerns that people have (please forgive me if I've oversimplified any of these or left any off):

1. Issues with Bryan Lanza in particular due to his ties with Trump/Citizens United.
2. Issues with Mercury Public Affairs (Vin Weber) due to the Mueller investigation.
3. Issues with hiring any lobbying firm (shady practice, won't work, don't need, we shouldn't outsource this task, MP shouldn't use its money in this way/waste of money).
4. The infrastructure projects that are the reason for the lobbying should be handled in a multi-jurisdictional fashion/cart before the horse (need to know what we need regionally first).
5. Lobbying isn't the answer...curtailing development/holding "traffic makers" responsible is.
6. Lack of public input in process/unclear reasoning.

I don't know how many people are planning to attend tonight's City Council meeting (meeting starts at 7pm at City Council Chambers, 701 Laurel St.. Agenda here: Web Link), but I have a suggestion:

Rather than having a huge number of citizens each stand up and speak for 3 minutes about the same 6 issues above, we could have a few people make public comment and the others in the audience can stand up and show their support if the issue resonates with them. The benefit of this system is that instead of having one hour or so of people saying the same thing, the time can be spent hearing the City Council actually discuss and debate the issue without fear of them getting sleepy or continuing the decision to a later date. The downside of this approach is that those who are fired up to speak may not have an opportunity, however, no one needs to abide by this approach. If they really want to speak, they can speak.

I heard about this strategy (having just a few articulate people speak for a group and have others stand) from Santa Clara County Supervisor, Joe Simitian's great talk on "13 Tips for Successful Advocacy". If this idea makes sense to you, and you would like to attend tonight and be counted, please meet outside City Council Chambers (701 Laurel St.) at 6:45 tonight so we can organize who will be speaking. If you want to go your own way, no hard feelings.

Regardless, here are some important links:
Tonight's agenda: Web Link
Agenda Item I3 Staff Report: Web Link
To email City Council: [email protected]
To read others' emails to City Council: Web Link
To watch City Council meetings live: Web Link

Thank you for paying attention and being engaged!
Jen


11 people like this
Posted by Billl H.
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Nov 7, 2017 at 11:29 am

I am also very upset at this recommendation. I've spent some time this morning reviewing public information for Mercury Public Affairs. They have NEVER represented a city or any other public entity. Looks like they have a list of corporate clients. Therefore, I struggle to see any examples of their success in helping municipal clients.

IMHO -

1. The Firm is NOT experienced in representing CA cities
2. The individual assigned to represent the City through Mercury is at odds with our federal elected officials.
3. I struggle to understand how a communications director is now a lobbyist
4. The Firm will implode like sleazy Tony Podesta's lobbying shop and that will put our city right in the crosshairs

I for one would like to understand more about the process the city went through to interview and select a lobbying firm. For instance, what in the background of Mercury led the city to believe that they would be the best fit?


10 people like this
Posted by George Fisher
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Nov 7, 2017 at 12:57 pm

If it wasn't for all the unbelievable things happening nationally, this proposal would seem to be a simple joke. Does Menlo keep money off shore as well?


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