Boise to get new lobbyist in nation's capital

A well-placed powerbroker can steer federal money, grants and other allocations to the city.

sberg@idahostatesman.comJuly 16, 2013 

The way city officials see it, paying a lobbyist pays for itself.

They steer far more federal money to Boise than the city pays them. Recent examples include money to expand the city's geothermal energy system and projects paid for with federal stimulus money.

Over the next year, the city expects to pay Strategies 360 $87,500 for its services, assuming the City Council approves the lobbying firm's contract Tuesday. Thirty-five percent of the cost comes out of the Boise Airport's budget, which operates independently from the rest of the city budget, city spokesman Adam Park said.

The lobbyist is responsible for "identification and tracking of congressional and federal agency issues and funding opportunities, congressional session monitoring and advocacy, (establishing) relationships with federal elected officials and agency personnel," according to a city summary of the firm's duties.

In its proposal, Strategies 360 suggested a meeting with city officials "to better understand your current work on renewable energy and energy efficiency and conservation; the Boise Air Terminal at Gowen Field; the prospect of a municipal streetcar system and additional transit initiatives; and other priorities."

The company also would use that meeting to brief city officials on what to expect from upcoming legislation in Congress.

Strategies 360 will make $13,500 less than Boise's federal lobbyist of the past two years. Patton Boggs charged the city $101,000 in 2011 and 2012, Park said.

Patton Boggs finished second among eight bidders that submitted proposals for the next contract to represent Boise in the nation's capital. Strategies 360 tallied 17 points more than Patton Boggs on the 1,300-point scale for evaluating bidders.

Experience counted for 500 of the evaluation's points, Boise Purchasing Manager Colin Millar said. Qualifications counted for 300, cost 250 and references 250.

A committee of two of Mayor David Bieter's aides - Chief of Staff Jade Riley and assistant to the mayor for intergovernmental affairs Ross Borden - evaluated the bids. Borden chose Riley and Airport Director Rebecca Hupp to sit on the committee with him, Millar said; Park said schedule conflicts kept Hupp from participating.

Brian Cronin, a former Democratic legislator who worked for Bieter's first mayoral campaign, is Strategies 360's senior vice president of Idaho operations. Cronin said his work on the city of Boise contract will be limited.

"The fact that we have a local office means that we can provide eyes and ears on the ground and sort of communicate things as appropriate to our D.C. office," he said. "Which, I suppose, gives us a little bit of an advantage, perhaps, over other firms. But most of that work ... is carried out by a four-person team in D.C."

Sven Berg: 377-6275

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