Markley has lobbied for the city for more than a decade. Until recently, the city paid him a $65,000 annual fee.
But for the 2011 budget year, which began July 1, Markley’s contract was only renewed for the electric department’s projects, not for general legislative issues.
In a memo to the Assembly, Sitka Government Relations Director Marlene Campbell wrote that Markley was willing to renew his contract for services in Juneau and Washington, D.C.: A total of $15,000 over six months.
Municipal Administrator Jim Dinley told the Assembly he and Markley later agreed on $10,000, which could come out of money set aside for Assembly members to make a spring trip to Juneau.
Assembly member Terry Blake asked Dinley how important it was for the city to have a lobbyist.
“It’s hard really to quantify,” Dinley said, “as to how successful any lobbyist is. Over the past years we’ve been quite successful getting projects. Who all claims credit? Certainly Senator Stedman and Representative Wilson get us a lot of help. A lot of them walk through on their own. I would think if we could quantify that he got us at least one, it’d be money well-spent.”
All of the Assembly members seemed to agree that it’s important for the city to have a lobbyist. But Assembly members Mim McConnell and Phyllis Hackett questioned whether this lobbyist, Markley, is the best choice.
“Just because we’ve had someone for 15 years, I don’t think is a good enough reason to keep them on for another 15 or even one, necessarily,” Hackett said. “I think that there could be merit in doing some research and finding a young, hungry lobbyist who’s really gung-ho and new and willing to work with us and come up through the ranks and do really well for us.”
Assembly member Larry Crews defended Markley, saying his length of time representing the city is valuable.
“There’s something to be said about having a history,” said Crews. “It’s like (Assembly member) Pete (Esquiro) was saying earlier about hearing something going on in the halls, wherever, DC or here. If this person doesn’t have our history, he doesn’t know us for 10-15 years, what we have pending, he’s probably not going to catch up on it.”
City Finance director Dave Wolff was called to the podium, to talk about his experience working with Markley.
“He catches a lot of things, hears things, and we’re proactive,” Wolff told the Assembly. “Before the bills are almost written and printed out, we know what’s going on.”
And Wolff told the Assembly if it wants to make a change, now is not the time.
“If you’re going to change the lobbyist you change him probably next May or June, and do your research,” he said. “Don’t do now, because there’s no way anybody can get caught up with what we’ve got going on in legislative. Just reading that little packet ain’t going to help.”
In the end, the Assembly voted unanimously to spend $10,000 dollars on Markley’s lobbying services, with the money coming from the Assembly’s travel budget. Hackett asked Dinley to research other lobbyists for possible consideration at a later date.
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