Publisher’s opinion: Who needs a lobbyist?

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A lobbyist. That’s all I wanted for Christmas, remember?

And the Monday morning after my letter to Santa appeared in this space, a lobbyist contacted me and wanted to meet with a group from the city a couple of days later.

The group gathered in the CSBJ office, with representatives from the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Corp., Housing and Building Association, City and County staff, Springs Utilities and Pikes Peak Association of Realtors were present when Greg Burns from Van Scoyoc Associates, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm came calling. Prior to his visit, Burns sent details of a draft of House of Representatives “Jobs for Main Street Act, 2010.”

There was some discussion about how much money it would take to hire a lobbyist, between $80,000 and $140,000 a year.

For a city that is broke and is cutting back on expenses across the board, hiring a lobbyist would seem to be a lapse in judgment.

According to the lobbyist’s document on the “Jobs for Main Street Act, 2010” there is a whole lot of money that may be coming from the feds.

Yeah, Colorado Springs probably isn’t sophisticated enough to hire someone in D.C. to watch out for city interests. Never mind the $1.179 billion that may be coming available to hire police officers. More cops? Don’t need them.

And let’s ignore the $1.25 billion for training and employment services under the work force investment act. Nah, the Springs is just a little backwater city that really doesn’t need any money from the feds to improve the areas work force. This includes $750 million for a competitive grant program for worker training and placement in high growth and emerging industry sectors according to the lobbyist’s report. Hmm, emerging industries? That would be nice to grow our economy through new industries but that’s all right, we have plenty of service businesses, restaurants, realtors and government jobs.

Then there is $23 billion to retain or create education jobs. Nope, we don’t want any more teachers. They take too many summers off. How about $27.5 billion for transportation to include highway infrastructure, including passenger and freight rail? The roads around here are just fine, thank you. And regarding passenger rail, those pesky trains make too much noise right?

The amount of money potentially coming from the “Jobs for Main Street Act, 2010” is extraordinary. Someone needs to act quickly, as in right now, if Colorado Springs is going to try to get some of this money.

As is usually the case here in the little city at the foot of Pikes Peak, Colorado Springs will step over a dollar to pick up a dime. “Investing in the future” or a “return on investment” are terms not often associated with Colorado Springs. But, wait a minute: There was an investment in the USOC building.

I take that back.

The City Council or at least a council member, perhaps the mayor, should take up the bullhorn and start shouting about all of the money available. In my view, to get a chunk, Colorado Springs needs someone working for it in Washington. The council should make the case that an investment of $80,000 to $140,000 a year will pay back in high multipliers to the city and region. Oh, never mind.

Yes, there are plenty of excuses for Colorado Springs’ not hiring a lobbyist, and the business community should step forward and erase one of them. The chamber and other groups should contribute to help pay for the lobbyist. The city actually is broke, and when the community is in trouble, the business community steps up to help.

After all, if the Springs was able to capture a portion of the many billions of dollars coming out of D.C. when the money dries up there needs to be money to keep the programs in place. Just another reason the fine city of Colorado Springs doesn’t need any of that darn federal stimulus money.

The next step is to circle around and figure out what organizations are already using a lobbyist. I am guessing once again, the Springs will miss the timing on this and miss out on the loot.

Lon Matejczyk is publisher of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at Lon.Matejczyk@csbj.com or 329-5202.