On May 10, City Council voted to hire the law firm Holland & Knight to provide “Federal Legislative Advocacy Services,” or lobbying. The firm, picked by a selection committee consisting of Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, and Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, will immediately begin working in Washington, DC to bring more federal dollars to Evanston.

Mr. Bobkiewicz acknowledged that the move might not sit well with everyone. “There’s a lot of controversy about whether a municipality should hire a federal-focused lobbyist,” he said. The deal is structured such that Council will review it in February 2011, and determine whether to continue it for another year or rescind the contract in an effort to assuage concerns. “I like that,” said Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, “Let’s take time and look at it” to see if it’s working and worth continuing.

The deal will cost the City $6,000/month from May 2010 through February 2011. If the Council decides to continue another year, the cost rises to $7,500/month through February, 2012.

According to the proposal submitted by Holland & Knight, the firm plans to “augment the already excellent work [Evanston has done] building relationships with your [federal representatives] and identifying City goals.” Federal assistance will be sought for City projects such as surface transportation, water, housing, community development, sustainability, crime prevention, project funding, environmental, brownfield reclamation, education, social services, workforce development and health resources projects according to the proposal.

Holland & Knight lists 82 clients on its public policy client list and touts numerous projects for which it helped such clients obtain federal funding.

Perhaps Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste summed up the general feeling of the Council by concluding, “We have high expectations – and we’ll keep counting.”