City to join lobbyist coalition

December 20, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

The City of Hagerstown will join a coalition of private and public entities hiring a lobbyist in Annapolis for the 2007 session of the General Assembly.

The City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday to contribute $3,000 toward the hiring of Michael V. Johansen, who has been asked to focus on four things - funding for the agricultural commercialization program, protection of state funding for a central booking facility, reform of the prisoner release program and funding for library expansion.

"We need people to set up the meetings, take us around and help us craft the message we need to articulate for each of these four," Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce President Brien Poffenberger said.

In 2006, the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce, Hagerstown-Washington County Industrial Foundation Inc. (CHIEF), Greater Hagerstown Committee and Washington County Commissioners partnered to hire Johansen and lobby for four other projects.


The Commissioners committed $7,500 to this year's projects, while the four other entities each allocated $3,000. The City Council and Commissioners each were asked to give $10,000.

Councilwoman Penny M. Nigh voted against the contribution, saying in a work session that members of the City Council should lobby on their own and the projects aren't focused on the city.

"I'm not comfortable having a lobbyist I feel basically is lobbying for Washington County," Nigh said.

Other City Council members had reservations about hiring a lobbyist with the other entities.

Councilwoman Alesia D. Parson-McBean said there are state agencies already handling the issues, and Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer said the central booking facility and library expansion already are on delegates' minds.

Poffenberger said the fee buys Johansen's Rolodex and 15 years of experience. He credited lobbying with increasing the state allocation to Dual Highway/Edgewood Drive intersection improvements from $4 million to $6 million.

The increased contributions to the lobbyist in 2007 would provide greater access to unexpected items that would come across his desk, Poffenberger said.

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