Macon City Council identifies priorities for city lobbyist

Several Macon City Council members met with the city’s recently rehired lobbyist Monday and identified goals for the federal dollars they hope the lobbying team can bring home.

Education was a top priority, as were public safety, mass transit, economic development, addressing housing blight, funding energy efficiency and combating obesity.

The city will pay Blank Rome Government Relations $10,000 a month to secure federal dollars for these and other issues in a contract the council approved last week.

“A lot of times you have to spend money to make money,” Council President Miriam Paris said.

The contract also allows for reimbursement of up to $5,000 in expenses over the eight-month life of the contract. That maximum wasn’t part of the contract Mayor Robert Reichert’s administration initially negotiated with the firm, but it was put in after some council members pushed the issue.

This is the city’s second go-round with Peter Peyser, who will be one of the firm’s main contacts with the city. Peyser was the city’s lobbyist several years ago, but his firm has since folded into Blank Rome, which is a subsidiary of a large law firm.

Peyser’s former firm, Peyser Associates, has been credited with bringing tens of millions in federal dollars to the city to help renovate Terminal Station, fund the city’s Midnight Basketball program, upgrade the city’s airport and fund new technology at the police department.

Between the City Council and mayor’s office, Macon is represented by 16 elected officials. U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall, who represents the Macon area in the U.S. House of Representatives, is a former mayor of Macon.

Asked why the city needs a lobbying firm in addition to the elected officials, Reichert said it pays to have some one watching Washington every day.

And with a trend away from congressional earmarks in Washington, much of a firm’s contact with government is at the agency level, Reichert said.

“Contact with agencies is becoming increasingly important,” Reichert said. “I just think it makes good sense, and their past record has more than justified the amount of money.”

Six council members participated in Monday’s informal session with Peyser and two of his associates.

Though there were several areas of interest, funding for education improvement and economic development seemed to be the most popular priorities.

“If we don’t address that, as well as public safety, we’re chasing our tails,” Paris said.

To contact writer Travis Fain, call 744-4213.