Kent city officials hope a $56,000 federal lobbyist contract leads to more funds for transportation projects as well as Green River levee repairs.
The City Council approved the ongoing annual contract with the Van Ness Feldman law firm for 2015 at a March 17 meeting. The firm has offices in Seattle and Washington, D.C.
The city’s federal lobbyist priorities include getting support for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s accreditation of the Green River levee system; assist in efforts to adopt a reasonable interim flood zone and flood insurance program until the levee system is replaced, repaired and re-certified; and secure funding for railroad-street grade separation projects.
“Without this expenditure our program for ensuring the valley doesn’t flood would be lost at sea and or near the Green River,” Councilman Dennis Higgins said at a recent Economic and Community Development Committee meeting. “It’s also absolutely critical that we can get all of the federal agencies to sign off on this program on all of the accreditations. Without a voice there ready to pounce in D.C., if need be, we’re in big trouble.
“It’s a small expenditure that ensures that some very large dollar amounts get returned to the city to help pay for these levees, so I have no problem with it.”
Ben McMakin, of Van Ness Feldman, represents Kent to lobby the state’s Congressional delegation. He has worked in D.C., since 2005 with the law firm and previously worked 10 years as a legislative director and assistant with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
“Ben does outstanding work with us,” said Kurt Hanson, city economic development manager, at the committee meeting. “This contract will provide representation to secure Congressional and executive branch lobbying efforts. We use Ben a lot on our efforts for levee accreditation. Ben has been a wonderful asset for us in Washington, D.C., to help us secure the votes for levee accreditation.”
The city had a $96,000 contract with Van Ness Feldman in 2012 when more transportation dollars were available.
“After 2012 we really saw the potential for federal transportation dollars just wasn’t there so we ended up reducing our contract with Van Ness Feldman down to $56,000,” Hanson said. “We did that in 2013, 2014 and that’s what we are proposing for 2015 as well.”
Van Ness Feldman also will monitor crude oil by rail policy and regulatory developments of interest to the city including crude oil rail volumes, safety initiatives, noise abatement and funding opportunities.