BY EMILY MIBACH
Daily Post Staff Writer
Los Altos Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins said she thinks other council members are being “naive” when they say the city should hire its own lobbyist.
Mayor Lynette Lee Eng suggested at Tuesday’s (July 9) council meeting the idea of the city hiring a lobbyist in Sacramento to keep an eye on legislation that may impact the city. She pointed out that Palo Alto and Cupertino have lobbyists in Sacramento.
Lee Eng is concerned about some of the housing bills pending in the legislature that would reduce the city’s control over new developments. On July 2, she sent a letter to Assemblyman David Chiu, objecting to Senate Bill 592, which would make it harder for cities to stop certain types of housing developments.
Vice Mayor Jan Pepper, who is CEO of Peninsula Clean Energy in San Mateo County, hired a lobbyist for her nonprofit organization.
Pepper said she thinks a lobbyist for a bigger city or a group of cities would have more sway in Sacramento than if the lobbyist just represented Los Altos, population 30,743.
Pepper also noted that she has one person who is in constant contact with their lobbyist, something that she thinks Los Altos does not have the staffing to do right now.
Bruins backed Pepper, and said she thought the council was being “naive” in the way it was approaching the topic, in thinking that the lobbyist would be regularly coming to council to discuss state legislation.
Teaming up with other cities
Both Bruins and Pepper said the city should join up with other like-minded small cities and towns to hire a lobbyist.
Councilwoman Anita Enander said she’s been researching the lobbyist idea, and is attending a conference this weekend in Southern California for the Independent Cities Association, which has its own lobbyist.
Enander said she will report back to the council as to what she learns at the conference, and will talk to officials there about how they got their lobbyists and their legislative agendas up and running.
“I have a hard time understanding why we are trying to learn from the county of Los Angeles,” Bruins said.
Pepper and Lee Eng thanked Enander for attending the conference, and Bruins asked Enander if the city is paying for Enander to attend.
Enander said that the city has paid her registration fee of $750. Enander added that City Manager Chris Jordan told her that if she wishes, she can ask the council to approve reimbursing her for her flight and other costs.
Bruins in July 2017, along with VTA and San Jose officials traveled to Barcelona and Amsterdam with funds from VTA and SPUR, a San Francisco-based political advocacy organization.
In November, Bruins along with other local officials attended a $29,000 taxpayer funded retreat on the housing crisis at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa in her capacity as a representative on the 21-member Metropolitan Transportation Commission. MTC is the $2 billion agency that operates, maintains and expands transit in the nine-county Bay Area.
The idea of Los Altos joining other cities to pay a lobbyist is expected to return to council later this year.