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Media Coverage
Richmond Proposal May Expose Lobbyists
November 5, 1996


Tuesday, November 5, 1996
Section: news
Page: A03

RICHMOND City officials already are being lobbied over a proposed ordinance regulating lobbyists.

Tom Butt tonight will present Richmond's version of a San Francisco ordinance to shed light on how much companies or consultants are spending to lobby appointed or elected officials.

But the proposed ordinance has raised a flurry of questions in the business community and among some grass-roots organizations like the two dozen neighborhood councils. Butt has met with many of these groups to answer their questions, and amended the ordinance based on some of their concerns.

The ordinance defines a lobbyist as a person or business that contracts for economic consideration with a city for the purpose of influencing local legislative or administrative action; and any person who spends $3,000 in any calendar year to influence local legislative or administrative action.

Neighborhood councils and tax-exempt organizations are excluded, as are public officials, newspapers and radio and TV stations.

Hal Holt, who handles public relations for Chevron in Richmond, said the ordinance sounds unnecessary.

"Richmond isn't in the same ballpark as Los Angeles and San Francisco, which have the ability to influence government policies," Holt said Monday.

Councilman Nat Bates, who is often on opposite sides of issues with Butt, questioned his colleague's motivation. Bates said he is also concerned about the potential costs to enforce the ordinance.

"My feeling is if it's not broke don't fix it," Bates said. "We've been operating this city for 90 some years. We've had lobbyists and there hasn't been that much of a problem. We're trying to cut down on the cost of government."

Jane Rubin, executive director of San Francisco Ethics Commission, said her city's lobbyist ordinance, enacted in February 1988, is a useful tool for citizens and the media.

"I think that public is certainly entitled to know who is lobbying the city on what issues and where the money is coming from," Rubin said. "All of these things create a more informed electorate, and that should have an impact on Election Day."