Springfield, IL likely allocating money toward lobbying
Serving as a liaison to the mayor’s usual lobbying duties, Springfield City Council is expected to approve an ordinance allocating $75,000 for lobbying efforts while the Illinois General Assembly is in session.
That ordinance was added to council’s consent agenda for its next meeting at Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole gathering. Almost every committee member voiced their support for the ordinance, recognizing the impact bills have on municipalities such as this year’s controversial 100% clean-energy bill.
That bill, which ultimately wasn’t forwarded to the governor’s desk, is one example of a bill that Springfield maybe wouldn’t spend these lobbying dollars on, Mayor Jim Langfelder said, because it affected so many cities that the Illinois Municipal League focused its influence on it.
Rather, the city will look to “complement” what IML is doing as well as utilize city officials’ relationships with lawmakers, Langfelder said. He said lobbying dollars will likely be spent on hiring those with a specific knowledge of a field relating to an individual piece of legislation that may be outside the influence of the city.
In regards to the energy bill, Langfelder said he and City, Water, Light and Power officials were able to directly meet with and voice their concerns with Illinois Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, because of assistance from deputy mayor Kathleen Alcorn.
“She was able to open some doors open that we might’ve not had opened previously,” Langfelder said. This in part led to her being hired as deputy mayor in May, he said.
Langfelder said lobbying would often focus on matters that mostly or only affect Springfield, such as extending tax increment financing (TIF) district designations for Enos Park Neighborhood and Madison Park Place’s districts.
Ward 6 Ald. Kristin DiCenso said it would be beneficial for the city to have a priority list for what it wants to accomplish ahead of legislative sessions. She added that it’s standard for other large Illinois municipalities to have money set aside for lobbying efforts.
The Illinois General Assembly is schedule to reassemble in October for the veto session.
Alderman: Council members aren’t properly briefed on ordinances
While debating whether to hold an ordinance in committee, several city council members said there was a lack of information from the city regarding a planned-to-be-established small business loan program.
“We don’t know anything about the ordinances until they drop … I just think there’s a better way to do it,” said Ward 9 Ald. Jim Donelan.
Urgency was given to an ordinance that would establish a $300,000 small business loan program due to many businesses needing immediate working capital. It was eventually added to the agenda after Black Chamber of Commerce’s Dominic Watson and several aldermen said community members have had trouble accessing St. Louis-based Justine Petersen, which is set to administer the proposed loan program as it has in the past, and requested the ordinance be held in committee until their questions are addressed.
Immediately following the committee meeting, city council members and Langfelder gathered for an executive session, after which Langfelder said Alcorn will begin calling the aldermen every week asking them if they have any questions about any proposed ordinances ahead of meetings.
Representatives from Justine Petersen are slated to present their plans for the program at city council’s next meeting July 20. If the ordinance was held in committee, however, that would significantly delay the time it would take for the money to get in the hands of businesses, Langfelder said.
The mayor said there is some value in aldermen asking questions about different ordinances during committee meetings because it provides greater transparency for the public.
“I know they get frustrated with asking questions, but this informs the public. … They could have picked up the phone and say, ‘Hey, mayor, what’s this all about?’ Instead they brought it here to the forefront wanting to hold it. But the best thing is to have that discussion, which we did, and I appreciate them having those questions and putting it on debate,” Langfelder said.
Other items added to Tuesday’s agenda include:
- An ordinance that would reallocate $1.4 million to Springfield Fire Department’s budget that was previously cut during the budget-making process in February. Money for the budget reallocation will be provided by dollars the city received from the federal American Rescue Plan act.
- A pending acceptance of two grants totaling nearly $2 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. A Community Development Block Grant totaling $1.358 million is set to be awarded to the city and $632,237 will benefit the city by way of HUD’s HOME Investment Partnerships Program.
- An intergovernmental joint-funding agreement with the U.S. Geological Survey for continued monitoring of nutrients and suspended sediment in Lick and Sugar creeks totaling $767,600. USGS will pay for $251,643 of the cost and Springfield will pay the remainder over a five-year period if the ordinance is enacted.
Contact Riley Eubanks: [email protected], twitter.com/@rileyeubanks.