, Salem, MA

Local News

November 23, 2012

K Street comes to Swampscott

Town wants to hire lobbyist

SWAMPSCOTT — It’s long been the strategy for high-powered businesses and individuals — hire some sharp K Street lobbyist in Washington, D.C., to make sure there’s a slice of the federal pie pushed onto your plate.

And if it can work for them, why can’t it work for a city or town? That’s the philosophy anyway behind the effort of this town to hire a lobbyist who might earmark federal funds for Swampscott. Recently, the town’s agent posted a legal notice inviting applicants to come forward.

“What this is,” Town Administrator Thomas Younger said, “is finding an individual to assist us on issues in Washington.”

With help, he hopes, Swampscott will reap the benefits of more federal grants and programs.

The decision to seek a lobbyist was approved at May Town Meeting. It comes after a period where Swampscott has found itself increasingly pressed to maintain the standards of its schools and public facilities. Over the past decade, for example, the town has seen teacher layoffs and a long and difficult campaign before taxpayers could be persuaded to ante up and replace the ancient and inadequate police station.

Given the amounts that residents pay in local, state and federal taxes, it’s a maddening problem. And hiring a lobbyist to deal with it, Younger said, “is somewhat unique. ... This is somewhat outside the box.”

Swampscott is yet to receive the responses to its proposal. The contract would pay $10,000 for one year. The idea of hiring a lobbyist is something of an experiment, which will be reassessed after two years, Younger said.

Geoff Beckwith, director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association, explains that he only knows of one local community that employs a lobbyist — Boston. His group and national organizations like the National League of Cities are expected to lobby by “tracking” programs in both Washington and on Beacon Hill, programs like Community Development Block Grants, which are geared for cities and towns.

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