Wednesday, June 25, 2014

She simply will not acknowledge that shrinkage is a wash: everyone has less of a challenge

CM Emily Evans continues to respond with specious claims in defense of the campaign she supports to shrink the Metro Council. Here's the stretch and the pitch:

If you are either the mayor or let’s say you are a special interest, you’re a lobbyist, and you’re lobbying on behalf of XYZ waste management company .... The lobbyist and the company are going to get whatever resources are necessary to make sure that they get passed what they need to get passed. They’re going to apply the resources necessary whether there are 100 council members or there are five council members. So the paid professional people are going to get what they need done because when you look at the cost of lobbying the council versus a large council that they may try to get approved, it’s inconsequential.

Now, let’s say you’re a neighborhood group and you are trying to get a conservation overlay group or you’re a neighborhood group that’s trying to stop bad development. You don’t have unlimited resources. You have very limited resources. So, to me, the balance in that situation doesn’t go to the lobbyist or the mayor with unlimited resources, it goes to the people with less resources. Because now suddenly, they have less of a challenge.

The prevailing fallacy, naturally, is that private enterprises like pro lobbyists have "unlimited resources" to burn through. Granted, they may have a lot more to burn through than neighborhood groups, but suggesting that shrinking the Metro Council will catch neighborhood groups up to the power of lobbyist to influence legislation is ridiculous.

Slashing the council to 27 members will be a net savings in the expense column for lobbying firms. They operate on an annual budget just like any other organization. The windfall they get from not having to lobby a dozen more CMs can be spent in other ways: lobbying the remaining CMs harder as community-based efforts ramp up, lobbying a host of other pieces of legislation that that can effectively undermine popular influence, sending lobbyists to the General Assembly to push for top-down legislation to impose on Metro government, etc. The human capital currently allocated to service a large council will be redistributed with a small council. Cash flow will be maximized.

To quote a shrinkage supporter: cutting the number of CMs would be "a slam dunk" in savings for lobbying firms. I have a hard time believing that lobbyists would be anything but delirious over the financial savings for their income-expense reports in having to leverage fewer votes.

But let's turn the tables on CM Evans. Is it really logical to believe that it would make no difference to a private firm, which has a bottom line and managers to keep costs down, whether there are 5 CMs or 500 CMs? We are supposed to believe that lobbying firms are willing to risk insolvency to lobby giant legislative bodies? This logic is supposed to persuade us? Really?

UPDATE: On second thought, my title above is not entirely correct. Not everyone will have less of a challenge. Individual voters will have less representation on the the council and they will have to compete with increasing numbers for constituents for council members' shrinking attention and action.

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