The City of Lawrence has hired two lobbying firms to promote the city’s interests in the General Assembly and to keep an eye on legislation that might affect the city.
The Board of Public Works on Jan. 25 approved contracts with Kreig Devault and Catalyst Public Affairs. Board member Zachary Brown, who is also Mayor Deb Whitfield’s chief of staff, said Kreig Devault can handle legal matters that arise through lobbying efforts, assisting Catalyst, which is the city’s primary lobbyist.
Brown told the board that both firms bring different strengths to the table.
“Instead of going with one and hoping they could do it all, we said, ‘Hey, you guys can do a little bit of these two things. Let’s make it a match and you can work together,’” he said.
In a later interview, Brown said the city’s previous administration also hired a lobbying firm, and its standard practice to have someone representing the municipality at the Statehouse.
“Sometimes, it’s not even about necessarily accomplishing a legislative goal or passing a law or anything, but also just monitoring things to make sure that things that will affect us as a municipality, that we’re up to date on it and we understand the extent of what the laws say and how we need to interact with them to get in compliance with the new state law,” he said.
However, there are specific issues that the city is interested in exploring. One is zoning powers, which currently reside with the City of Indianapolis/Marion County, rather than with Lawrence.
“We’re interested in looking at some of those and see how they can become even more local,” Brown said. “I will tell you though, we’re also working with the City of Indianapolis and Marion County.”
Brown said it’s unlikely that the Legislature would be able to enact any changes this year, but it’s possible that the Indianapolis City-County Council would be able to work more quickly to grant zoning powers to Lawrence.
He said that’s been a goal for a while because it can be cumbersome for Lawrence residents to go downtown to resolve zoning issues.
Brown said the contracts call for a monthly retainer of $3,000 for Kreig Devault and $6,000 a month for Catalyst Public Affairs.