If you take a look at a draft of next year’s city budget, you will not be able to find any money allocated for the full-time position of city lobbyist. That’s because Dave Metz, the city’s current Internal Services Manager, is recommending that the position be cut in an effort to close the $12 million budget gap City Hall is facing. ”The Mayor has decided he does not believe this needs to be a full-time position,” said Metz.
Currently, the lobbyist position is held by the well-regarded Todd Yost, although Yost’s performance was recently questioned by two members of the City Council because of Yost’s infrequent travel to Tallahassee for the legislative session. Yost said that he has limited his travel to Tallahassee due to the constrained nature of the budget.
Yost’s appointment last year by Mayor Bill Foster to fill the role vacated by Laura Boehmer was met with some skepticism — not because of Yost’s potential, but because there was considerable speculation that Yost, who previously worked in codes compliance, was given the position as part of a compromise pacifying a feud with Goliath Davis. But now Yost may be without a job altogether. According to Metz, another position within City Hall has not been identified for Yost. “I am prepared to leave,” said Yost. “I guess I’ll go and do something else.”
Even though the lobbying position may be eliminated, Metz says that the city will look to contract with a private firm for governmental affairs services. Metz believes such a contract would be allocated approximately $25,000 to $30,000. Look for statewide powerhouse Gray Robinson, which recently won the lobbying contract from PSTA, to be among the front-runners for this contract.
Still, even with the best private firm working for the city, there should be concern that the City of St. Petersburg may suffer by not having a competent, experienced, full-time city lobbyist. The Florida Times-Union just published an investigation into how much the City of Jacksonville has missed out on by failing to have an in-house lobbying staff.