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Monday, December 7th, 2015
Local governments that lack a lobbying oversight program do not have to merely throw up their hands when a huge procurement matter arises. They have the choice to set rules for that matter which, if it works, may later be applied more generally.
This is the lesson that comes from the York, Ontario region which, according to a recent article in the Newmarket Era, is considering rules for a multi-town, ten-year waste contract that should be worth about $100 million.
The most interesting alternative being considered is prohibiting personal communications with officials by bidders and their lobbyists not only in the ordinary blackout period – during the evaluation and selection process – but also before this period. Instead, bidders and their lobbyists would be permitted to speak publicly to the entire council.
The article quotes a regional council member saying, "If the point is to be as transparent as possible on a very lucrative contract, one that's had a history of proponents reaching out at various levels of government, I'm confused why we wouldn't have a proponent come and sit in a public forum and [speak before the council] prior to the blackout."
This is an original approach that small towns and counties should consider in the absence of a lobbying oversight program. In fact, for large matters, this would a policy that all local governments should consider. It could be referred to as "Public Relations."
Director of Research, City Ethics