Adhering to a philosophy that says you need to spend money in order to make money, the city of Warren decided to spend $148,000 over the next two years to hire a former state legislator as its lobbyist. Critics say it’s an investment that has little chance of paying off.
No doubt things are tight in this Macomb County burg. The City Council just approved a property tax hike to help fill a $4 million shortfall in its pension systems serving police and fire fighters.
Nonetheless, the council, on a 5-4 vote, decided last week to hire as its lobbyist-in-chief Arthur Miller Jr., who served as a state senator for Michigan’s 10th District until term limits forced his retirement from office in 2003. Miller will be paid $74,000 annually over the next two years.
Council President James Fouts, who voted against hiring Miller, says the city already has a state representative and state senator to work on behalf of its people.
“The city is at a bare minimum existence,” Fouts says. “And we’re paying a lobbyist $150,000? That is, at best, a waste of taxpayer money.”
Deputy Mayor Mike Greiner sees things differently. He argues that state money is available, but the fact that Warren has no state rep or senator that represents it exclusively makes it harder to get the state to cough up the cash.
“There are some scraps at the table,” Greiner says. “So we need a voice in Lansing for this.”
“Although we are facing budget constraints, we need somebody like Miller,” Greiner says. “There’s a lot of legislation out there that could help the city of Warren. When times are tough, you have to turn over every stone. Sometimes, you need to spend money to make money.”
Councilmember Carolyn Moceri joined Fouts in voting against the hire.
“I respect Mr. Miller completely,” she says. “The issue is the finances. There’s just no money for a consultant. And I don’t get the feeling money is raining down on us.”
Noting that the state is having financial hardships of its own, she contends the lobbying will be fruitless in a climate where Lansing is looking to cut spending even further.
Miller is unperturbed. He notes that Detroit, Dearborn, Grand Rapids and Flint all have lobbyists. “I’m hoping I can help the mayor to provide extra money and to help make Warren a better place to live in,” Miller says.Curt Guyette edits News Hits. Contact the column at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]