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Waterbury Lobbyist Hired To Grab Federal Cash
BY PENELOPE OVERTON
WATERBURY -- The economic downturn isn't stopping Waterbury from spending $72,000 a year on a federal lobbyist. In fact, city officials say the downturn makes a lobbyist more important than ever.
“In times like these, every dollar we spend is scrutinized, but with all the federal recovery dollars available right now we know that our modest investment will pay off many times over,” said Mayor Michael J. Jarjura. “That is what happened in our first year.”
After years of going without a federal lobbyist, the Board of Aldermen decided last year, with the economy tanking, that it was time to get back in the game, Jarjura said. The city hired Panuzio & Giordano LLC to test the lobbying waters.
This week, the board concluded the experiment had worked, and voted to give Panuzio & Giordano, which also represents the city of Bridgeport, a second one-year contract. The board did not talk about the contract, the firm or the need for a lobbyist.
With that move, Waterbury joined Connecticut's other four largest cities, all of whom use a federal lobbyist, or several different ones, to give them a voice in Washington. The cost to the city ranges from $50,000 a year in Bridgeport to more than $150,000 a year in Hartford.
Last year, Hartford decided against spending its money on a federal lobbyist, but all the federal government programs designed to stimulate the economy prompted the city to jump back in to claim its share of funds from the U.S. Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
“It is an especially important investment with all the stimulus money available and a new administration with new programs to have federal representation right now,” said Hartford's spokeswoman, Sarah Barr. “However, cost is always a consideration for the future.”
Jarjura said he thought Waterbury's first-year experience had been “enormously fruitful.”
After its hire, Jarjura gave Panuzio & Giordano two goals: help find funds to clean up the Chase Brass & Copper Co. site on Thomaston Avenue and help win the grants and political will required to build a downtown transportation center.
Lobbyist A. David Giordano helped local officials work with Rep. Christopher S. Murphy, D-5th District, to get a $15.5 million Department of Defense grant to clean up pollution at the former brassworks where the city wants to build a public works campus.
The group has helped the city secure other grants, too, including funds to develop a plan to build seven miles of parks and pedestrian and bike paths along the Naugatuck River and funding to clean up other contaminated industrial sites, Jarjura said.
Jarjura and other members of his administration believed that Panuzio & Giordano was the city's first federal lobbyist. But in 1994, Waterbury hired a Washington lobbyist to help it win $5 million in federal money to turn the Scovill Brassworks into a shopping mall.
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