With a 12-year track record of legislative achievements at the State Capitol, the Edinburg City Council is now actively pursuing a strategy to make its presence know at the nation's Capitol by possibly hiring a federal lobbyist, as well.
The state legislative achievements — ranging from championing the cause of the University of Texas-Pan American to securing major state funding for key local infrastructure projects — have come under different city councils and top administrations, including those led by former Mayor Joe Ochoa and current Mayor Richard GarcÃ-a.
Without comment, the local city council on Tuesday, September 15, authorized City Manager J.J. RodrÃ-guez to begin advertising for a Statement of Qualifications (SOQ) from individuals and firms for what the city government calls a "federal/state activist/lobbyist."
That item was listed for action under the council's "consent" portion of the agenda, which usually signifies there are no questions or opposition to the measure.
The deadline for interested candidates to submit their qualifications is 5 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 15. From those applications, city officials will come up with a short-list of finalists, then scheduled further assessments of those candidates, possibly including formal presentations. There is no date set for final action by the city council, nor is there any indication of how much the city government is willing to pay for the lobbyist(s) or firm.
For the past dozen years, Edinburg has retained the services of two area women, during separate periods to time, as state lobbyists.
Rosalie Weisfeld of McAllen was Edinburg's first state lobbyist. She played a key role in helping Edinburg pass state legislation in 1997 that created the University of Texas Regional Academic Health Center, which resulted in the construction of a $20 million biomedical research component next to the University of Texas- Pan American.
After Weisfeld finished up her legislative tour of duty for the city, another Valley native — Elvia Lopez Caballero, formerly of Weslaco — was brought on, and she has served as the city's Austin-based lobbyist, racking up numerous legislative achievements of her own, including helping secure tens of millions of dollars in state funding for a myriad of Edinburg projects.
Under the latest lobbying scenario being considered by the city council, the proposed "federal/state activist/lobbyist" would continue to focus on the work of state agencies and the Texas Legislature, but would also be required to have at least a weekly presence in Washington, D.C.
The city manager said following the September 15 city council session that Edinburg is focusing on securing and protecting federal funds to continue the city council's ambitious, long-standing program to transform the South Texas International Airport at Edinburg into a major hub of commercial air traffic.
In his written report to the city council on the lobbyist position, RodrÃ-guez noted that the decision to seek a Washington, D.C. presence came from the top of the city political structure.
"In accordance with the Mayor's and the City Council's desire to have consultant services for advocacy/lobbying activities in Washington, D.C. and Austin, Texas, City and EEDC (Edinburg Economic Development Corporation) staff are initiating a process which is intended to accomplish that goal," RodrÃ-guez noted. "The process outlines the specific areas the City and EEDC are expected from consultants for such services as outlined the Request for Statement of Qualifications."
The EEDC, a branch of the city government, is the jobs-creation arm 0f the Edinburg City Council. The EEDC sits on a treasury of several million dollars a year, generated primarily for a local one-half cent economic development sales tax. EEDC funds are available for use in paying for lobbyist services.
"The Request for Statement of Qualifications (RFQ) will be be mailed to consultants with advocacy/lobbyist services experience," RodrÃ-guez explained. "Once the RFQ's are submitted to the city, they will be reviewed by staff and subsequently forwarded to the City Council. Final determination on selection of the consultant
firm will be made by the City Council."
The RFQ, as listed on the city council's full agenda packet, follows verbatim:
The City of Edinburg, Texas is seeking qualifications from experienced firms for professional services for Advocacy/Lobbyists Services.
II. Services Required
The Scope of Work is a general guide to the work the city and EEDC expects to be performed by the federal/state advocate/lobbyist, and is not a complete listing of all services that may be required or desired.
â€¢ Advise the city and EEDC of the political and financial feasibility of the legislative platform and develop appropriate strategies in the consultation with city staff, including, but not limited to, drafting city specific legislation, facilitating coalitions to advance any introduced legislation through the legislative process, resulting in the chaptering of said legislation. Advise on presentation (organization, formatting, etc.) of legislative materials and assist in drafting materials and correspondence to support advocacy for legislative platform.
â€¢ Proactively identify and analyze potential impacts of federal and state budget proposals and pending legislation on the city and advocate accordingly. Assess legislative bills to determine the key pieces of legislation that should be brought to the city's attention.
â€¢ Represent the City of Edinburg in terms of communicating the city's legislative platform and position on federal and state budget proposals and legislative bills to various federal and state stake holders, including writing letters of support/opposition and verbal communications (in person, meetings, testifying in committees, etc.).
â€¢ During the federal and state legislative sessions, provide on an as-needed basis calls with the city manager to review week's activity and plan for the upcoming week;
â€¢ Create written report (monthly summary) regarding advocacy activities and participate in meetings as called via teleconference.
â€¢ Travel to Austin, Texas and Washington, D.C. as needed with a minimum of one visit a week during the legislative session. Attend events coordinated by the city manager for the Edinburg City Council.
III. Proposal requirements
Each proposal must address, but may not be limited to, the following elements:
â€¢ Firm name, including the addresses of all firm offices identifying in which the office the work will be performed.
â€¢ Names, position, phone and fax numbers of contact person(s).
â€¢ Names of principals in the firm; years firm has been in business.
â€¢ Number of staff that will be working for the City of Edinburg;
â€¢ Provide a minimum of at least 3 client references with the names, addresses and phone numbers where similar planning services were provided.
â€¢ Listing all pending litigation against or involving the firm or its agents or employees with respect to any work performed.
â€¢ Amount of professional liability insurance coverage carried by your firm.
â€¢ Name and phone number of person to contact at the banking institution where you firm does business.
IV. Evaluation Process
After the deadline for receipt of SOQ's (editors note: Statement of Qualifications), the City of Edinburg will review the firms' qualifications utilizing the evaluation criteria noted below. Proposals shall be opened and checked to ensure that each complies with the requirements of the RFP (editor's note: Request for
Proposals). The absence of required information may render the proposal non-responsive and may be cause for rejection.
V. Selection Process
Based on the City of Edinburg's review of the SOQ's, it is expected that several firms will be short-listed and presented to the Edinburg City Council for their consideration. The City Council will make a selection, request the submission of supplemental information, or require firms to make formal presentations before the Council Firms selected by the Council will subsequently submit request for proposals for the desired
VI. Evaluation Criteria
The following criteria will generally be used to evaluate the firms' statement of qualifications:
â€¢ Specific Project Experience: Experience and past performance of the firm.
â€¢ Individual Project Experience: Availability of knowledgeable personnel with the firm or on a consultant team. Must provide the background of the key members of the consultant team and their specific participation.
â€¢ Approach: The firm's approach in providing lobbyist services.
â€¢ References: Strength of References from public agencies or previous clients.
VII. Response Deadlines
Responses to the RFQ must be addressed to Mr. Pete Garza, Assistant Director of Finance, City of Edinburg, and received at City Hall, at 415 W. University Drive, P.O. Box 1079, Edinburg, Texas 78541 by October 15, 2009, no later than 5 p.m. for consideration. Ten (10) complete sets of the response no larger than 30 bound pages must be submitted no later than this date and time. Response to the SOQ is to be placed in a sealed envelope indicating that its contents are in response to the Request for Statement of Qualifications for "Advocacy/Lobbyist Services for the City of Edinburg, Texas".
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