District 24 Councilman Jason Holleman has filed a bill to require those requesting a zoning change to list the lobbyists, public relations firms and pollsters contracted to drum up support with the public.
Council lobbyists already are required to register with the Metro Clerk's office and list their clients, but no such registration is necessary in order to contact the public. Registration will only be required if lobbyists are paid more than $1,000.
Holleman pointed to the May Town Center zoning proposal as an instance where lobbyists and pollsters were working hard to garner public support.
He said May Town Center was not the sole impetus for the bill, which will be on first reading at the June 2 Metro Council meeting. Holleman pointed out his transparency bill would not take effect until after May Town Center zoning is in front of Council.
“It lets us see who the hired guns are on a development project and what they’re telling the public,” Holleman said.
When zoning bills come to Council on public hearing, Holleman said neighbors sometimes come out in droves because of aggressive public relations tactics by hired professional help.
“We’re just not aware of what all is done to turn people out to the seats and certainly you’re allowed to do that,” Holleman said. “This allows us to see whether they truly get there because they’re motivated by concern, or did they get there because this development was marketed to them.”
Failure to disclose lobbyists, public relations firms or pollsters working on a project would result in automatic deferral of a bill until such a report is filed with Council.