Firm knocking on Capital doors

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 14, 2006

DEMOPOLIS – The City of the People has one advantage many other cities its size do not – someone in Washington, D.C., looking out for them.

The firm of Cauthen, Forbes&Williams is pacing the halls of the nation’s Capitol trying to secure different appropriations for the city.

“We have a policy consultant,” said Mayor Cecil P. Williamson. “We have somebody up there fighting for us and that’s what it takes.”

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Councilman Thomas Moore said the idea of municipalities using lobbyist to help land federal grants and appropriations is nothing new.

“They are just up there to make the pitch for us to the people on the appropriations committees and other congressmen and senators for support to actually vote for us when [funding proposals] comes to a vote,” Moore said.

According to the firm’s Web site, “Cauthen, Forbes&Williams is a public policy consulting firm specializing in government relations, public affairs, and corporate business development.”

Williamson said the cost of retaining Cauthen, Forbes&Williams is “a sufficient amount to get the job done.” The mayor, however, would not release the exact compensation for the firm. She said only that the appropriation is part of the budget adopted by the council.

Moore, however, said the city will pay Cauthen, Forbes&Williams $60,000 for a one-year contract.

Cauthen, Forbes&Williams started working for the city of Demopolis in January. Their contract will come up for renewal on Nov. 30.

“Other cities are paying more than we are,” said Moore. “We aren’t tied in year after year. If it’s not cost effective at the end of November, we’ll go with something else.”

As of now, Moore believes the city is on the right track with Cauthen, Forbes&Williams.

“It’s an excellent investment, and you don’t have to go through the normal competitive process that you do with (the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs),” Moore said. “ADECA has various grants, They have competitive grants and enhancement grants.”

“The enhancement grant is not a competitive grant but it has a smaller pool of money available. Direct appropriations will sell itself.”

Some of the grants awarded by ADECA require either matching funds or are given as loans, which require at least partial repayment. Appropriated funds from Congress – which Cauthen, Forbes and Williams are charged with acquiring on behalf of the city – are essentially free of stipulations.

“I’ve learned that it’s very important to have somebody day to day up there,” said Williamson. “There is no way that I could be up in Washington with the way they have changed things around. I couldn’t take off the month of July and go around knocking on doors.”