Perata, a Democrat with a reputation as an effective but sometimes controversial politician, was president pro tem of the California State Senate from 2004 to 2008. He narrowly lost a bid for the Oakland mayor's seat to Jean Quan in 2010.
He grew up in Alameda and once ran, unsuccessfully, for mayor of Alameda.
Perata would replace Joe A. Gonsalves & Son as the city's "statewide" advocate and would focus on eight specific issues.
- Traffic improvements in Oakland to the Webster/Posey Tube;
- Funding for a new Fire Station #3 and for license plate readers for Alameda police patrol vehicles;
- Emergency funding for a tsunami preparedness plan;
- State and county transportation funding;
- And streamlining state-mandated processes to encourage infill development
The Gonsalves firm would be retained to focus only on issues relating to Alameda Point, according to a staff report. The firm's compensation would be reduced from $4,000 per month this year to $3,000 per month in 2014, according to Assistant City Manager Alex Nguyen.
The lobbying efforts of the two firms would overlap in some areas. Both would be asked to advocate for improvements to and expansion of Bay Area-wide water transit with an emphasis on ferry service in Alameda. They would also both advocate for new state legislation for tax increment financing (TIF) for Alameda Point (in lieu of redevelopment).
The proposal to hire Perata's firm was initiated by City Manager John Russo's office, Nguyen said.
It was based in part on Perata's success earlier this year in stalling a bill in the state legislature that would have endangered Alameda's representation on the board of directors of the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA), Nguyen said. WETA operates the SF Bay Ferry system.
He said the city paid Perata's firm $25,000 for that effort. Because that amount is under a $75,000 cutoff, the contract did not require city council approval, he said.
"It's a chance to get a rare combination of somebody who knows this town with somebody who knows Sacramento," Nguyen said. "On the Sacramento front, very few people know it as well as he does."
Phillip Ung, a policy advocate for California Common Cause, said when cities hire lobbyists in Sacramento it’s important for the public to have a say in who wins the contract.
Ung also said that paying for an advocate in Sacramento can be a good investment for a city, but that communities looking to hire lobbyists should make sure the bidding process is competitive and review the other clients in the portfolios of the firms being considered.
“There are plenty of firms that will tell the public that they are working very hard, and charge a high premium with little results,” Ung said.
Perata started his lobbying firm, Perata Consulting, LLC, in February of 2013. His financial reports to the California Secretary of State show that he received $274,000 for his lobbying efforts during the first three quarters.
His client list includes six firms in addition to the City of Alameda: the California Infill Builders Federation; Intelligent Sign Network, LLC; Mallard Farms (which made no payments in the first three quarters of 2013); the Oakland Raiders; Ramsell Corporation; and SSA Marine.
Perata, 68, graduated from St. Joseph High School in Alameda and St. Mary's College of California in Moraga before teaching high school English and social studies in the East Bay for about 15 years.
His first attempt at elective office, a run for Alameda mayor in 1975, was unsuccessful. In 1986 he was elected to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, where he served two terms, and in 1996 ran successfully for the state Assembly, representing Alameda, Oakland and Piedmont.
Two years later Perata was elected to the State Senate, where he became a leader of the California Democratic Party and served as the Senate's president pro tem from 2004 until he termed out in 2008.
In 2010 Perata ran for mayor of Oakland. Although he received the largest share of votes (33.7 percent) in the first round of ballot counting, Oakland was using a ranked-choice ("instant run-off") voting system for that election. Peralta ultimately lost to now-Mayor Jean Quan in the tenth round of ballot counting.
In state politics Perata was an advocate for gun control, mental health treatment funding and clean energy, among other issues. He's also remembered for working in tandem with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in a successful bipartisan effort to fund improvements to the state's infrastructure.
A sometimes controversial figure, Perata has also been accused of improprieties in his use of campaign funds and was the target of an FBI investigation which was later closed; no charges were filed.
Nguyen said the city manager's office is comfortable working with Peralta despite past allegations.
"With all the brouhaha, he was never brought up on any charges," Nguyen said.
The city's 2014 lobbying efforts also include an $18,000 contract with Nassaman, LLP for grant-seeking, grant writing and lobbying within California, and adoption of a proposed federal legislative agenda.
State lobbying expenditures would total $144,000 if the Perata contract is approved by the city council. Nguyen said the issue would issue a request for proposals (RFD) from federal lobbying firms.
The city council meets Tuesday, Dec. 2, at 7 p.m. in the City Hall council chambers, 2263 Santa Clara Ave. You may see the complete meeting agenda on the City of Alameda website here.
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