Friday, March 8, 2019

business proposal

business proposal

In business proposals, D.C. Council member Jack Evans pitched influence to legal and lobby firms - Washington Post

Posted: 01 Mar 2019 09:29 PM PST

D.C. Council member Jack Evans has repeatedly emailed business proposals to law firms that lobby District officials, offering his connections and influence amassed as the city's longest-serving lawmaker.

In a January 2018 pitch to Nelson Mullins, a law firm that had lobbied his office on behalf of a client just months before, Evans said the firm should employ him because as an elected official and chairman of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, he could engage in "cross-marketing my relationships and influence to Nelson Mullins clients."

Using her government email account, Evans's chief of staff sent similar proposals on his behalf in 2015 to the firms Venable and K&L Gates, as well as to Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, which hired him.

Evans, a Democrat representing Ward 2, and his chief of staff, Schannette Grant, did not respond to requests for comment.

The pitches — obtained by The Washington Post through a Freedom of Information Act request — show how one of the District's most powerful public officials sought simultaneously to work in the private sector on behalf of companies looking to navigate the landscape of local government.

And the proposals come to light as federal prosecutors are scrutinizing Evans's business affairs. In September, a federal grand jury issued a subpoena to D.C. officials for documents relating to legislation Evans promoted in 2016 that would have benefited a digital-sign company, Digi Outdoor Media. Evans had received and has said he returned money and stock from the company.

"While I would not be able to directly lobby the District government, I could certainly use my knowledge of local government to strategize with someone looking to do business locally," Evans said in the 2015 pitch.

D.C. law permits elected officials to hold jobs in the private sector. But of the 13 members of the D.C. Council, just one other, Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), reports significant and continuing outside income on required financial disclosures. Cheh is a constitutional-law professor at George Washington University.

Throughout his 28-year tenure on the council, Evans has engaged in outside legal and consulting work. In required disclosures, he has listed law firms for which he has worked but has not named his clients. D.C. ethics rules require him to identify clients only if they have contracts with the District or stand to benefit from pending legislation.

As chair of the committee on finance and revenue, Evans has significant sway over the city's tax policy, finances and tourism industry. As chairman of WMATA, Evans oversees contracting and policy for a regional transit agency with a $3 billion budget.

From 2001 to 2015, Evans worked at the powerhouse law and lobby firm Patton Boggs, where his focus included "government and Congressional relations, business law and corporate securities," according to his résumé. He has said he earned $190,000 per year from the firm in outside income. He earns $140,161 annually as a D.C. Council member.

Evans sent his 2018 proposal to Nelson Mullins lawyer Timothy Fitzgibbon, who did not respond to a request for comment. There is no indication that the firm hired or retained Evans.

In the pitch, Evans remarked that the District's government "is the flattest political organization in the country."

"There are just 15 elected officials in the city: one mayor, 13 councilmembers, and one attorney general," Evans wrote. "A contract, bill, or regulation can go from idea to consummation in a matter of months."

Evans continued: "Despite this fertile ground, no local firm has yet to establish itself as the 'Go-To' government relations firm. The opportunity to claim this mantle is clear."

Among the recipients of Evans's 2015 pitch was John Ray, a former council member and a partner at Manatt. Ray or an associate had lobbied Evans on behalf of energy giant Exelon only months earlier. Ray did not respond a request for comment.

That proposal included the District of Columbia in a list of potential clients Evans said he could help attract. The list also included businesses with which he had dealt as a council member, among them Xerox, Uber, Fort Myer Construction and the hotel company Marriott.

"I am looking to continue my law practice while continuing to serve on the City Council," Evans wrote.

Evans began working for Manatt in October 2015. That month, his signature was first among those of seven council members who, under D.C. Council letterhead, urged the Public Service Commission to approve a merger between Exelon and Pepco. The letter did not disclose a relationship between Evans and Exelon's lobbying firm. A spokeswoman for Exelon declined to comment Friday.

Evans was reelected to his latest four-year term in 2016. He stopped working at Manatt in October 2017, according to his financial disclosures. By that time, he had created his own firm, NSE Consulting, which was named in the grand jury subpoena in September seeking information relating to Evans and the digital-sign company.

Is polystyrene ban proposal good for business? -

Posted: 06 Mar 2019 12:57 AM PST

YORK � Holly Roberts, president of the Greater York Region Chamber of Commerce, told the organizers behind a proposed ordinance to ban polystyrene that business owners in town have mixed feelings about the initiative.

�We�re hearing from both sides,� she said. �Some are very pro and some are against it because of the expense and inconvenience. Tourism is what drives our community. We are all environmentally conscious and you did a good job of bringing this forward. My concern is how this is going to affect tourism.�

Roberts and other chamber members met with Let�s Ban Polystyrene organizers Victoria Simon and Caroline Leal at the library recently, in the wake of a Board of Selectmen�s decision to place the proposed ordinance before voters this May.

Simon, in response to Roberts� query, suggested she direct business people to the owners of Stage Neck Inn, York Harbor Inn, Stone�s Throw Restaurant, First Hill restaurant or Anthony�s Food Shop, who all use alternatives to polystyrene � commonly referred to by the trademark name Styrofoam.

Under terms of the proposed ordinance, retail establishments will not be allowed to serve or sell food or beverage in polystyrene packaging or containers, nor will retailers such as Hannaford or convenience stores be permitted to sell polystyrene products. Currently, 16 Maine municipalities have adopted similar ordinances.

If the measure passes in May, the ordinance would not go into effect for a full year, to give establishments time to switch.

Leal, a York High School senior and one of several YHS students involved in Let�s Ban Styrofoam, said there are several alternative products, including compostable products and fully recyclable products. She said the best solution is for people to bring their own reusable items with them, which puts nothing into the waste stream.

Much of the impetus behind the ban has to do with the effects of polystyrene on aquatic life, she said, as it breaks down into micro-sized pieces that are mistaken for phytoplankton by fish, eventually making its way into the human body as well.

In the towns that passed the ordinance, asked Roberts, what are businesses are using as a substitute?

�All of the above,� said Simon. �As these bans go into effect, there�s more of a push for innovation. MIT students are looking at a product made from mushrooms. In my opinion, paper is not the best choice.�

She said because similar ordinances are in effect in Maine, the supermarket chain Hannaford, for instance, is already switching over at various locations. Leal said in Saco, for example, the store is using a corn-based product instead. �We told them when we started. They know this is coming,� said Simon.

Hannaford spokesman Erick Dodge agreed generally with their assessment. "A few of our stores experienced polystyrene bans, starting with Portland in 2015. We use a plant-based product as an alternative to polystyrene foam. And, while it�s more expensive, it has proved to be good replacement material. Should York move forward with a ban, Hannaford can and will make it work."

Also attending the meeting was Steve Hershfield, a retired chemical industry executive who lives in York. He has spoken at all selectmen�s public hearings in opposition to the proposed ordinance, and raised concerns at the chamber event.

�There�s a cost associated with this ordinance,� he said, saying polystyrene weighs less than other alternatives so transporting it uses less fossil fuel, and the manufacturing process as compared to paper also uses less energy. He said he doesn�t argue that there�s a �cost to the ocean,� nor that polystyrene does not break down, but said the chemical industry is banding together to find solutions to plastic waste.

He said Portland, Oregon, is repealing its ban because it is �costing more than it�s saving.� However, according to the city's website, Portland did repeal its ordinance, but only to institute a more comprehensive one that includes a ban on plastic bags and polystyrene, and restrictions for plastic straws, utensils and condiment packages.

Simon said banning polystyrene �is not going to solve the plastics problem� in and of itself, because the issue is much larger. �There�s a huge problem with microplastics. We need to get away from the idea that you can pick up a spoon or fork, use it for 15 minutes, and throw it away. We have to get old-fashioned. You wash things. You bring a container and you leave it in the car.�

Roberts said, however, people who are on vacation, particularly those from far flung areas of the country that may not have restrictions, are �used to having everything convenient, and all of a sudden it�s an inconvenience.�

Planning Board member Kathleen Kluger, who is running for the Board of Selectmen, said she has traveled in Europe, where in many places it�s common to use reusable bags for groceries. �At the time I said, OK, that�s how you do it. It wasn�t a deal breaker. I don�t think people are going to say, �I�m going to Ogunquit because I can get a polystyrene container.��

Troy Williams, chairman of the chamber�s legislative affairs committee, thanked Simon and Leal for their presentation. �This is an important issue," he said. "We want to make sure everyone is completely informed.�

Senate leader trashes Whitmer's business tax plan - Crain's Detroit Business

Posted: 06 Mar 2019 06:28 PM PST

LANSING — A top Republican lawmaker on Wednesday strongly criticized Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's proposal to raise taxes on some businesses to help ease the burden on retirees, calling it "stupid."

The Democrat's budget proposal would reverse parts of a tax rewrite enacted by former Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and the GOP-led Legislature in 2011. Whitmer contends that the moves are needed to soften the impact of her proposed 45-cents-a-gallon fuel tax increase to fix the roads, and to restore tax breaks for pensioners and low-income earners.

"I'm going to say this as gently as I possibly can: Taking actions like that would be doubling down on stupid," said Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey of Clarklake. "We do not need to go back to old forms and old techniques and old gimmicks. We need to stay focused on what we've been doing the last eight years."

The 2011 law slashed business taxes — including by subjecting fewer companies to a new restructured tax — while effectively raising taxes on retirees, homeowners, low-wage workers and taxpayers with children by eliminating or reducing several deductions and credits.

Shirkey, speaking to reporters a day after Whitmer's budget address, also was wary of the fuel tax hike.

"The citizens of Michigan, especially the folks that actually work for a living, cannot absorb a 45-cent increase in the gas tax. They just can't do it," he said, agreeing that $2.5 billion more is needed for transportation infrastructure but adding that he had yet to hear the "best ideas" to generate new revenue. "We have to talk about and consider the appetite, the ability to absorb those kinds of things."

In response to Shirkey's criticism, Whitmer's office said she "is willing to work with anyone who is willing to work with her" to get $2.5 billion more annually to fix the roads and address other budget priorities.

"If he or anyone else has a real solution that gets to 90 percent of state roads in good/fair condition, then she'd be willing to have a serious conversation about it," said spokeswoman Tiffany Brown.

Whitmer proposes boosting taxes on 150,000 corporations, partnerships and limited liability companies. Income from those entities was once taxed at the same rate as traditional corporations, but under the 2011 overhaul, income passed through to the entities' owners is taxed at the personal rate of 4.25 percent.

Whitmer says taxing them at the equivalent of the 6 percent corporate rate would provide $280 million to mostly offset repealing the taxation of retirement income. The net tax hike on business owners would be roughly $100 million because the state "pass-through" tax would be deductible for federal tax purposes.

Shirkey said S corporations — which pass income through to shareholders for tax purposes — are the types of businesses that "generate the most innovation and the most jobs, and we should make sure that Michigan stays very competitive and attractive to the investment of capital."

Democrats supported Whitmer's plan, however.

Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich of Flint called it "fair" and said business groups want the government to improve infrastructure and develop a talented workforce, and "taxes is moving farther and farther down the list" in importance.

"What we used to have before the (corporate tax) was offices were treated equally," he said. "That's what the governor came forward with in a way to relieve seniors of a tax obligation that they weren't prepared for. This seems like a very fair way to do it, and we'll keep talking about it."

Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., an East Lansing Democrat, said residents "cannot bear the entire cost of fixing Michigan's government," and corporate taxes account for 5 percent of general fund revenues.

"I don't think anyone would think that was equitable," he said.

During a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday, Chief Deputy Treasurer Jeff Guilfoyle was asked by a Republican if the new business tax would encourage or discourage small companies to spend and expand. He said he did not think it "would lead to a significant change in taxpayer behavior," adding that the 2011 business tax cut was "very large" while Whitmer's proposal would be a "small increase back up."

Guilfoyle said there has been "significant interest in a lot of quarters in undoing" the changes to how retirement income is taxed. A GOP-led House committee voted overwhelmingly last week to repeal the so-called pension tax.

Whitmer also wants to double the state earned income tax credit, from 6 percent to 12 percent of the federal credit. It was 20 percent but was scaled back as part of the 2011 law. She says it would offset the impact of her higher gas tax on low-income working families. The maximum credit for families with two children would rise to $583 for the 2019 tax year, up from $343 for the 2018 tax year, according to the state budget office.

Wakarusa Town Council sets bid deadline for downtown building - Goshen News

Posted: 06 Mar 2019 01:42 PM PST

WAKARUSA — The Wakarusa Town Council will soon have to consider two vastly different business proposals for the former KeyBank building. Both businesses, council members said, would be tremendous assets to the town.

Expected to make a bid for the building are Hassen "Hass" Hakim, owner of Seifert Drugs No. 2, and Billie Roeder, who would like to operate a coffee shop there.

Members of the council established a bid deadline of April 1 for the property Tuesday night.

The building is located at 100 N. Elkhart St.

Hakim, who is also the chief pharmacist, said he wishes to bring his current pharmacy, now situated on the eastern fringe of town, to a more centralized location, and believes this particular building would be an ideal place.

He provided statistics that illustrated how his business managed to not only succeed, but thrive, in the midst of an uncertain economic climate. He noted that since Seifert Drug opened its doors in May of 2010, the pharmacy has served 11,308 customers in need of prescriptions. "That's not individual prescriptions — that is that many individual patients needing prescription items. That doesn't include patients purchasing over the counter items," he said.

Many members of Hakim's customer base, he said, travel from Jimtown and Goshen, all of whom are likely to do business in Wakarusa, he said.

Iterating an idea he approached the council with in late February, Hakim said he has extended an offer to the other prospective proprietors, Andy and Billie Roeder, along with Charlie Roeder, to unite the two concepts — a pharmacy and a coffee shop.

"While they're waiting for their prescriptions, they could grab a cup of coffee, or pick up a snack," Hakim suggested.

Hakim concluded his remarks by stating that he would be rescinding his original bid to the council, eventually resubmitting the proposal with "things I'd like to add, better options, and revisions."

Billie Roeder responded to Hakim. "I appreciate your offer of an olive branch in sharing the building," she said, "but in thinking about it, I feel a coffee shop needs to have a vibe, it needs to have an energy, and it needs to be some place that people can come in and feel comfortable."

Roeder also alluded to a sense of insecurity about having potentially ill patrons visiting the shared business. "It doesn't gel for me, and it doesn't keep my fire going," she said.

Roeder has been busily preparing a concrete business plan, she noted, and has also spent time gathering ideas and suggestions from the owners of a similar establishment in Nappanee. Roeder also shared a mission statement, which read, "The mission of our coffee shop is to promote community for all ages, by providing a fun, comfortable, and safe gathering place accessible to everyone."

Each business proposal had its own support from the crowd that had assembled.

Lindsey Eicher, a professional photographer and a resident of Wakarusa, who along with her husband owns a portion of the downtown block that includes Cook's Pizza, the laundromat and Dru's Jewelry, spoke in favor of the coffee shop.

She said she plans to transform the vacant store adjacent to Cook's Pizza.

"Since we purchased that building a couple of years ago, I've had huge hopes for that space, and we've just recently decided to go forward with what we want to do to bring in new businesses," Eicher said. She is exploring the option of an event center, in which to conduct parties, social gatherings and other themed functions. She anticipates using local businesses to assist with catering options.

"We want to offer the guests more for our town than what we have," Eicher said, noting that the volume of open retail spaces downtown is discouraging, given the generally low cost of commercial real estate in Wakarusa. She added that having a coffee shop in close proximity to her future enterprise would likely be more enticing to visitors, and it would also give current residents, particularly ones with young adults in the family, a safe place to convene.

Judy Smeltzer, a longtime citizen of Wakarusa, expressed sympathy toward the council in making this difficult decision, and praised both parties involved for their initiative in breathing new life to the downtown sector. However, she urged the council to bear the needs of the older residents in mind.

"It concerns me greatly that if we did not have a pharmacy here, we would have to drive out of town," she said. "This is a hard decision, because I would love to see the pharmacy, and I would love to see the coffee shop. I think that both of them are needed, and it's a tough way to go."

Once the bids have been received, the council will review them and possibly make a recommendation at the council's next public meeting, which will take place April 9 at 6:30 p.m. The date was changed on account of the spring break observance for Wa-Nee Community Schools.

House committee takes up proposal on regulating plastic products - Concord Monitor

Posted: 06 Mar 2019 03:54 PM PST

Sometime last spring, Hopkinton high schooler Joshua Duval arrived at an idea: The world is choking on nonbiodegradable plastic, and the town of Hopkinton should do something about it.

He wrote a letter to the town select board, calling on the body to ban single use plastics – the straws, spoons and shopping bags quickly thrown away – throughout the town. The water of the Contoocook River, which snakes through the town and deposits into the Merrimack, had been polluted too long, Duval argued.

"Imagine enjoying a good cast and a fight with what you think is a fish and when you pull your lure out of the water you find you have caught a three-pound bag of water with the Colonial Villager on it," Duval wrote, in a March 2018 letter. "These bags are having a serious negative impact on nature and humans."

The three-page letter, complete with quotations and a two-page bibliography, was taken up by the select board late that month. But the body quickly realized there was little they could do.

"We are doing further research but we believe that the Town does not have the authority to regulate the use of plastic bags," town administrator Neal Cass wrote back on April 3. "In New Hampshire, towns only have the authority granted to them by the State, and we have not found where this authority has been given."

It's a reality that has aggravated certain towns across the state: Without express consent from the Legislature, attempts to manage, ban or charge for plastic bag use is off limits. On Wednesday, two bills to pass down that authority to towns and cities came before the House Municipal and County Government Committee, energizing local activists and business groups on opposing sides.

House Bill 102 would allow towns to "regulate the distribution" of single-use plastics to consumers, allowing for bans, surcharges or limitations. House Bill 559 would more narrowly allow only bans.

Environmental advocates say it's precisely the kind of decision that should be made by individuals towns. Representatives of businesses and restaurants counter that it would create a patchwork of regulations that could create automatic disadvantages for establishments within those towns.

To Hopkinton resident Bonnie Christie, the legislation is the obvious answer to the select board's dilemma. That April, the board passed the proposal onto the town's Recycling Committee, on which Christie served.

The committee secured a $5,000 grant and immediately started an education and outreach campaign on plastic bag use. Members worked with the schools and community to design reusable bags to distribute at the polls on Election Day. Separately, students at the Harold Martin school passed around a petition to ban plastic straws across the school district.

Moving forward on initiatives with more teeth, Christie said, would require legislative change.

"The kids are all over this," Christie said of the anti-plastic activism. "The kids in so many situations are way ahead of the game. We talk about the older generation passing the baton to the young generation, but how many times is the younger generation passing the baton to us? They can only go so far."

A phalanx of environmental groups and residents filled the hearing room Wednesday, speaking in support of a proposal that's come before the House unsuccessfully for years.

But business groups have assailed the proposal as well-meaning but economically dangerous.

John Dumais, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Grocers Association, said large grocery stores already had comprehensive recycling services – including on-site barrels to deposit plastic bags – as well as outreach efforts.

Mike Somers, CEO of the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association, added that many restaurants are making independent decisions to ban straws and provide biodegradable plastic utensils – or are requiring customers to ask for them directly.

Lobbyists said allowing towns to decide would create a haphazard system that would only push consumers away – particularly with the rise of the internet.

Curtis Barry, a lobbyist for the New Hampshire Retail Association said that brick and mortar stores are already grappling with the effects of online sales, which often put them at a natural competitive disadvantage even without local plastic restrictions. "Legislation like this exacerbates that situation," he said.

Business groups argued that the answer was simply more robust recycling of the plastic products already made.

"We don't have a plastic bag problem in New Hampshire," Dumais said. "What we do have is we have a behavioral problem. We have people who are just lax about doing this."

But advocates said those efforts – at a time when China has severely restricted the amount of recyclable products it chooses to accept – would never be enough on their own.

Nashua alderman Ernest Jette has been pushing for a solution to his city's growing recycling crisis for years. Locally empowering legislation, he said, would allow Nashua to come up with a solution that meets its needs.

"Why would you say to a city like Nashua: 'We're not going to allow you to figure things out, we're going to figure things out for you?'," Jette said.

(Ethan DeWitt can be reached at, or on Twitter at @edewittNH.)

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