After Exodus of Lobbyists From Portland City Hall, City Council Approves Contract With Outside Lobbying Firm

The city will spend up to $360,000 on an outside firm to push its ambitious legislative agenda.

Earlier this month, WW first reported that three of the four lobbyists that work for the city of Portland quit just weeks before a critical legislative session in Salem, where the city set forth an ambitious agenda focused on homelesssness, public safety and housing.

On Wednesday morning, the Portland City Council unanimously approved an emergency ordinance that gives the Office of Government Relations the green light to contract with an outside lobbying firm for the next two legislative sessions to push the city’s agenda.

The contract with the lobbying form Thorn Run Partners will not exceed $360,000. Dan Bates, one of the partners at Thorn Run who will work under the contract, served as director of the city’s Government Relations Office prior to 2010.

It’s not entirely clear why two of the city’s three lobbyists quit just weeks before the start of the session, but WW learned from multiple sources familiar with the matter that there were tensions between the lobbyists and the mayor’s office regarding the city’s legislative agenda, which includes requests for $26 million in discretionary homelessness funds, Oregon State Police to enforce to traffic laws on city streets, and the state to beef up its police training capacity. Those two lobbyists announced their resignations on the same day, according to documents obtained by WW.

Nils Tilstrom, deputy director of government relations, acknowledged the exodus of city lobbyists early this year. “We suffered an acute and sudden staffing shortage that left the state relations team with only one member,” Tilstrom told the City Council. “We are going into Salem this and next session with a strong team to support a robust legislative agenda.”

The Office of Government Relations also brought on Sam Chase, a former Metro councilor, as its newest office director.