The Forest Park village council agreed last week to a one-year, $36,000 contract with a former village administrator who will be lobbying legislators in both Springfield and Washington D.C.
Matt O’Shea, who served as the second village administrator (from 2000-2004), starts work as the village’s contracted lobbyist on Oct. 1. Village officials and O’Shea said they haven’t developed specific plans or projects for him to focus on just yet. But an agreement that was approved by the village board at its Sept. 26 council meeting outlines some of the work he will do. O’Shea’s duties will include keeping an eye on state legislation and other laws that affect Forest Park, developing a legislative “agenda,” serving as a liaison between the village and other government officials, and working to secure grant funding for future projects.
“Matt is hired as a consultant to serve as an advocate for the Village of Forest Park,” said Mayor Anthony Calderone, adding that when O’Shea’s contract starts, “we [village] will … begin to develop matters he will work on. Over the course of the next few months we will develop a list.”
O’Shea recently left his job as chief of staff for state House Minority Leader Tom Cross (R-95), a post he held for seven years, Cross said, to create his Crest View-based consulting firm, Matthew O’Shea, Inc.
“He’s a hard-working, bright, capable guy,” Cross said.
O’Shea told the Forest Park Review that this is a “new chapter” in his life and he will now be focusing on “contract lobbying,” “consulting,” and “local municipal advocacy.”
“Some of this I see as not playing offense, but defense,” O’Shea said. He was referring to the need to be “on the ground” in Springfield to make sure that the village gets all the revenue it’s owed. The state’s budget woes have caused it to delay payments to local governments and other agencies throughout Illinois. (Despite a recent income tax hike, Illinois is still expected to see an $8 billion deficit at the end of the current fiscal year.)
“The offense means being aggressive,” O’Shea said, “so if there is a new capital bill, or grant funding for roads, alleys, or IDOT projects,” he said he will pursue them.
O’Shea said that he will also work with the federal government and elected officials in Congress.
Commissioner Mark Hosty, a veteran board member who was on the council when O’Shea was village administrator, spoke highly of the lobbyist.
“He knows everybody down there [Springfield]. If there’s something we need taken care of, he’s going to know the people that can get things done,” Hosty said. “He’s not going to get doors slammed in his face.”
“He definitely has connections in Springfield, nobody is doubting that,” Commissioner Chris Harris said. “Hopefully that can turn into dollars for the village.”
Commissioner Rory Hoskins chimed in with some kind words, too. “I think Matt’s a great guy, I hope he’s effective.”
But Hoskins pointed out that the village hired a lobbyist who worked for a state representative from the minority party (Republicans).
“Generally, corporations, interest groups hire lobbyists with ties to the majority party,” Hoskins said.
He said O’Shea is going to need to work with both parties in order to be successful.
“I’m sure there’ll be a need to lobby Republican members, but most [in the Illinois General Assembly] are Democrats,” Hoskins said. “That’s why, in certain cases, Matt will need to team up with a lobbyist that has ties to the Democratic Party.”
“It’s a very common practice in both Springfield and Washington D.C.,” Hoskins said.
Hosty maintained that O’Shea has both “connections” and “friends” in Springfield. “I don’t know anybody who does not like him,” Hosty said.
The village hasn’t had a lobbyist for about a decade, but Calderone said that, over the years, officials noticed a lobbyist would be “beneficial.”
“They serve as a strong advocate … that benefits the community and its residents,” the mayor said.
“We withheld hiring a lobbyist over the last few years because of uncertain economic times,” Calderone said. “We are in a position now that we can handle the cost.”
According to the village’s fiscal year 2012 budget, it predicts a slim surplus of just under $200,000. It finished FY’11 about $400,000 in the black.
Now that Forest Park can reportedly afford a lobbyist, officials said it’s good that the village grabbed O’Shea. According to state Rep. Tom Cross, O’Shea is “somebody you would want on your side, on your team.”
Hosty also said that O’Shea has a “real good motivation to do the best by us.”