Thursday, April 21, 2011

SHOULD LAWYERS LOWER FEES? From $320/hour, to help struggling city

Can "tight budgets" in Columbia city government really afford $320/hour? 
COLUMBIA, 4/21/11  (Beat Byte) --  "Tight budgets" at City Hall have become a mantra for city administrators seeking to tamp down public enthusiasm for city services.  So bad are budgets, we're told, that slashing an entire First Ward fire station was on last year's Columbia City Hall agenda. 

Given all the constrained funds, if paying attorneys at Lathrop and Gage to spar with the EPA over stormwater regulations is a good idea, could those attorneys kindly be persuaded to lower their fees in the public interest, for the public good? 
For a report at tonight's Columbia City Council meeting, their fees are predicted to reach between $50,000 and $150,000, in addition to $170,000 already spent among other taxpayer-funded public agencies.   
Though good contract negotiations already suggest a rate cut for such quantity billable hours, Columbia resident, longtime public servant, and KFRU talk show co-host David Shorr is the lead Lathrop and Gage attorney on the project.   Given that he has been a vocal advocate for improving financial conditions at City Hall, could Shorr himself be persuaded to lower his $320/hour fee
In years past, Shorr -- a former Missouri DNR director -- has publicly supported most local tax and fee increases, and is quick to scold listeners on his Sunday Morning Roundtable radio show who challenge revenue enhancers like higher school levies and bond issues. 

Praising voters for their fiscal fitness in 2008, "They understand what we were asking for: the ability to borrow money and keep rates gradual," Shorr, then vice president of the Boone County Regional Sewer District board, told the Columbia Daily Tribune about a sewer bond issue. 

With a $20,000 campaign war chest as chairman of Boone County's "Space Needs Committee," Shorr was also instrumental in persuading voters to approve $14 million in new sales taxes to expand the courthouse, renovate vacant properties, and perform a lush re-do on Boone County government office space.  
"David Shorr, chairman of the space needs committee, backed the larger renovation project and the proposed fifth-cent sales tax.  'We concluded this was a necessary project, no matter how you stack it,' Shorr told the Columbia Tribune."
But what about the expense side of the balance sheet? 
What if -- and it's just a thought -- what if Shorr offered an "I Heart Columbia discount" for his legal work on behalf of City Hall -- and by extension, all of us?  How about dropping those fees from $320/hour to something more approaching the local median -- $150/hour, perhaps?   After all, even that sounds sweet compared to the $10/hour -- or less -- many local residents earn.   And Shorr does get lots of free air time on local radio every week. 

We're putting a poll on our site:   Should David Shorr lower his City Hall legal fees?  Vote Yes or No.  After all, how many fire fighters, police officers, and other public servants could $320/hour hire?
Vote in our new poll today!

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