Does Mayor Vince Gray really need to hire outside help to write a speech? The answer, according to the Gray administration, is yes.

Last night’s State of the District address was crafted with the help Alan Hermesch, a former spokesman for Howard University. The city’s contract with Hermesch is not to exceed $5,000, according to mayoral spokesman Pedro Ribeiro, who added that the final amount will likely come in slightly under that maximum. (Hermesch said he’s not tallied up the total hours worked on the speech, but said it was “a lot.”)

Ribeiro says the Gray administration has no in-house speech writer and he reached out to Hermesch for help because yesterday’s speech was kind of a big deal. When LL noted that last year’s State of the District speech was written without outside help (in part by a lower level staffer in the city administrator’s office), Ribeiro responded: “But we had different staff last year.”

This year’s speech was certainly tighter and more concise than last year’s drone fest, so maybe the $5,000 was worth it. Ribeiro suggested that if LL shopped around town, he’d be lucky to find a speech writer who could even come close to matching Hermesch’s prices.

“Five thousand is a friggin’ bargain,” says Ribeiro.

Maybe, but LL can’t help but think that a better bargain would be finding someone in the mayor’s $626,000-a-year*communications shop who can write what amounted to a pretty standard policy speeches.

*Update. Ribeiro calls to tell LL that the mayor’s communication’s shop is short a person and is currently running well under its $626,000-a-year budget.