(April 19, 2005) -- We urge LB Councilmembers to direct City Manager Jerry Miller to produce at tonight's Council meeting the monthly status reports that City Hall was entitled to receive from LB's DC lobbying firm since November 2003 under a contract that apparently cost LB taxpayers over a quarter million dollars (we estimate $300,000+) over the past 18 months.
Councilmembers should also ask to see city management's notes of its conference calls with the firm, indicated under the contract.
Councilmembers and taxpayers deserve to see that work product.
They should not sit still for a Council lecture from a paid lobbyist for the Port of LB (the same lobbying firm under a separate contract with the Port) predictably trying to spin the federal legislative fiasco spawned by the Port's actions regarding LNG in LB.
In our view, what has happened is clear. While claiming authority as landlord to decide the fate of the proposed LNG facility, the Port didn't bother to require (under its 2003 MOU or at any other time) that the LNG applicant seek and obtain a permit under state law for the LNG facility from the CA Public Utilities Commission.
That undeniable bias in favor of the feds has now backfired. It's become part of an advancing federal Energy bill that now threatens to strip state and local bodies across the country of LNG siting and safety decisionmaking...with coastal states like CA and coastal communities like LB worst impacted.
As LBReport.com has separately reported, City Hall's Oct 1/03-Sept. 30/04 contract with the lobbying firm (and presumably its current renewal) includes the following:
Consultant [lobbying firm], at its cost, shall
(i) contact and communicate with agencies and officers of federal governmental entities as requested and directed by the City Manager of City or his designee;
(ii) establish and maintain liaison with [federal] agencies and officers;
(iii) present and disseminate pertinent information and data relating to matters concerning the interests of the City;
(iv) obtain information and data from said agencies and officers pertaining to matters of interest of concern to the City and transmit same to the appropriate officers and employees of the City;
(v) monitor federal legislation and rulemaking processes by federal agencies (whether pending or introduced or initiated during the term of this Contract) which impact the operations of the City either as determined by Consultant or as directed by the City Manager;
(vi) provide the City's officials and employees in a timely manner but not less frequently than once each month with status reports of legislation and rule-making processes being monitored, including with limitation legislative histories, schedules of hearings on proposed legislation and rules, and copies of proposed legislation and rules and all amendments or proposed amendments thereto;...
(ix) conduct monthly conference calls with City Manager, Assistant City Manager, Manager of Public/Government Affairs to discuss progress of federal advocacy efforts.
...Not later than the tenth (10th) day of each month during the term of this Contract commencing November 1, 2003, Consultant shall submit to the City Manager, in a form acceptable to him, a reasonably detailed and itemized statement of Consultant's activities on behalf of the City during the preceding month...
In order to facilitate and expedite Consultant's services on behalf of the City, City shall cooperate in a timely manner with Consultant to inform Consultant as to City's needs relating to legislative advocacy. Specifically, City shall review and analyze all bills transmitted by Consultant and inform Consultant of City's positions, if any, in a timely manner, and provide timely briefings and information to Consultant on all issues of interest to City that require Consultant's services.
Councilmembers Laura Richardson and Rae Gabelich thought something was amiss on November 23, 2004...when city management advised the Council to rubberstamp the contract renewal.
Councilwoman Richardson wondered aloud (our paraphrase) why she hadn't been receiving regular reports on what's being done in DC. Councilwoman Gabelich asked rhetorically how the same firm could represent City Hall when it also (under a separate contract) represents the Port of LB...which had opposed state clean-air legislation supported by the City Council.
Their justifiable concerns were brushed off.
At the same November 23 Council meeting, Councilmembers voted to approve City Hall's 2005 Federal Legislative agenda...which includes a proviso asserting City Hall's desired local control of city affairs. LBReport.com subsequently learned that on November 19, a House/Senate conference committee included language in a report that didn't carry the force of law but contended that the CA Public Utilities Commission has no say in siting and safety decisions involving the LB LNG facility. That verbiage was inimical to local control prerogatives of CA and LB.
Did LB's well-paid DC lobbying firm know this was coming? If not, why not? And exactly what did it do in response? The Council deserves to see exactly what City Hall received under its contract with the firm.
What began as November 2004 non-binding verbiage has now careened into substantive legislative language in the House version of the federal Energy bill. As LBReport.com previously reported, efforts by House Democrats to delete it failed...with the Committee chair -- a member of the House GOP leadership -- calling the FERC supremacy language among the most important parts of the bill.
As LBReport.com has also reported, Sen. Pete Domenici (R., NM) who chairs the Senate's Energy Committee, has expressed kind words for FERC and industry views on federalizing the LNG approval process. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., CA) -- whose party isn't in the current legislative majority -- has indicated she will bring an amendment in an effort to change the FERC supremacy verbiage.
Yes, the dynamics in the Senate are different from the House. Among other things, in the Senate each state (big and small) has only two Senators (while CA's House delegation has 53 members)...making CA's Senate voice less powerful, not more. Clearly, an ounce of prevention in the House would have been worth a pound of cure in the Senate.
While City Hall shoveled money to its DC lobbying firm, LB's unpaid LNG policy expert, Bry Myown, was treated like some harping Cassandra. Today, her repeated cautions seem prescient.
In our opinion, the root of the problem is the Port of LB's pursuit of policies increasingly adverse to those of LB residents as expressed by the elected LB City Council.
The elected City Council's first duty is to protect public health and safety. The non-elected Board of Harbor Commissioners has behaved as if it expects an entitlement to worsen pollution and expand even if it worsens public health and safety.
In our view, the same legislative advocate cannot effectively serve those two masters. Previously unquestioned support for federal projects that expand the Port's capacity to pollute is increasingly viewed as poisoned pork.
Yes, City Hall's contract includes the proviso that "Consultant certifies, and shall obtain similar certifications from its officers, employees and associates that, at the time this Contract is executed and while it is in effect, Consultant does not and will not represent or perform any services for any other client which would create a conflict, whether monetary or otherwise, as between the interests of the City and the interests of any other such client."
But with all due respect and acknowledging the integrity of Mr. Smith and his firm, we believe policy differences between the Port and City Hall have made it impossible to meet the demands of that paragraph without painfully parsing its words or making a mockery of their substance.
We urge the Council to communicate to City Manager Miller that LB City Hall's contract for legislative services should be put out to public bid. We believe the Council has a duty to examine the work product it paid such large sums to receive...and see if it can do better.