(August 9, 2005) -- In the past, the LB City Council has let the Port of LB's Washington, DC legislative advocacy firm simultaneously act as LB City Hall's DC lobbying voice under a separately paid contract.
In our opinion, recent developments have shown this is no longer in the City of LB's interest and the City Council should direct the City Manager to invoke the provisions of City Hall's contract, terminate it and put it out to public bid.
The contract permits its termination on thirty days notice. In our opinion, there are multiple grounds on the merits for doing so. They go beyond LNG.
They reflect profound conflicts -- unimaginable in the last century but increasingly clear now -- between the interests of the City Council in protecting residents' health, safety and fiscal interests and the Port of LB, whose non-elected potentates have repeatedly chosen to protect industry interests.
Does the City Council believe it is in LB's interest for the Port of LB to help defeat legislation we presume would require Port tenants to pay a larger share of homeland security costs (now borne in large part by U.S. taxpayers) for risks their containers create? The Port of LB's paid lobbyist -- whom LB taxpayers currently pay a significant sum to represent LB's interests -- publicly boasted of helping defeat such legislation at an August 8 meeting of LB's Board of Harbor Commissioners.
That coincides with a federal Energy bill, signed into law yesterday by the President, with provisions damaging to the City of LB that were spawned by actions of the Port of LB.
And that coincides with a costly federal Transportation bill in which the Port's lobbyist publicly boasted of tying major I-710 freeway funding to a costly bridge project that the Port wants to enable the Port to dump even more containers in the region with no commitment not to worsen current pollution levels. Without the bridge, market incentives might direct some of those containers elsewhere...which might very well be in the interest of LB and the region...although the Port and its paid mouthpiece will predictably fight it.
We believe LB City Hall's contract with that firm was improvidently renewed as no-bid contract. The contract recites that "by reason of extensive experience in dealing with governmental agencies and officials, [LB's current DC lobbying firm] is particularly and peculiarly qualified to serve City in establishing and maintaining liaison for City and representing City with other governmental entities and officials."
We don't believe this. We believe K Street and Connecticut Ave. in NW Washington are filled with smart, aggressive, effective legislative advocacy firms. We believe LB taxpayers deserve to hear what they can do for the City of LB, at what cost...and exactly what they would have done differently than LB's current firm.
Even if the Port's lobbying firm were superlative, that's more of a reason for LB to have an independent DC advocate. We believe CA's fifth largest city deserves DC advocacy without dual loyalty. In view of all that's taken place, we believe LB taxpayers will not settle for less.
The Port's interests and the City interests have conflicted on LNG for over two years. This is not the advocacy firm's fault...but it is the Council's fault if it allows that conflict to persist by not putting its DC advocacy contract out to bid.
In May 2003, in a basically unbusinesslike, backasswards act, the Port of LB entered into a Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate putting an 80+ million gallon Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) facility roughly two miles from downtown Long Beach before getting the facts on safety or costs for LB taxpayers. No sane business would do this...unless -- like the Port -- it's not responsible for the consequences for the City.
Instead, the Port pronounced a "process" in which studies and costs would be decided -- by it -- after plans and regulatory approvals were already in steadily setting concrete.
From the outset, the Port tilted toward federal control of this "process." It let the applicant seek approval solely from the feds without seeking approval a state agency created to protect CA consumers. When the state agency sued to enforce CA law, energy interests backed federal legislation to permanently strip CA consumers and others nationwide of these state protections.
The City Council, without any legal requirement to do so, supported the Port in opposing eminent domain over Port property. However to our knowledge, the Port of LB did not reciprocate with a voted resolution or similar high visibility advocacy to help the Council fight federal preemption of the Council's authority to oversee environmental review of that Port-sited project at length if necessary.
On April 18, 2005 we editorialized in part, "[Councilmembers] 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...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."
Today (Aug. 9) from 1:00-2:30 p.m., the City Council's Transportation & Infrastructure Committee (Reyes Uranga (chair), Kell & Gabelich) and Tidelands & Harbor Committee (Richardson (chair), Colonna & Lowenthal) have scheduled a special meeting with members of LB's Harbor Commission. It will include a presentation from the Port's DC lobbying firm.
A few hours later at the evening Council meeting, Councilmembers Colonna and Gabelich have agendized an item that requests a report from the lobbying firm that "describes those provisions of the Energy Bill that help to address our concerns regarding state and local control in the siting of LNG facilities."
We urge Councilmembers not to sit like like pupils as the Port's paid lobbyist lectures and spins them.
They should thank him for his years of well-compensated work for LB, most of it dating from a different era.
Then they should instruct the City Manager to put LB's DC advocacy contract out to bid.