Port of LB Says It's Neutral On Sen. Lowenthal's "No Net Increase" In Port Air Pollution Bill Despite Opposition To Bill By "CA Ass'n of Port Authorities"
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(June 22, 2006) -- In a June 20 City Council colloquy, Port of LB officials said the city entity was neutral ("aggressively neutral" said PoLB's Director of Community Affairs/Gov't Relations Carl Kemp) regarding SB 764 ("no net increase" in Port air pollution, establishing baselines and a deadline for meeting them) by State Senator Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-SP-PV).
The discussion took place during an item agendized to receive the Port of LB's first annual "Green Port" report on its environmental efforts...and came one day after the "CA Association of Port Authorities" (which says it speaks for CA's publicly owned deepwater ports, including the Port of LB) testified in opposition to SB 764 at a state legislative committee. SB 764 is supported by the City of Long Beach via City Council directive.
The "CA Ass'n of Port Authorities," an entity that lists an address (with the Secy of the State) for a Sacramento lobbying firm, has as its current (rotating) president PoLB Executive Director Richard Steinke.
As reported by LBReport.com, the lobbying firm submitted written testimony on behalf of the "CA Ass'n of Port Authorities" in opposition to SB 764 when it came to the Assembly Transportation Committee on June 19. (LBReport.com posted the written testimony in full). In addition, at the June 19 hearing an individual from the lobbying firm testified in person against the bill. SB 764 cleared the committee on a 7-5 vote and advanced; it previously passed the State Senate.
LBReport.com said that the Port of LB had conducted what we termed "stealth lobbying" against the measure.
Harbor Commissioners James Hankla, Mario Cordero, Mike Walter and PoLB Executive Director Richard Steinke were in the Council Chamber for presentation of the "Green Port" report. Following the Port's power point presentation by its Planning Dir. Dr. Robert Kanter, LB Harbor Commissioner Hankla came to the Council speaker's podium and stated:
"I just want to assure this Council and members of the public, and I've seen 'em all, you've never had a Board of Harbor Commissioners so committed to working closely with the city as you have today, and that commitment will continue."
Councilmembers Reyes Uranga and Ray Gabelich followed-up on the issue of Port legislative advocacy and the "CA Ass'n of Port Authorities":
Councilwoman Reyes Uranga: ...What is the position of the Port in terms of that bill?
PoLB Community Affairs/Gov't Relations Dir. Kemp: SB 764 by Senator Lowenthal, as you know, was supported by the City Council but the [Harbor] Commission has taken no position on that bill. We continue to work with the author to ensure that to the maximum extent possible there is no negative impact and we can do something positive for the environment...
Councilwoman Reyes Uranga: ...I know that there's been a concern expressed by many people of Mr. Steinke's position on [CA Ass'n of Port Authorities] that took an opposing stance on it. Can you just clarify that for the public?
PoLB's Kemp: ...We along with all California Ports are members of this Association. However, though the Association did take a position on it, we were not official voting parties in it, much like the City Council might take a vote where there are Councilmembers who may or may not vote on it, that's the official position of the Council for the record. The Port of Long Beach did not take an official position opposing any of the legislation that would be counter to what the City Council has supported...As we promised the City Council, we are aggressively neutral and we are in regular communication with Senator Lowenthal and his staff and we have a very open line of communication...
Councilwoman Rae Gabelich: [to PoLB Executive Dir. Richard Steinke]...I just have to ask you this. During that vote as the president of CAPA, did you cast your vote to support their not-supporting that initiative [SB 764]?
PoLB Executive Dir. Steinke: No, Councilwoman. As Mr. Kemp explained, though I am the president of the California Association of Port Authorities, which will expire in September, I took no vote for or against the legislation. You have to understand that we have eleven public ports in California. Many of those ports see legislation as having a competitive disadvantage for their business. [We presume Mr. Steinke is referring to other legislation, since SB 764 only pertains to the Ports of LB and L.A.] Many of the ports north of us, Oakland, Hueneme, Redwood City, Richmond, they all would love the business that comes to southern California. Legislation that might look to prevent business or reduce business down here is looked at as a bonanza for those ports, so they are very aggressive to get as much business as they can...You'll see that many of the times that we will abstain from voting for legislation or in support of legislation...
In 2004, the City of LB (per Council directive) supported an earlier version of SB 764 and Port of LB publicly opposed it. After the measure passed the legislature, the Port urged Gov. Schwarzenegger to veto it (which he did).
The Port's actions led to Councilmembers Reyes Uranga and Gabelich to begin publicly exploring ways to prevent the Port from taking advocacy positions inconsistent with City Hall-declared policy. Harbor Commissioners responded by indicating that if Councilmembers moved to delete Port-budgeted lobbying funds, the Port would re-think its previously budgeted transfer of millions of surplus dollars to City Hall's Tidelands Fund. The Council backed down...and within a few months the Port unveiled an ambitious Green Port policy pledging fidelity to a number of environmentally-friendly principles...but without dated deliverables or attainment commitments.
The city's Tidelands fund is currently being drained by roughly $5 million a year to pay Aquarium bond debt...although that entity was supposed to pay for itself. In 1995, then-City Manager Hankla told the Council and the public that this was possible but he considered the outcome unlikely.
Port of LB "Stealth Lobbying" Again Against City of LB Via "CA Ass'n of Port Authorities" Opposition To Sen. Lowenthal's "No Net Increase" In Port Air Pollution Bill; SB 764 Passes Ass'y Transportation Committee & Advances
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