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    Ports of LB & L.A. Largest Dues Paying Members ($100,000+ Per Year) In "CA Ass'n of Port Authorities" Didn't Object As Group Opposed Clean Air Legislation Backed By LB City Hall, AQMD & Clean Air/Health Groups

    (November 2, 2006) -- The Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles each spent more than $100,000 in the just-concluded fiscal year for dues in the "California Association of Port Authorities"...and didn't object publicly as that group lobbied against proposed clean air legislation supported by the City of LB, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) and various clean air/health groups.

    The materials, provided to by the Port of LB under state freedom of information law, also include a memo on CAPA letterhead from March 2005 boasting of helping to create a private industry group -- the "California Trade Coalition" -- with letterhead members including goods movement interests and lobbying groups that would "serve as a powerful tool" to "inform" [our comment: lobby] state lawmakers with industry views on port-related legislation.

    The "CA Ass'n of Port Authorities" -- whose members are CA's eleven publicly owned, commercial ports -- pay the organization dues from public resources. For FY 06, PoLB paid CAPA $121,622; PoLA paid $169,139, the two largest amounts. Apart from legislative advocacy, CAPA administers official settings of port tariffs, practices and agreements with the Federal Maritime Commission and communicates with that agency to maintain anti-trust immunity for member ports.

    The "CA Ass'n of Port Authorities" and the "California Trade Coalition" both opposed SB 760/SB 927 (container fee at PoLB/PoLA for clean air, port rail and security projects), SB 764 ("no net increase" in baseline pollutants from PoLB/PoLA) by State Senator Alan Lowenthal (D., LB-SP-PV) and AB 1101 (to apply "diesel magnet sources" rules to Ports & Airports) by Assemblywoman Jenny Oropeza (D., Carson-LB).

    Earlier this year, reported on CAPA's legislative advocacy against Senator Lowenthal's "no net increase" bill...while the City of LB supported the bill and PoLB remained publicly neutral [coverage, click here. When LB Councilmembers (including now-AQMD Boardmember Tonia Reyes Uranga) asked about CAPA, Port of LB officials insisted they were neutral on the bills [coverage click here.]

    And LB's Harbor Commissioners were publicly the sense that they hadn't held any publicly agendized discussions or taken public votes on whether to support or oppose the bills.

    Although PoLB officials have noted that CAPA is a statewide organization in which PoLB is only one member, and the city of LB is a member of other groups which take advocacy positions opposed by the city, the two Lowenthal bills only pertained to the Ports of LB and L.A. has been unable to find evidence that the Port of LB took any meaningful measures to distinguish itself from CAPA's position in Sacramento in hearings when CAPA testified in opposition to the Lowenthal bills on behalf of CA's Ports. During this period, the Port of LB -- one of the state's two biggest ports -- was publicly "neutral." (The City of LB's Sacramento advocate did testify at hearings and that the City of LB supported the bills).

    Meanwhile, a March 2005 memo on CAPA letterhead directed to CAPA Advisory Committee members stated in pertinent part:

    As reported, we have created a new coalition with the aid of the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Manufacturers and Technology Association, and various goods-movement dependent business associations (see attached letterhead for membership...

    CalTrade is comprised of many of Sacramento's most active business associations and lobbying interests. We believe this coalition will serve as a powerful tool for informing legislators of business community perspectives on port-related legislation...

    The CalTrade letterhead listed the following entities:

    American Chemistry Council; Associated General Contractors of California; CA Ass'n of Port Authorities; CA Business Properties Association; CA Business Roundtable; CA Chamber of Commerce; CA Manufacturers and Technology Association; CA Nevada Cement Promotion Council; CA Railroad Industry; CA Retailers Association; Consumer Electronic Association; Grocery Manufacturers of America; Industrial Environmental Association; International Council of Cruise Lines; International Council of Shopping Centers; Matson Navigation Co.; Maersk, Inc.; Pacific Merchant Shipping Ass'n; Retail Industry Leaders Ass'n; Society of the Plastics Industry; SSA Marine; Western Home Furnishings Ass'n; Western States Petroleum Ass'n.

    When Sen. Lowenthal's "no net increase" bill (SB 764) had its final policy committee hearing in summer 2006, the committee's legislative analysis quoted part of CalTrade's position as indicative of opposition.

    On August 8, CalTrade sent a memo to members of the Assembly Appropriations Committee, urging defeat of Sen. Lowenthal's container fee bill.

    In a bizarre turn of events, Assembly Democrat leaders blocked both bills in the Assembly Appropriations Committee (after Sen. Lowenthal advanced his anti-Gerrymandering redistricting measure] but eventually let Lowenthal advance one bill of his choice. Sen. Lowenthal chose his container fee bill, used Sacramento's legendary "gut and amend" procedure to pour its text into SB 927, and it passed the legislature...only to be vetoed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    As for SB 764 -- the "no net increase" bill that Sen. Lowenthal had previously called the most important bill he'd introduced in all his years in Sacramento (since 1999) -- it died for the second time. In 2004, his previous "no net increase" bill (AB 2042) was supported by the City of Long Beach but opposed by the Port of LB; it was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    Assemblywoman Oropeza's "diesel magnet sources" bill, AB 1101, also opposed by CAPA while supported by the City of LB, cleared the Assembly but died on the state Senate floor.

    CAPA's letterhead lists the same telephone number and street address as the Sacramento lobbying/advocacy firm of Schott & Lites. We called the number, reached principal Jim Lites and asked him about the March 2005 memo on CAPA letterhead that stated "we have created a new coalition with the aid of the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Manufacturers and Technology Association, and various goods-movement dependent business associations."

    Who is "we"? Mr. Lites said "we" didn't mean CAPA by itself but referred to collective activities by groups including those listed in the cited sentence.

    So what prompted creation of the group? It came out some 2004 legislation, Mr. Lites said, Did he mean then-Assemblyman Lowenthal's AB 2042 [original "no net increase" bill]? Mr. Lites said it might have been the Lowenthal bill; he wasn't sure and would have to check.

    How did CAPA arrive at its legislative advocacy positions in speaking for CA's eleven publicly owned, commercial ports, and when did its members vote, and how did the Port of LB vote? Mr. Lites indicated the group didn't take formal votes; there's usually discussion and frequently the group goes with consensus; yes, he was aware of PoLB's neutral position on the 2006 Lowenthal bills; no, he doesn't have data on specific member votes on CAPA's legislative advocacy decisions.

    In a January 2006 memo to the Port of LB's governing Board of Harbor Commissioners, PoLB Executive Director Richard Steinke sought approval for increased CAPA dues of $121,622...the first time CAPA dues exceeded his Board-authorized limit of $100,000 and thus requiring a Harbor Commission vote. PoLB Exec. Dir. Steinke was president of CAPA for a two year term (rotates between Exec. Dir of So. Cal and No. Cal port) that concluded in Sept. 2006.

    The Port of LB made responsive records available to us in a businesslike, professional manner in response to our Public Records Act request. In contrast, the Port of Los Angeles has to date stonewalled access to similar documents requested by on September 29.

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