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BH School Board Increases Work, Pay of D.C. Firm Lobbying Against Metro

The board approved a $130,000 payment for a firm lobbying the federal government to stop Metro from building a subway tunnel under Beverly Hills High School.

The Beverly Hills Unified School District Board of Education increased the workload of the Washington, D.C., law firm it hired to lobby the federal government to oppose the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s under Beverly Hills High School.

"We now have engaged Venable based on board direction to enter into a —a National Environmental Protection Act—challenge in federal court,” board President Brian Goldberg said after being asked at Tuesday's school board meeting about the Venable payment by colleague Noah Margo. 

With a 4-1 vote, the board agreed to pay $132,062, considerably more than the firm’s existing $15,000 a month lobbying contract. The fee covers bills submitted earlier in August that represent about two-and-a-half months of work preparing for the NEPA challenge. 

“Those funds are being paid for from  because [the subway tunneling] is directly related to our ability to use Measure E funds to renovate [BHHS],” Goldberg said.

BHUSD will tap Measure E funds to pay $117,000 of the bill, while $15,045 will be paid from the district’s general fund. Measure E is the $334 million bond passed by Beverly Hills voters in 2008 to renovate the city's aging public schools. The Venable payment does not cover actual litigation of the NEPA case, which is pending.

The firm has been working for the district since April 2011 when it was initially paid $7,500 a month. Its monthly retainer increased to $15,000 a month in July 2011 with a lobbying contract that currently goes through Nov. 30, 2012.

The Venable payment was included in the board’s so-called consent calendar—items that do not require board discussion before a vote. Margo pulled the item from the consent calendar for discussion.

Margo asked how much in total the board had allocated for Venable to file the NEPA challenge. His colleague, Lisa Korbatov, said that the amount was discussed at the last closed session held for board members. Litigation is typically discussed during closed sessions.

Margo told Patch that he voted against the spending because he could not recall being given information about extending Venable’s contract to cover the NEPA legal challenge. He also did not remember being told the total budget allocated for Venable’s work on the matter.

“My issue is that I don’t remember seeing the paper trail in closed session,” Margo said. ““I very well may have seen it, but I don’t remember seeing it and I don’t like to vote for things without a paper trail.”

He noted that he requested district staff to provide the contracts and billing statements related to the Venable fee. Margo, who of the Venable lobbying contract, said that he knew the firm “has been working hard” on lobbying the federal government to withhold support of the subway route. The route is being built as part of the , which will expand the Purple Line subway from its current stop at Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue, through Beverly Hills and Century City, to a stop at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center.

The board also approved a payment to Hill Farrer & Burrell LLP totaling $58,788, which came from Measure E funds. Hill Farrer lawyer  is the lead attorney for the district in its legal fight against Metro. Last month the board  to the firm totaling $418,213.

cutop September 08, 2012 at 06:49 AM
Two earthquakes centered in Beverly Hills in a week. Still confident in your experts' trenching studies which said that there are no active faults under BHHS or your speculative theory that there are none active under Santa Monica Blvd @ Century City? Never answered my question, centurycitysubway: Are you paid to post on Patch?
Steven Wright September 13, 2012 at 04:03 AM
it seems after the Beverly Hills Earthquake comment from cutop centurycitysubway.org went quiet. I wounder if they are researching what constitutes as an earthquake.
centurycitysubway.org October 11, 2012 at 08:35 PM
We're still here, but decided it is not worth engaging with people who are misinformed and not interested in the facts. Speaking of facts, the numerous experts retained by the BHUSD have determined that there are NO active faults under BHHS. Have a great day!
centurycitysubway.org October 11, 2012 at 08:39 PM
Cutop: To answer your irrelevent question, these comments have all been on the house. How about you? Are you being paid for posting here? Who do you represent? What is your motive for continuing to attack to the school board?
cutop October 11, 2012 at 08:39 PM
LOL. A PR shill who is not interested in informing the people. Not very good at his job. There are no active faults under BHHS (despite the two earthquakes last month which were centered under Beverly Hills)? Great! So it is safe to dig the tunnels after all!
cutop October 11, 2012 at 08:50 PM
I represent no one but myself. I lose money when I post here because it's time when I could be billing my clients. I post here on MY own freewill to voice MY opinions and to share MY thoughts on various matters which concern the city in which I live. There is no one paying me or even encouraging me to post here. If I am calling into question certain actions or decisions made by the school board or by certain board members or other public officials, it is because I am a concerned citizen, a Beverly Hills resident, a tax payer, a parent, and a voter. There is no other motivation for me. So when you say that your posts here are "on the house", does that meet that you don't charge BHUSD an hourly rate? Do you just charge them a monthly fee and within that amount, posts to Patch are just included? What is your hourly rate or monthly fee? How much is BHUSD paying you? It's our money. We have a right to know.
centurycitysubway.org October 11, 2012 at 09:00 PM
cutop: I'm a proud alum of El Rodeo and BHHS. How about you?
centurycitysubway.org October 11, 2012 at 09:05 PM
cutop: The two earthquakes in BH were centered on Wilshire Blvd. Which is notably the proposed route for the Westside Subway Extension. The issue with the tunnels running under the high school is that they will prevent the BHUSD from modernizing the high school which as you know is more than 80 years old. That's what this is all about, but of course you know that since you are so well informed about the issues. With regard to your continuing anonymous critiques, it really doesn't matter what you think about me or my qualifications. Have a glorious day!
centurycitysubway.org October 11, 2012 at 09:12 PM
cutop: Here's a question for you. Metro has stated that it is too dangerous to locate subway stations parallel to an active earthquake zone. Recently, there were two earthquakes running parrallel down Wilshire Blvd., which could indicate that there is an active fault running along Wilshire. So If there is an active earthquake fault running under Wilshire Blvd, wouldn't it mean that it is too dangerous to locate subway stations along Wilshire Blvd? No need for name calling... Just a legitimate question.
cutop October 11, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Great. So it is safe to dig the tunnels under BHHS. The only issue is that this may get in the way of the Board's grandiose plans to build a six-stoy underground parking structure and this has absolutely nothing to do with the Southwest Homeowners Association and their property values. Yeah, right. My day is looking up already. Thanks!
cutop October 11, 2012 at 09:20 PM
I haven't the foggiest idea if the recent earthquakes have changed Metro's opinion about digging under Wilshire. All I know is that you have not made a strong case about not digging under BHHS. And that's supposed to be your job. No naming-calling. I'm just wondering how much my school district is paying you to do such a fantastic job at swaying public opinion.
centurycitysubway.org October 11, 2012 at 09:21 PM
cutop: If you are truly interested in the facts then perhaps you could browse around www.centurycitysubway.org to find out some more basic information about this dispute and the BHUSD's position. By the way, where are you making up these notions about a six-story underground parking structure and the Southwest Homeowners Association? All the misinformation you are trying to spread (including the one about San Diego State) is getting to be way over the top. But I guess the lack of accountabilty is part of the reason you continue to remain anonymous.
centurycitysubway.org October 11, 2012 at 09:27 PM
cutop: This is the first question from the www.centurycitysubway.org website Q&A. Common Questions About Century City Subway 1.Why shouldn’t Metro run a subway under Beverly Hills High School? A subway tunnel could have numerous negative impacts on BHHS. Independent studies have determined that there are a potential safety issues, and a future heavy-rail tunnel could have a devastating impact on plans to modernize and expand the campus. The independent studies have also shown that Metro’s data, findings and methodology were flawed and that Metro has other options for where to put the subway. Perhaps you could spend a few moments and look at some of the reams of information available. You probably won't because you already have an opinion that seems to be set in stone.
cutop October 11, 2012 at 10:11 PM
Yes, I can update a website too once my main tenet becomes obsolete, weak or has just been disproven. First, it was about the property values of the Southwest Beverly Hills Homeowners Association. That wasn't very popular. Then it was about the dangerous earthquakes under the high school. That was popular but a lie. And let's not forget about the methane gas. Metro has shown how they can mitigate perpendicular faults and methane gas. Then it was about protecting the school's ability to build a six-story underground parking structure and other necessary improvements. So then it became a matter of saying there are no earthquake faults under the school, even though that was the entire premise of our arguments about safety. Bottomline, earthquake faults, methane gas, future construction, all of this can be mitigated and Metro has done a more than reasonable job demonstrating how. So we strip away all of the layers and all of the deceipt, and what we are left with was, is and will be the true motivating factor behind all of the righteous indignatiion; cheifly (and unrefuted by you), the Southwest Homeowners Association and their precious property values. But I do feel for these homeowners and the perceived loss of their property value which they THINK they might suffer. But sometimes you have to take one for the team. And effective mass transit in L.A. is too important to be held up over a hypothetical loss or even a real loss in property value. End of story.
cutop October 11, 2012 at 10:15 PM
Yes, I can update a website too once my main tenet becomes obsolete, weak or has just been disproven. First, it was about the property values of the Southwest Beverly Hills Homeowners Association. That wasn't very popular. Then it was about the dangerous earthquakes under the high school. That was popular but a lie. And let's not forget about the methane gas. Metro has shown how they can mitigate perpendicular faults and methane gas. Then it was about protecting the school's ability to build a six-story underground parking structure and other necessary improvements. So then it became a matter of saying there are no earthquake faults under the school, even though that was the entire premise of our arguments about safety. Bottomline, earthquake faults, methane gas, future construction, all of this can be mitigated and Metro has done a more than reasonable job demonstrating how. So we strip away all of the layers and all of the deceipt, and what we are left with was, is and will be the true motivating factor behind all of the righteous indignatiion; cheifly (and unrefuted by you), the Southwest Homeowners Association and their precious property values. But I do feel for these homeowners and the perceived loss of their property value which they THINK they might suffer. But sometimes you have to take one for the team. And effective mass transit in L.A. is too important to be held up over a hypothetical loss or even a real loss in property value. End of story.
centurycitysubway.org October 11, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Cutop: The BHUSD's arguments and messaging, which can be found on the www.centurycitysubway.org website, have not changed since the website was launched more than a year and a half ago, and it has remained that way despite all of your desperate attempts to spread misinformation. I challenge you to PROVE otherwise by providing a single credible source to support the desperate lies contained in your prior post. The fact of the matter is you that you will not and cannot do so because your rhetoric and indignition are simply hollow and not based on any provable facts. That's probably the reason you continue to chose to remain anonymous. The truth is the truth and it is not on your side.
centurycitysubway.org October 11, 2012 at 11:50 PM
Cutop: The BHUSD's arguments and messaging, which can be found on the www.centurycitysubway.org website, have not changed since the website was launched more than a year and a half ago, and it has remained that way despite all of your desperate attempts to spread misinformation. I challenge you to PROVE otherwise by providing a single credible source to support the desperate lies contained in your prior post. The fact of the matter is that you will not and cannot do so because your rhetoric and indignition are simply hollow and not based on any provable facts. That's probably the reason you continue to chose to remain anonymous. The truth is the truth and it is not on your side.
cutop October 12, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Incorrect. The messaging was not about the future construction under the school. It was about safety... After a short-lived attempt to be honest about the decline in property value which clearly smacked on NIMBYism and was quickly hidden as the real motivation. 9/27/10 - "Don’t trade the safety of our City’s high school, of our City’s disaster center, of Good Shepherd school, and the thousands of students and teachers, as well as residential property owners." 10/28/10 - "And those accidents have resulted in deaths and destruction. You've said to us repeatedly that there will be no construction under the high school unless the experts can guarantee that it will be safe." 4/1/11 - “We’re concerned about the accidental injury to people and property at our City’s only high school and our City’s only major disaster center.” Metro has more than adequately demonstrated safety... be it earthquakes or methane gas or even structural support. You can't change history, try as you may. BHHS will be able to carry on reasonable construction to improve the school. If BHUSD had been smart, they wouldn't have allowed you to burn all of the bridges with Metro, and instead opted to work with them to help pay for whatever mitigation is necessary for planned future construction. At some point, you are going to have to step back and realize that your vinegar approach to this was not the right course and was not in the best interest of Beverly Hills.
centurycitysubway.org October 12, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Once again you are spreading misinformation. The official messaging has always been, at least since we have been involved, that Santa Monica Blvd. is a better option than Constellation because it is cheaper, faster and would have higher ridership. When Metro was unable to overcome this truth -- which was contained in its own Draft EIR -- it created a bogeyman in the form of a supposed active earthquake zone. Metro took this position regardless of the fact that no other government agency, including the City of Los Angeles, consider the area to be such. The debate about whether it is or is not an active earthquake (Alquist-Priolo) zone continues and the CGS will have to eventually weigh in. If it is not, which is what the BHUSD's experts believe, then SM Blvd should be where Metro locates the Century City subway station. This is and remains a simple and consistent position. With regard to Metro's supposed guarantees about safety, it has done nothing more than provide vague statements that the risks can be mitigated. If you have more details about how it has "adequately demonstrated safety" then please share that information As for the assertion that the BHUSD will be able to carry on construction, Metro's actions have already impaired construction plans. Besides the CGS's concern about the alleged earthquake faults, the DSA has never before approved of construction above a subway tunnel and no one can predict how it will react to this new precedent.
cutop October 12, 2012 at 01:18 AM
All of your spinning is making me dizzy. I guess that the idea. When the truth isn't on your side, hire a spin doctor to create a truth that is. Of course, I may also be dizzy from your circular arguments. We've been down these paths before. I've given you documentation, news articles and quotations. We've discussed the difference between the Draft and the Final EIR. We've discussed ridership, the center of the center, a location in the middle of a mall, office buildings, hotels and a studio versus a location on the outskirts of a golf course. We've discussed earthquake fault zones. We've discussed methane gas. And we've discussed vague plans to build a six-story underground parking garage. The one item we having discussed - the on you keep dodging - is the involvement of the Southwest Homeowners Association. I've provided you with documentation of their motivation to protect their property value. I've provided you with evidence of them turning children's safety into wedge issue in the past in an attempt to save their property value. I've shown you how when BH offered Metro several alterative routes to Constellation, they all went out of their way not to just avoid the high school, but the entire Southwest residential corridor. I leave you to go back and actually read my past posts and the credible sources to which I link. We know what this is really about, but it's a conversation you are refusing to have.
centurycitysubway.org October 12, 2012 at 01:22 AM
Hey Cutop: Your interest in this matter seems a lot more intense than a casual observer. In fact, it seems down right obsessive. Don't you think it would help the dialogue a bit if you just disclosed your identity so that we could engage one another more directly? This whole debate on Patch is growing a bit tiring and is probably not doing anything to remedy the situation. Perhaps once your cloak of anonymity is removed we can find a better forum to discuss these important issues. Maybe over a cup of coffee?
Marie Cunningham (Editor) October 12, 2012 at 01:45 AM
No offense to anyone here, but @centurycitysubway.org we don't know your exact identity either ;)
centurycitysubway.org October 12, 2012 at 03:39 AM
Cutop: I'm going to be brief and get to the point. We do not work with the Southwestern Homeowners and they do not impact our positions on this matter. There are no plans to build a six story parking structure and there never have been. Where you are getting that is a complete mystery. Along those same lines, contrary to your assertion, you have not provided any sources for your opinions. As such, they are opinion and not fact. I once again extend an invitation to meet in a more cordial and productive setting to discuss these issues so that we may find some middle ground. I look forward to your response.
cutop October 12, 2012 at 04:02 AM
I'd be delighted to meet you in person. Shall I reach out to you through your website?
centurycitysubway.org October 12, 2012 at 11:32 AM
I look forward to hearing from you.
cutop October 12, 2012 at 05:09 PM
One more question before we meet up. Is it your position that it is safe or unsafe to do construction under the high school?
centurycitysubway.org October 12, 2012 at 05:37 PM
cutop: Let's try to have a dialogue off of Patch moving forward. I sent you an email in response to your question.
cutop October 12, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Thank you for the private response. I think your answer was very forthcoming and I think it should be voiced here publicly. Would you please add it?
centurycitysubway.org October 12, 2012 at 06:29 PM
cutop: I'm done engaging on Patch. Experts for the BHUSD (namely Tim Buresh) have publicly stated everything that I shared with you. They will continue to do so. The point is that some people, including the Metro board, do not want to hear what they have to say. I look forward to continuing our dialogue offline and will no longer be commenting on Patch. Thanks!
cutop October 13, 2012 at 11:20 PM
I've been searching and cannot find where either you or Tim Buresh have conceded that Metro can in fact dig tunnels under BHHS safely. Can you please show me where on your website you state this?

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