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Board of Ed Extends Contract of D.C. Lobbyists

The school district is spending $15,000 a month to persuade federal officials to oppose Metro's proposal to tunnel under BHHS.

The Beverly Hills Unified School District is doubling its spending on a Washington, D.C., law firm hired to lobby the federal government on opposition to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s  under Beverly Hills High School.

Venable LLP was hired by the district in April to help persuade lawmakers to withhold federal funding for the if the MTA chooses a route that goes under BHHS. After several short-term extensions, the Venable contract was due to expire Dec. 31. At the firm’s request, the Board of Education unanimously agreed last week to extend the contract for three more months until March 31, 2012.

Venable was initially paid $7,500 a month, but its monthly retainer increased to $15,000 a month in August. District officials did not explain why the retainer doubled. 

Venable executives “have had many meetings with elected officials and their staffs—particularly those from the relevant authorizing and appropriating committees—and are working hard to both educate them regarding the merits of the Santa Monica [Boulevard] location as well as secure legislative language that would achieve the school district’s objectives,” according to a Dec. 9 letter and contract sent to the board from Scott Gluck, a senior attorney at Venable.

BHUSD has paid Venable $40,899.16 thus far in four payments for work through September 2011, according to Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Alex Cherniss. He also said all payments have been made from the district’s general fund.

Recently, two Venable bills had mistakenly been paid with Measure E bond funds, but BHUSD  for those payments last month.

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Minoter December 23, 2011 at 05:10 PM
BHUSD once again is trying to buy influence in Washington. What could these $15,000/month folks be spinning to lawmakers so that they will see the merits of putting a subway station next to a golf course on Santa Monica Blvd. where there is a mapped earthquake fault?
LAofAnaheim December 28, 2011 at 08:38 PM
Selfish.
Chris Loos December 28, 2011 at 08:53 PM
I can't imagine that LA County is too thrilled that Beverly Hills is now attempting to derail the entire Purple line extension project just to avoid a tunnel under their school. Wondering what the repercussions will be...Beverly Hills may be on its own planet, but it still sits in the middle of LA County.
Chris Loos December 29, 2011 at 06:13 AM
$15,000/month x 12 months = $180,000 a year. I wonder how many teachers salaries could be paid with that?
HollywoodF1 December 29, 2011 at 10:44 PM
Are there any rigorous scientific findings that prove there is a danger in going under the school? I sure haven't seen any. I've heard a lot of percieved danger concerns (which are as reality-based as a Martian attack until there is science behind them), and I've heard they're trying to get the station moved into a known fault zone next to a golf course instead of in the middle of the business district.
DoughBoy December 30, 2011 at 09:02 PM
Reality check: Henry Waxman was able to stop the initial subway construction from coming west thru BH, thanks to his powerful committee poisitions (still there) and a well-timed gas explosion near Fairfax. If he's now on board with LA County on its chosen route, the plan will go thru. I'm not sure who the lobbyists are meeting with in DC, but everyone there knows to fall in line behind Waxman on this. So what says Henry? Save a bunch of lobbying costs, go sit down with him, and direct your money towards his coffers (if that would help your cause). I'm not in love with the subway route that goes under the high school, but it seems folly to fight it in DC with education funds that can/should go as directly into BH classrooms as possible. Give $15K to Waxman and see what that buys, and use the rest for the students. (Btw, I know that would not be a legal contribution, so just go with the general idea of cutting to the chase on this DC angle...)
John Mirisch January 01, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Good points, DB, on Waxman. Yes, in most cases other congressmen/women will defer to the rep whose district the project is in, especially someone as powerful as Waxman (though Century City itself is likely to fall into Karen Bass's new district). I don't know for a fact, but I suspect that much of the lobbying will aim to scuttle the 30-10 plan (aka "America Fast Forward"), which would speed up construction of the entire Westside Extension. Slowing the pace of the construction to 30 years could buy the District much-needed time. First of all, Waxman isn't likely to be in office in another 20-25 years (though you never know...). Secondly, there could be new developments including technological advances in that period that moot Metro's current "safety" arguments. All of this, 30-10 funding and the call for a national infrastructure bank, goes way beyond Waxman and there are all sorts of opposing interests. Perhaps the lobbying is strategic and could be effective from this point of view. Metro itself, of course, spends a ton of money on lobbying in DC and elsewhere. Agree there should be an effort to reach out to Waxman himself in any event. Our congressman identifies himself as Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) and it would be nice to think he would take the reasonable concerns of the community he has chosen to identify himself seriously. Otherwise, he might want to consider referring to himself as Henry Waxman (D-Agoura Hills) instead.
Scott Mercer January 03, 2012 at 08:57 PM
If Metro does have "safety" arguments, they are not the primary ones. It is the BHUSD that is playing that card. Metro seems to be primarly pushing the obivous benefits of more riders using the subway if the station were at Constellation in the middle of massive office towers and a shopping mall, rather than next to a golf course where nobody lives or works. (Yes, I know the SM Blvd. location is still next to the shopping mall, but it's on the other side, and it has direct access to a much smaller number of jobs than the Constellation location, which has been the preferred location since 1966.)

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