BH 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 plans to tunnel under Beverly Hills High School.

The Beverly Hills Unified School District Board of Education agreed Tuesday to a six-month extension of its with a Washington, D.C., law firm hired to lobby the federal government in opposition to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s under Beverly Hills High School.

The board approved the extension, at a total cost of $90,000, at the same meeting in which it debated potential budget cuts for the next school year. The item was initially part of the board’s consent calendar—items that do not require a separate vote—but it was pulled for further discussion at the request of board member Noah Margo, who voted against the extension.

“I do not find a solid reason to approve the contract at this time,” Margo said, noting that the MTA had already made its decision to route the under BHHS and litigation is pending. The BHUSD and the city of Beverly Hills have both filed to block the MTA’s plans.

The firm, Venable LLP, has been working for the BHUSD since April 2011. It was initially paid $7,500 a month, but its monthly retainer increased to $15,000 a month in July 2011. The contract has been extended several times since then.

“Now that the MTA has approved the final EIS/EIR [Environmental Impact Statement] for the project, things will be busy at the federal level for the next several months,” Scott Gluck, a senior attorney at Venable, wrote in a June 1 letter requesting a contract extention from June 1 to Nov. 30.

Gluck said the Venable needed to liaise with the Federal Transit Administration, which must approve the MTA project for “final design.” Venable also intends to monitor federal legislation under consideration “that will have a direct impact on the project including reauthorization of the Surface Transportation bill and federal appropriations measures.”

Board of Education president Brian Goldberg told Patch that the BHUSD still needs Venable because its contacts in Washington, D.C, could help the district’s legal challenge against the MTA.

“We are engaged in a National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) challenge, which requires lawyers familiar with the federal process and with an understanding of NEPA,” Goldberg said.

Margo, however, had a different view of how BHUSD funds should be spent on the MTA fight.

“We are now engaged in a local battle with the MTA that will consume an even larger portion of our future construction budget and I would like every dollar spent on this challenge to count,” he told Patch.

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R. Zaften June 14, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Considering the millions we've already put into this, what's another $90,000? We should spend 90 million fighting this tunnel! Isn't the safety of our kids worth at least that? NO TUNNEL UNDER BHHS!
cutop June 15, 2012 at 12:51 AM
What's another $90,000? Just the salaries of a couple of teachers or a police officer or a firefighter.
R. Zaften June 15, 2012 at 04:45 AM
Mr. Cutop, you mean just a couple more teachers to be in that building if it explodes? I think they'd rather not get those jobs. (Although the firefighters would come in handy if the methane blew up.) NO TUNNEL UNDER BHHS!
cutop June 15, 2012 at 07:48 AM
Yes, the high school is going to explode from digging a tunnel 70 feet underground, but it's perfectly safe to build a 4-story underground parking structure and have more oil companies perform slant drilling into the wells under the school. Thank you, BHHS engineers for that flawless piece of logic. Wake up and follow the money. This has nothing to do with the safety of the children. The Southwest Homeowners Association wants to keep their property values up and their oil royalty checks a-flowing. Making us afraid for the school children is their clever ploy to get the rest of the city on their side. They tried the same tactic with so-called "toxic construction dust" poisoning the children at El Rodeo across the street from 9900 Wilshire and Hilton during the Measure H campaigns. Like their No on H campaign, No on Constellation has nothing to do with child safety. It's not very hard to believe once you follow the money – who stand to lose the most from this deal? – it's just difficult to accept that you've been duped into caring about a nonexistent problem... and duped by your neighbors. Push your pride aside and you will see how you've once again been manipulated by the Southwest Homeowners and the Beverly Hills Courier. Save our tax dollars for real problems and stop squandering them on trumped up wedge issues.
George Vreeland Hill June 15, 2012 at 01:20 PM
Beverly Hills has a right to defend itself. Face it, Metro has a history of incompetence and their role in the BHHS/tunnel plan has been less than adequate.


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