On and off for two years – between 1988 and 1993 – I worked at the law firm of Latham and Watkins, representing some of the most powerful developers and corporations in Los Angeles. I vividly remember going down to the council chambers in City Hall, standing at the rope separating the public from council members and watching my colleagues pull lawmakers over to lay out what needed to be done in support of a development proposal or a big city contract. I would look around the council chambers and – unless there was some rare public controversy that brought a lot of people down to City Hall – I would see only white lawyers and lobbyists dressed in fancy suits who essentially owned the place.
When I left Latham and Watkins and helped to start LAANE in 1993, I resolved to bring the knowledge of developer lobbyists into our work and get thousands of real people from all stripes down to City Hall.
The skirmish of words in El Segundo over its city manager’s proposal to raise local taxes on that city’s largest business, Chevron Oil, has suddenly become a full-fledged legal war, with the official making explosive accusations against both El Segundo’s government and Chevron. The story, which Donald Cohen has been following for Frying Pan News, began with Doug Willmore’s efforts to bring the giant refinery’s taxes in line with the taxes paid by other California oil companies. Willmore was subsequently fired on February 9 by El Segundo’s city council.
In response, the ousted city manager has filed a governmental claim against El Segundo, a forerunner to a lawsuit. In it, Willmore claims that:
(Note: This post first appeared on Philanthropy New York’s Smart Assets blog.)
By Beth Herz
Leading the charge on an issue can bring an organization’s work into the spotlight—and sometimes also under a microscope. Madeline Janis, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), learned this when her own organization’s work came under scrutiny for less-than-benevolent reasons. While under her leadership, LAANE learned that an unnamed political ops firm was conducting a careful investigation of all of its records, apparently intending to find fodder for a smear campaign.
On November 29th, Philanthropy New York hosted a funders briefing to discuss the rise of this type of political attack on advocacy work and the roles foundations can play in responding. The briefing’s two panels included Madeline Janis’s story and a case study from Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood.
El Segundo city manager Doug Willmore didn’t know who he was messing with.
In January, 2012 the L.A. Times reported that El Segundo, home to a huge Chevron refinery, was considering raising the oil giant’s taxes to help meet the demands of a growing town. Refineries around the state pay far higher taxes to their local governments than Chevron does – which is why Willmore figured the proposal made sense.
Chevron’s El Segundo tax bill is $5 million, far less than other cities receive from their refineries. Torrance got $9.8 million from Exxon Mobil and Carson got $10.2 million from BP. Chevron paid $15.4 million to Richmond for its Northern California facility.
Chevron, of course, wants to hold on to its growing profits and is fighting hard against any tax increase. When the proposal first came forward Chevron reacted with disbelief that the proposal would be made public before they knew about it.
It’s about 6 p.m. and I’m speed-walking to the Seventh and Figueroa Red Line stop to make sure I catch the train after work. At 6:10, the train promptly arrives at the platform and I’m home in 12 minutes. Fortunately, I never have to think twice about hopping on that train or worry about whether the train will shut down or collapse. I also have a convenient alternative to sitting in traffic, and while riding the train I feel secure knowing that our subway system was safely built by skilled hands thanks to government investment in our transit system.
But with the state of the economy and all the talk about the decline of our infrastructure in the United States, I wonder if I have taken what public transportation we have for granted. Then I say to myself, “I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.” (Pun may or may not be intended.)
Here in Los Angeles,