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Lucrative contract reignites L.A.'s Arizona boycott debate

November 8, 2011 |  3:40 pm

Councilman Ed Reyes
A key panel of the Los Angeles City Council agreed Tuesday to give a contract worth up to $97.5 million to a company with 9,000 employees in Arizona, drawing complaints that such a move violates the city’s business boycott of the state.

The council’s Energy and Environment Committee recommended the 15-year agreement with Honeywell International, which would be retained to install a new computer system for the city’s sewer system. Councilman Ed Reyes, who co-authored the Arizona business ban, tried without success to get the committee to reject the contract, saying he wanted to apply pressure to that state’s business community.

The council approved the boycott last year as a way of protesting Arizona's Senate Bill 1070, which was designed to crack down on illegal immigration. Since then, L.A. has repeatedly ignored the ban, even as provisions of the Arizona law were challenged in federal court.

The Honeywell contract was recommended unanimously by the Board of Public Works, whose members are appointed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Board President Andrea Alarcon said Honeywell was not clearly covered by the boycott since its headquarters are in New Jersey.

“Honeywell is not headquartered by any legal determination in Arizona,” she told the committee.

Reyes deputy Tony Perez voiced disappointment with the vote, saying the language in the ban does not just apply to company headquarters. The boycott also seeks to keep contracts from being awarded to businesses “based” in Arizona.

With 9,000 employees, Honeywell falls under that category, Perez said. “There’s no question in the councilman’s mind that if the council rejected this [contract], that would have not only an economic impact on Arizona but a political impact on Arizona,” he added.

Last month, Reyes requested an exemption to the Arizona boycott that would have allowed council members to attend a conference in Phoenix. He backtracked on that proposal after his colleagues pointed out that it would make the city look inconsistent.

The City Council must vote by Dec. 16 on the Honeywell contract, which received the top score from a 12-member evaluation panel. The lucrative agreement also has become the target of a competing bidder, Emerson Process Management, which has argued that Honeywell has run afoul of the boycott and lacks the experience to do the work.

Honeywell attorney George Kieffer disagreed and pointed out that Emerson was ranked third after an extensive evaluation process.

Tuesday’s vote drew jeers from Javier Gonzalez, who represents Sound Strike, a group of musicians opposed to Senate Bill 1070, which required police to check the status of those they suspect of being in the country illegally. That provision was later struck down in federal court.

Gonzalez said he would continue to lobby council members to reject the Honeywell contract.

“It’s disappointing that at a time when the boycott is really working, that they would send mixed messages on this stuff,” he said.


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PHOTO: Los Angeles City Councilman Ed Reyes meets with supporters of a business boycott of Arizona last year to protest the state's law enforcement crackdown on illegal immigrants. CREDIT: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times