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City Hall lobbyists withdraw bids for L.A. redistricting contract

November 22, 2011 |  6:14 pm

The top two firms seeking a $100,000 public relations contract with the Los Angeles City Council Redistricting Commission abruptly abandoned their bids Tuesday, throwing the panel’s work into disarray.

Dakota Communications and Cerrell Associates withdrew their proposals shortly before the 21-member commission was scheduled to vote. They did so one day after The Times reported that they have an array of lobbying clients at City Hall, including airport concessions and shopping malls—a fact that irritated some neighborhood activists and advocacy groups.

Cerrell President Lisa Gritzner said in a statement that her firm pulled out because it did not want the commission to experience “unnecessary distractions.”

The third-place candidate was disqualified by the city’s lawyers because it has financial ties to political consultant Michael Trujillo, one of the commission’s members.

The commission is charged with drawing new boundaries for 15 council members, work that will have major implications for elected officials and the public. The panel is under the gun to hold several public hearings before Christmas and more in the new year.

Commissioner Jose Cornejo, former chief of staff to Councilman Tony Cardenas, urged the panel to find another company. But others voiced doubts that they could accomplish a proper recruitment effort with the clock running out.

“It’s not like we’ve got a lot of time,” said Commissioner Julie Downey, who was appointed by City Atty. Carmen Trutanich.

The panel voted to have its existing staff develop an alternative P.R. strategy.

The commission was already off to a turbulent start. Some on the council, including Councilman Bernard C. Parks, expressed displeasure with the panel’s decision to hire Andrew Westall, who until recently was a legislative deputy to Councilman Herb Wesson. Critics had questioned whether Westall would be inclined to draw district lines in a way favored by Wesson and his allies.

Meanwhile, neighborhood activists and advocacy groups had complained about the notion of lobbying firms handling part of the outreach to the public.

Dakota has represented such clients as Home Depot, Playa Vista and Providence Holy Cross Medical Center. Cerrell has 22 clients at City Hall, including Fresh and Easy, a grocery store company that has been trying to expand in various neighborhoods across the city, including the district where Westall was a legislative staffer.

Rick Taylor, a partner with Dakota, said his firm decided that it did not have the resources to work on so many hearings before the holidays. “We dropped out because we did not think it’s realistic,” he said.


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-- David Zahniser at Los Angeles City Hall