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L.A. councilmen question public relations spending for LAX work

Dennis Zine, a city controller candidate, and Bill Rosendahl seek a council review of the $4 million in contracts. The pacts were awarded by the Board of Airport Commissioners.

January 23, 2013|By Dan Weikel, Los Angeles Times
  • The Tom Bradley International Terminal under construction in May 2012, as part of an ongoing program of modernization at Los Angeles International Airport; a public relations campaign to highlight the LAX projects has drawn criticism.
The Tom Bradley International Terminal under construction in May 2012,… (Jay L. Clendenin, Los Angeles…)

Two City Council members on Wednesday demanded to know why the city's airport commission approved almost $4 million in contracts for a public relations campaign to highlight the ongoing modernization of Los Angeles International Airport.

Dennis Zine, a candidate for city controller, and Bill Rosendahl, whose district includes LAX, called for a council review of the three contracts, which were awarded without discussion by the Board of Airport Commissioners last week to companies that are not based in Los Angeles. The council has the power to overturn contracts awarded by city departments.

"I don't feel we should be spending about $4 million on public relations for the airport," Zine said during a news conference at City Hall. "But if the money is going to be spent, it should go to Los Angeles companies."

The airport commission awarded three-year contracts totaling about $3.9 million to the Phelps Group of Santa Monica, AdEase Inc. of San Diego and Nothing Films Inc. of Fountain Valley. They will be responsible for developing a public education campaign, buying advertising from media outlets and video productions respectively.

Airport officials say the contracts were awarded using a competitive process that included bids from companies based in Los Angeles. They contend that hiring private firms was necessary because the airport's media and communications department does not have enough staff or the expertise for the undertaking.

"Our board feels it is very important to inform the public about improvements at LAX that will affect them," said Mark Adams, the government affairs director for Los Angeles World Airports. "We think these are defensible contracts that have a good purpose."

Zine and Rosendahl further questioned the airport commission's decision to approve the three contracts without public discussion at its Jan. 14 meeting. The items had been placed on the consent calendar of the agenda, a spot reserved for routine items that are usually handled without much, if any, discussion.

"This is about transparency," Rosendahl said. "Confidence in government is at an all-time low. We are going to start asking real questions" about the contracts.

Zine and Rosendahl were joined in their criticism by Marshall McClain, head of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Assn., and Denny Schneider, executive director of the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion. The group has been an opponent of LAX expansion plans.

They asserted that the money for public relations could be better spent on more important things, such as airport security, improving the traffic flow around LAX, supporting the FlyAway bus service and promoting L.A./Ontario International Airport, which has suffered a dramatic decline in passengers.

dan.weikel@latimes.com

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