Burke, Williams, Sorensen

     On August 14, the Rosemead City Council, meeting as the Community Development Commission, voted 4-0 to negotiate a deal with Burke, Williams, Sorensen, LLP to serve as redevelopment attorney.  The law firm's home page is here:  http://www.bwslaw.com/

    Gary Taylor did not attend the CDC meeting, took no part in the interview process, and did not cast a vote among the applicants.

     The motion to hire BWS came from Clark, with Low seconding the motion.  Nunez offered a substitute motion to hire Alvarez-Glasman & Colvin, which was seconded by Tran.  The substitute motion died on a 2-2 vote.  The original motion was then adopted unanimously.

     All five of the applicants sent representatives to interview with the CDC.  Some of the representatives were more senior than others.  All were multi-cultural, and all claimed some connection with the San Gabriel Valley in general, and usually with Rosemead, in particular.  Also, somewhat interestingly, all of the firms that were asked said they would not bill the city for travel time.

     I say that's interesting because, in the big scheme of things, travel time is a pretty small portion of the total dollar-cost of a law firm representating either the city overall or the CDC in particular.  [Travel costs were probably no more than 3-5% of the last attorney fees bill that several council members expressed great concerned about].  Nonetheless, all five firms were smart enough to see that the only real argument against adopting a separate law firm for the CDC would be that now we'd have to pay for the travel time of two different lawyers.  They also know that, when it comes to technical issues that the mass public doesn't know a lot about, the key is always to pick something simple that the public can relate to and focus on that.

     The interview process was also interesting to watch.  In practice, five questions were asked of all applicants:  1)  Introduce yourself and your law firm; 2) Give an example of a successful development project you worked on; 3) Tell us something that you did NOT include in your response to the Request For Qualifications (RFQ); 4) Why should we pick your firm instead of one of your competitors?; 5) What experience does your firm have with eminent domain?

     From a public perspective, I thought the more effective responses to (2) were those that presented projects from neighboring cities.  The better responses to (4) included efforts to show that the firm was especially qualified to be successful in Rosemead and the SGV rather than just generally.  The best response to (5) was to stress that, while eminent domain would be a last and reluctant resort, that they were experienced in using ED as a tool for redevelopment.

     Regarding #5, I'm a little surprised that only BWS managed to give the "right" answer.  Given the popular misconceptions about eminent domain, that seemed to me to be the obvious answer.  Instead, the other four applicants focused on cases where they utilized eminent domain to make a project happen.  Meanwhile, only Alvarez-Glasman (A-G) managed to also address the issue of regulatory takings, also called inverse condemnation.

     There's no way to know if the BWS answer to #5 was actually important in determining anyone's vote (it was asserted to be a reason by Clark, but I tend to think that she, like the other council members, had a pretty good idea which firm she was going to support before anyone even opened their mouths.

Burke, Williams, Sorensen

Thanks for the summary, Todd. I'm sure all the firms are reading this to brush up on their interviewing. All of a sudden, everyone's under the microscope.

That ED answer was pretty diplomatic. I'm sure it made no difference, because it's going to be difficult for any city in this area to develop without a little ED now and then. It's just good to know the attorneys are aware of the public paranoia about ED. I heard that an ED issue was what got Taylor and Imperial into office many years ago.

They (the pro-Wal-Mart side) even brought up the issue a few time during the Wal-Mart fights. I really don't think most people cared, as ED was not pertinent to the issue.

Burke, Williams, Sorensen

     No doubt that Taylor and Imperial rode the "no eminent domain" horse to power, over thirty years ago.  And they keep trotting out that old pony whenever they can.

     It's really pretty surprising to me that lawyers (who, as we know, are also frequently either politicians or contributors to politicians or both) would be dumb enough to answer an eminent domain question asked in a public session from a strictly lawyerly perspective and not also as a politician.  This is particularly true when the blogs and newspapers worked so hard to turn the hiring into an even more political act than it already was.

     I can't know whether the BWS response REALLY made a difference, either.  But it certainly provides political cover to councilmembers who were inclined to support them, anyway.

     As to their hiring, I think it's definitely a victory for the local blogs.  Alvarez-Glasman really shot himself in the foot, first with the letter to www.thefcblog.com, then to pull the papers to run for Montebello's treasurer.  Those things probably had no effect on Clark's vote (she wasn't going to vote for A-G, anyway), but they may have been enough to sway Low.

     I also think it was a victory for Low, who has shown on several occasions that she can make up her own mind (this does not surprise me in the least, but it might be news to some of the less enlightened observers of our city council).

     I am not sure if it is a victory for the city of Rosemead.  No where in any of the discussion I saw on the blogs or the papers was their any discussion of the QUALIFICATIONS of the law firms in the field of redevelopment law.  No one ever asked which firm would cost more or which had a better record on successfully bringing comprehensive redevelopment to their respective cities.

     I'm not saying the city made the wrong choice.  It might very well have made the right choice.  But if it did make the right choice, it may not have made that choice for the right reasons.