Thrown under the bus, Arc sues Redevelopment

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Arc's Community Window on the Shipyard office will be moving to Evans Street, this winter
Sarah Phelan
Arc Saul Bloom (right, opening door for DeWitt Lacy, left) will move from his Third St. office this winter, after losing Redevelopment contract

Arc Ecology filed suit today in federal court against the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, citing First Amendment issues and the Commission’s alleged retaliation for Arc’s criticism of the Agency’s Candlestick Point/ Hunters Point Shipyard project

Represented by attorneys from the First Amendment Project, Arc said the purpose of the suit is to hold the Redevelopment Commission accountable on two counts. First, for attaching an unconstitutional condition to the contract that requires silence from its contractors on matters of public concern outside the scope of the contract and second, for taking reprisal actions against Arc Ecology for its award-winning critique of the Candlestick Point Hunters Point Shipyard Redevelopment Plan.

 Redevelopment commissioners threw Arc under the bus this September, when they rejected the recommendation of Agency staff, an independent interagency selection panel, the Hunters Point Citizens Advisory Committee and dozens of Bayview Hunters Point and San Francisco residents to rehire Arc to provide environmental technical and educational services for the cleanup of the shipyard.

At that same meeting, the Commissioners voted to award the contract to Circle Point, a San Francisco-based consulting company that Commissioner Francee Covington worked for, in support of a bridge project near Sacramento, several years earlier.

During the Commission’s Sept. 21 meeting, Commissioners Leroy King, Francee Covington and Darshan Singh joined Commission President Rick Swig in calling for Arc’s ouster, variously accusing Arc’s executive director Saul Bloom of disloyalty and dishonesty, but failing to support their claims with evidence related to the contract in question.

“I’m opposed to giving the contract to Arc,” Commissioner King said, accusing Bloom of talking, “against Lennar." But Lennar is the developer for the city’s massive Candlestick Point/Shipyard project, and as such it is not in charge of the Navy's clean-up of the shipyard.

Commissioner Covington pulled out the city’s response to comments on its EIR (environmental impact report) for Lennar’s redevelopment plans, as alleged evidence of Arc's malfaisance, even though the non-profit's  Redevelopment contract involved assessing environmental issues related to the Navy’s shipyard clean-up, and not assessing rLennar's redevelopment proposal.Covington then pointed to, but did not identify, letters she claimed were from individuals who alleged their names were falsely included in a letter supporting Arc’s EIR comments.

(The Guardian subsequently discovered that these missives were form letters. Both were written in identical language. Naim Harrison, who works for Positive Directions, which sent the city one of the form letters, told the Guardian that he signed Arc’s EIR letter, which asked for more time to review the city’s draft EIR. "It seemed a reasonable request," Harrison said. But Positive Directions director Cedric Akbar, who sent the form complaint letters and was running as a candidate in the hotly contested D10 race, did not return the Guardian's repeated calls.)

Commission President Swig, a hotel and tourism industry consultant, sought to frame Arc, which was hired as an independent non-profit, as an ungrateful consultant. “As a consultant myself, I don’t agree with all my customers, but I don’t bite the hand that feeds me,” Swig said.
Then the Commission voted 4-0 to reject Arc and award the contract to Circle Point, instead.

“The Redevelopment Commission’s punishment of Arc Ecology sends a message to all contractors that they must now lie for the Commission.” Bloom stated in a Dec. 6 press release. “Just listen to the Agency’s own web-audio of the Commission’s September 21st meeting. This unelected, unaccountable legislative body, one of only a handful of such Commissions in California, is attempting to put responsible criticism in the deep freeze.”

“No matter that the subject of our commentary was outside the scope of our contract, no matter that purpose of the contract was to provide the community with an independent view of the decision-making regarding the Shipyard’s cleanup, and no matter that its own staff found our analysis helpful, the Commission’s action states clearly they prefer public relations to transparency,” Bloom continued. “This is a governmental body with a duty to uphold speech not their private business. The Commission has given notice that to contract with the Agency be prepared to kiss the First Amendment goodbye.”

Arc and the First Amendment Project say their lawsuit will also demonstrate that the Office of Economic and Workforce Development “clearly biased the applicant evaluation score against Arc Ecology but failed in its attempt to rig the recommendation of the Selection Panel” and that the Redevelopment Commissioners “falsely stated the Commission’s policy as always awarding contracts to the highest scoring applicant – even if the difference is only two tenths of one percent out of a possible score of 100.”

First Amendment Project staff attorney Geoffrey King told the Guardian that Arc's suit focuses on two distinct areas of concern.

"First, there was the attachment of an unconstitutional condition to Arc's contract, and then there was the taking of retalitory action," King said. "We allege that statements that Arc made were wholly outside the scope of its contract. But even if its statements were inside the scope of its contract, Arc was hired to be a watch dog and not a lap dog. Arc's role within that process was to be an independent voice. You can't condition funding on someone's silence over something they were not contracting for."

You could impose conditions like that, King says, if the government hired a public relations firm to disseminate an approved message.

'That's where you can control the content," King said. "But if the government is hiring you to be independent, it can't get mad at you for providing answers it doesn't like."

"And nobody accused Arc of a breach of the duty of loyalty," King continued, noting that Bloom asked Redevelpment Agency staffers if he was in a breach, and was told that he was not.

"It's pretty stark when you look at the transcripts of that Redvelopment Commission meeting what the real issue was," King said.

Comments

Sarah, glad to get my 2c in before all the nameless neanderthal "guests" start getting their knickers twisted and frothing through their hoods. Thanks again for your ongoing work of 'exposing' the corruption in this town, simply by reporting the truth. The art and craft of 'investigative journalism' is a critical, but vanishing, prerequisite for even the most diluted democracy.
Back to FCJ.
Yours sincerely,
The ever and always arrogant, opinionated, curmudgeonly and up front,
Patrick Monk. RN. (yes by god RN, and damn proud of it.)
PS. "Guest". I give thanks for rent control. It frees me up so that I can afford to pay my mother-in-laws mortgage.

Posted by Guest. Patrick Monk.RN on Dec. 06, 2010 @ 10:49 am

ARC Ecology was content to participate in the cavalcade of redevelopment so long as there was a piece of the action in place for them.

If one were to calculate the net impacts on the community and evaluate that against the net positives with ARC Ecology continuing to get paid, then the negs would far outweigh the positives.

When the progressivism of a project is calculated by the amount of money that goes to an unaccountable nonprofit, we offer up a convenient hook for corporate power to claim that it is working with the community and the nonprofit provides a fig leaf to continued gentrification and profiteering.

It is also worth noting that any time that a nonprofit become synonymous with an individual, that is a good indication that the nonprofit is coopted by the ego of the individual.

-marc

Posted by marcos on Dec. 07, 2010 @ 2:28 am

What Mr. Bloom is experiencing is called "constructive retaliation". I experienced the same when I was employed by a US EPA subcontractor in 2005. I wrote an article in a sparsely distributed shipyard cleanup newsletter in June 2005 that talked about the presence of "naturally occurring asbestos" (NOA) that could be disturbed by Lennar's demolition activities at Parcel A of the Hunters Point shipyard. After submitting my newsletter in early June to US EPA for their review I received a terse e-mail back asking why I was even raising the issue of the NOA. I went ahead and published the newsletter anyways because I thought it was important to let the community know about this hazard. Needless to say I was fired withing 60 days. Subsequently I filed a whistleblower complaint against US EPA with US OSHA who dismissed my complaint which I appeal to US DOL who denied my complaint after they had found I in fact qualified as a US EPA employee to bring the complaint. The whistle blower complaint has been at the US DOE ARB for over six months now.

Sarah I know I'm a fool to believe that our United States government really still works for the people and not devil corporations like Lennar. I guess that's why I still believe in Agels...like you and me and many of your readers. As one angel to another could you ask the Guardian angel to let you shine a little sunshine on how our government(s) retaliate against the evil they are funding with taxpayers' money?

Posted by Angel5 on Dec. 07, 2010 @ 12:54 pm

Let's try that again: Who said angels are perfect?

Sarah I know I'm a fool to believe that our United States government really still works for the people and not devil corporations like Lennar. I guess that's why I still believe in Angels...like you and me and many of your readers. As one angel to another could you ask the Guardian angel to let you shine a little sunshine on how our government(s) retaliate against whistleblowers who fight the evil they are funding with taxpayers' money?

Posted by Angel5 on Dec. 07, 2010 @ 12:59 pm

Let's try that again: Who said angels are perfect?

Sarah I know I'm a fool to believe that our United States government really still works for the people and not devil corporations like Lennar. I guess that's why I still believe in Angels...like you and me and many of your readers. As one angel to another could you ask the Guardian angel to let you shine a little sunshine on how our government(s) retaliate against whistleblowers who fight the evil they are funding with taxpayers' money?

Posted by Angel5 on Dec. 07, 2010 @ 1:00 pm