When EnviroReporter.com received an e-mail with this subject line from the office of Los Angeles City Councilman Greig Smith on Tuesday, August 11, we sat straight up in our chairs and thought “Uh-oh, what did we do wrong?”
But as we were to find out, the rant we were about to read confirmed to us what we have found wanting in the councilman’s office — competence, follow-through and, now, an insulting attitude toward the media.
The screed was in reaction to our August 7 post “Eating Trammell Crow?” which quoted Smith’s chief planning director, Phyllis Winger. She was talking to environmental activist Bill Bowling of the Aerospace Cancer Museum of Education in Chatsworth-Lake Manor, during a council meeting in the Van Nuys city hall annex for the city of Los Angeles.
Bowling and Winger were discussing the city council’s 12-0 vote to okay the green-lighting of the Corporate Pointe at West Hills project that was the subject of my March 5 LA Weekly article “The Valley’s Galaxy of Goo – City planners make a slick zone change for easy building on toxic lands.”
Bowling had asked Winger how Smith could possibly believe that the site was safe for further development without an Environmental Impact Report along with re-zoning to a category that allows more contamination to be acceptable onsite.
Winger’s response was clear and unambiguous: “Councilmember Smith feels that if the property was unsafe that the [Department of Toxic Substances Control] would have told him so.”
But apparently our use of Bowling’s quote wasn’t good enough for a prominent staff member from Councilman Smith’s office who wrote:
Dear Mr. Collins – without getting into the content of your story, I’d like to point out to you that your quote from Ms. Winger on our staff was so badly twisted out of context that it is utterly meaningless.
You said you left messages but we didn’t return your phone calls before posting. In about 5 seconds, you could have google searched “Greig Smith” + press release and you would have found my cell phone number on any of our 50 press releases on our website. I suggest you try that before you publish on your blog that “We called Smith’s office to confirm the quote but received no callback before posting.” Try next time putting a wee bit more effort into that. Thanks. [Name and title redacted]
We were surprised by this because Winger certainly spoke her mind and was unambiguous in addressing Bowling, who immediately wrote down what she said, verbatim, and called EnviroReporter.com.
Naturally, we responded to Councilman Smith’s aide:
How is the quote “Councilmember Smith feels that if the property was unsafe that the [Department of Toxic Substances Control] would have told him so” from Ms. Winger taken “so badly twisted out of context that it is utterly meaningless”?
Not only is that a legitimate and abundantly clear quote, sourced from the founder of the Aerospace Cancer Museum of Education which has received numerous government citations for excellence and for being of service to the community; it directly addressed the issue at hand. Are you suggesting that your staff can’t speak for itself? Ms. Winger certainly was precise in her statement which needed no elaboration, as far as we can tell.
However, if in your role as communications director for Councilmember Smith you feel you can address this issue better than your chief planning director, I invite you to explain the reason(s) Councilmember Smith voted to approve this project with no Environmental Impact Report and with a zoning change that allow higher levels of contamination at the site.
We will post this thread of communication, along with your verbatim comments and answers, to give the readers, many of which are residents in Councilman Smith’s district where Corporate Pointe at West Hills is located, the full story.
1. How was Ms. Winger’s statement that “Councilmember Smith feels that if the property was unsafe that the [Department of Toxic Substances Control] would have told him so” somehow “so badly twisted out of context that it is utterly meaningless”?
2. If this statement was inaccurate, or unclear, could you please clarify it?
3. Could your office explain why Councilmember Smith supported this project without an Environmental Impact Report and a zoning change that allows for higher levels of contamination at the site?
4. Could you explain why your office did not respond to the concerns of residents when our first article on this issue appeared in LA Weekly‘s “The Valley’s Galaxy of Goo – City planners make a slick zone change for easy building on toxic lands” such as in a communication to the paper?
5. Did your office inspect the information in support of this article on EnviroReporter.com available at http://www.enviroreporter.com/investigations/corporate-pointe/?
6. If so, what was your evaluation of this information, specifically?
7. According to Bowling and museum partner Christina Walsh, prior to the August 7 vote, your staff had been invited to visit the Aerospace Cancer Museum of Education in Chatsworth-Lake Manor to learn more about contamination at the Corporate Pointe at West Hills. Bowling and Walsh tell EnviroReporter.com that no one from your office has ever visited this facility. Could you explain why?
8. When this matter came to a vote August 7, there was no discussion among the councilmembers about this matter. Can you explain why?
9. Is your office comfortable that the sewer systems at the site have never been inspected for contamination?
10. Is your office comfortable that the vote on this project was taken before Raytheon completed its radiological survey of the groundwater that it will report to the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board?
My “journalistic practices” are well known. They are aimed at ferreting out the truth backed by fact. My readers expect this. That is why we are glad to provide you the opportunity to address these issues that are of concern to people living within or adjacent to your district.
We look forward to your reply as soon as possible.
cc: Denise Anne Duffield, EnviroReporter.com
So did we hear back from the piqued councilman’s aide? Nope. Would this aide have gotten back to us on a Friday afternoon, or even at all. Probably not. Did Bill Bowling, a longtime source and president of the Malibu Association of Realtors, get the quote wrong? No. Was there anything this aide could add? Doubtful.
Does the councilman have a comprehensive understanding on the environmental realities surrounding the development of a former aerospace and nuclear research site that is polluted with radiation, heavy metals and chemicals? Well, his vote answered that question.
We wish Councilman Greig Smith and his staff would have put “a wee bit more effort” into looking at the mountains of information about the Corporate Pointe at West Hills site that LA Weekly, EnviroReporter.com and the Aerospace Cancer Museum of Education have provided our readers and the public at large.