Blame somebody ... anybody ... blame the flak corp

Submitted: Jul 04, 2011
By: 
Badlands Journal editorial board

Quentin Kopp, a durable dope in California politics for at least four decades, apparently led the charge of the state's high-speed rail commission to blame its PR firm for the purblic's accurately dim view of the high-speed rail project, the first leg of which will be built in the only backyard along the route where opposition is unlikely -- the feudal agribusiness baronies south San Joaquin Valley.

In truth, public perception of the high-speed rail commissioners, its ethically challenged staff, the strong-arm tactics excluding the public from its "public" meetings, and the general lying that pervaded the entire project from the bond act forward, would have taken more than any PR firm could have been expected to spin, suppress, etc. But wait, there is one PR firm, Burson-Marstellar, that was able to convince media throughout the nation that California was experiencing a "man-made" drought on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley that was costing tens of thousands of jobs, destroying agriculure as we know it, causing disruptions in world food markets -- you name it, B-M claimed it and found some fool with a TV show or a job with the New York Times to buy it. Yet none of it was true.

We are not holding our breath for the next barrage of the well-known substance about the famous high-speed rail system that is destined to make California as modern as China.

Badlands Journal editorial board

7-1-11

Contra Costa Times

P.R. firm in charge of selling California's $43 billion high-speed rail project resigns…Mike Rosenberg mrosenberg@mercurynews.com

http://www.contracostatimes.com/california/ci_18387831

The public relations firm making big bucks to sell the state's $43 billion high-speed rail project quit after finding out it was about to be fired, officials disclosed Thursday.

Ogilvy Public Relations had signed a 4½-year, $9 million contact with the California High-Speed Rail Authority in 2009 but some officials think the firm hasn't earned the money.

Although the project has major political and union backers, it suffers from significant statewide and even national perception issues, especially among Republicans, fiscal conservatives and Peninsula residents. Most recently, the GOP-led House Budget Committee bestowed its "boondoggle award" upon the project, while others have called the initial leg of construction in the Central Valley "the train to nowhere" and Peninsula cities have sued to stop the Bay Area-to-Southern California rail line.

Leading the crusade against Ogilvy was former rail authority Chairman Quentin Kopp, a Peninsula judge and former San Francisco legislator, who has said the PR firm charged the state thousands of dollars for simple tasks such as a few hours of reading news articles. He also accused them of over-billing the authority several hours for brief meetings.

Rail authority leaders had planned to ask the agency's board on July 14 to fire Ogilvy and search for a new PR firm. But Ogilvy leaders apparently caught wind of the news, first circulated internally on Monday, and by Thursday morning rail authority CEO Roelof van Ark had received the firm's resignation letter.

"We are unable to develop a solid working relationship with your agency, and that impeded the kind of top-notch work we are accustomed to providing our clients," Michael Law, Ogilvy PR's West Coast managing director wrote to van Ark.

Reached late Thursday, Law said the firm "elected" to leave the contract but still "believes in the project."

Rail authority Deputy Director Jeff Barker said the agency has budgeted $2.3 million for PR in the fiscal year that began Friday. Rail planners will be launching a search for a new PR firm this month and consider communications and outreach to be critical.

"We think it's prudent for our board to take stock of our current efforts and make sure we have the best team moving forward, reaching out to everyone who has a stake in this historic project," Barker said.

The state will spend more than $5 billion to begin construction on its biggest project next summer in the Central Valley. If officials can secure the tens of billions of dollars needed to fund the rest of the project, bullet trains will run along the Caltrain corridor between San Francisco and San Jose on their way to Anaheim starting around 2020.

 

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