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Reports Reveal Additional Consulting & Lobbying by Brigid Shea


by: Karl-Thomas Musselman

Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 04:37 PM CDT


Last Thursday, Burnt Orange Report broke the story that Brigid Shea had received over $500,000 in contracts with the City of Austin over the past decade as a consultant on a number of environmental projects and programs. Shea was also part of a failed bid to serve as a public relations subcontractor in 2002 for an alternative proposed plan to construct Austin's 4th Water Treatment Plant. Since that time, In Fact Daily, the Austin Chronicle, the Austin Bulldog, and KVUE news have reported on these facts, uncovering additional consulting contracts with the LCRA worth over $125,000 (pdf).

These facts remain undisputed. Brigid Shea's response continues to evolve to the point of deliberate distortion.

In KVUE's excellent piece of "journalism" last night, reporter Morgan Chesky questioned Shea directly on her contracts. Her response is well worth the 3 minutes it takes to watch this report.

For those who can't watch the story at work, here is Shea's response (excluding her quote that we are just "desperate to not talk about the real issues addressing the city" without any further explanation as to what those are.)

When KVUE brought up this issue at her campaign headquarters, Shea said she didn't know her business was ever involved.

"So when you see 'Brigid Shea and Associates' listed as a subcontractor you did present a bid?" KVUE News asked. "Apparently I was part of that bid proposal, but like I said, I have no record of it," Shea answered.

Brigid Shea's official stance is that she has no record of 'Brigid Shea & Associates" having been a part of the 2002 failed bid to build Austin's 4th Water Treatment Plant in East Austin, but somehow she "apparently" was a part of it?

The facts are quite clear here. Brigid Shea & Associates was created by Brigid Shea, as reported by the Austin Business Journal in 2000. Environmental activist Robin Rather was quoted as saying Shea would be "the perfect person with exactly the right skills set to be providing this type of consulting service." And in case Shea misplaced her paperwork, here is the listing of her company as part of the 2002 WTP4 East Austin bid.

But even more interesting was new information uncovered by KVUE that suggests Brigid Shea may have failed to register as a lobbyist with the city in 2011. From their report which was the lead story on last night's news.

A tip to KVUE News questioned whether Shea legally registered as a city lobbyist for work performed in 2011.

In her annual statement of financial information form, Shea acknowledged Austin's American Youth Hostel paid her $11,000 last year. Shea admits she was hired to promote the hostel and raise money for it, as it struggled to keep operating on city parkland. She denies any lobbying.

"No, I did not. That was not part of my job," Shea said.

Shea admits to meeting with city officials outside council meetings on behalf of the youth hostel. Law requires you to register as a lobbyist if you trying to influence or persuade a city official. Shea, however, maintains her job was strictly an adviser.

If the law requires you to register as a lobbyist if you are trying to influence or persuade a city official, and Shea "admits to meeting with city officials outside council meetings on behalf of the youth hostel" which "paid her $11,000 last year" to "promote the hostel and raise money for it as it struggled to keep operating on city parkland"... how does that not meet the definition of being a lobbyist?

KVUE's questions, like ours, are not unreasonable. Shea has made transparency on of the central issues of her challenge to Leffingwell as stated on her campaign website.

I want a City Hall where all citizens, regardless of their status, are welcomed, and listened to. I want to cut back the influence of lobbyists and special interest campaign money. It corrupts the process when those who are financing the incumbent's campaigns are the same ones reaping millions in city contracts and deals. I'll introduce true transparency and tougher contribution limits.

Shea's campaign continues to assert one reality for 2012 that conflicts with her own actions, statements, and work over the past decade. Once again, we are left with the question- "Which Brigid is it?"

For the voters' sake, let's hope we find out before the election on May 12th.

Previously on Burnt Orange Report

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Three cheers for KTM! (3.00 / 1)
This is quite a pelt to collect.  I wonder how many days it will take for the Statesman to chime in and acknowledge that they too are taking their cues from a lowly blogger in his bathrobe/basement.  

So this election now becomes a perfect test.  The ANC-SOS axis that has dominated Austin politics in recent years now has one of their grand poobahs exposed as an utter fraud on their central issue during that period of dominance.  Apparently "Edward Abbey's call to action" only applies if the offending water treatment plant is on the west side of town.  (http://www.sosalliance.org/water-infrastructure/210-stop-the-billion-mistake-on-the-lake-in-person-thursday-at-city-hall)  This anti-density, pro-middle-aged, single-family-homeowner coalition that masquerades as an environmental organization is A-OK with putting a water treatment plant on the east side where the black and brown folks live and the ANC and SOS membership doesn't live.  

The details of her argument defending her position in 2002 are just laughable.  The Austin Metro area had half a million fewer people in 2002, and in the meantime the Green plan was decommissioned and the Davis plant went eight years past its 50-year life span, and now the Ullrich plant is seven years away from hitting its life span date.  Is there any doubt that SOS would not oppose WPT4 if it were on the east side, environmental impacts be damned?

So the naked self-interest of the SOS set is clear for all to see.  It's simply a question of turnout.  The ANC-SOS coalition mobilized 20,000 people in the Place 3 runoff last year.  Can Leffingwell find 21,000 people who actually want what's best for Austin to overcome the ANC-SOS bloc?  Or are we hopelessly condemned to be ruled forever by the "Sierra Club members" in Bouldin Creek and Zilker who are delighted to see the rest of us move to Round Rock and Circle C as long as the environment for their property values does not suffer an adverse impact?  

And there is a more fundamental issue of what coalition can form to displace the ANC-SOS "activists"?  Maybe this blatant hypocrisy will be enough to engage a broader swath of voters, and demonstrate that the interests of smart, green, affordable, dense development are aligned with young professionals, young families and the minority communities on the east side that are currently getting gentrified at an alarming rate, and against the ANC-SOS single family homeowners uber alles theory of urban planning.  


Not on the east side (0.00 / 0)
Reading the pdf on the bid now and I realize I mistook the office location of engineers to be the proposed site in 2002.  My mistake. So I guess the location itself had nothing to do with this apparent complete 180 by Shea, but I'm not sure that really improves the credibility of her rebuttal in the Austin Bulldog.  It just makes the rabid opposition of the ANC and SOS seem that much more nonsensical.  And that's to say nothing of all of the abject hypocrisy surrounding her campaing messaging on the evils of lobbyists and their dastardly city contracts.

[ Parent ]
Rebuttal in the Bulldog (0.00 / 0)
While others have cited the Bulldog's piece as where Shea's rebuttal lies, I have trouble finding where that is in the story. Many of the quotes have already been publicly stated already- if I have overlooked this, please highlight her response.

Her response on a number of fronts has been to say that what has been written or said is simply not true or a distortion. Her explanations are simply a retelling of the story- not a counter argument that debunks the claim made from simple facts printed on paper.  


[ Parent ]
Her rebuttal is about 13 paragraphs in. (3.00 / 1)
I didn't say it was a good rebuttal.  A large degree of SOS-ANC magical thinking is required to support her claim that your post "seriously misrepresented the facts...to the point of deliberate distortion."  I think it reasonable for her to point out that this was a bid to advise on the environmental impact for the first engineering report on the site. And if we bend over backwards to be charitable, taking the SOS budget projections as credible, and we assume that there's some reasonable basis to believe the 200-280M figure in the bid materials, the purported cost of this project would have been substantially less than the figures that SOS likes to toss off about WT4. But that additional context falls far short of making the post a "deliberate distortion."

Bending further backward to make her argument, she could claim that her value as a PR consultant was to provide an accurate forecast of the response from environmentalists.  That was essentially the service she performed for the LCRA.  So it's not as if she was going to be calling press conferences to sing the praises of the project in 2002.  She would be warning the city of potential for blowback.  But if that's the basis of her claim that the story is a distortion, then she's essentially saying that she would collect money to do PR consulting for a project that she wouldn't personally support, which still leaves her looking like a lobbyist with principles that yield to a financial opportunity.

The rest of her rebuttal supports the idea that she favored WPT4 in 2002, further undermining the notion that the original post was a distortion:

"She stated that in 2001, the city reached its highest water use ever, and citizens thought at the time the plant might be necessary. However, by 2010 Austin's water use had leveled out, and she felt the city did not need to invest in construction of another plant.
Shea added that she did not apply for any contract in 2010 when the project was put out for bid, and insists that she's been consistent in her criticism of the project."

This is essentially the same argument that SOS-ANC have always made.  Funny how the subject of the very advanced age of the Davis and Ulrich plants, or the closing of the Green plant never gets addressed in their arguments on this topic.

When I read those quotes in Austin Bulldog I didn't think "oh, she's got a solid answer on this."  I thought, "they didn't expect this line of attack and it strikes a nerve."  


[ Parent ]
Eastside after all... (0.00 / 0)
I was in a rush to leave work and get home yesterday and didn't get a chance to look through everything from last week, but it was in the Chron's story on KTM's post (not Barbaro's silly, inaccurate, blatantly biased slam piece).  Apparently the group Shea worked with wanted WPT4 on the eastside.  http://www.austinchronicle.com...

"Shea has acknowledged that she did some work for the CH2M Hill engineering firm in relation to its failed 2002 bid to work on the plant. But she says the CH2M Hill group was the only one "urging the city to pursue sites away from West Travis County." And though the group hadn't picked a location by the time it lost the bid, Shea says, it would have looked east for alternatives. (In 2006, a proposal to site the new plant at Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Metropolitan Park in return for parks funding was withdrawn by the city after opposition from both the Austin Parks Foundation and some East Austin activists.)"

I couldn't figure out where I got that from yesterday, but I thought I might have jumped to the conclusion given the ANC-SOS general penchant for limiting their environmental activism to projects that affect their property values.  Good to know I'm not going crazy and they are holding true to form.


[ Parent ]
Leffingwell's coalition to replace the ANC-SOS coalition (0.00 / 0)
Re: your observations that:

  So the naked self-interest of the SOS set is clear for all to see.  It's simply a question of turnout.  The ANC-SOS coalition mobilized 20,000 people in the Place 3 runoff last year.  Can Leffingwell find 21,000 people who actually want what's best for Austin to overcome the ANC-SOS bloc?  Or are we hopelessly condemned to be ruled forever by the "Sierra Club members" in Bouldin Creek and Zilker who are delighted to see the rest of us move to Round Rock and Circle C as long as the environment for their property values does not suffer an adverse impact?  

And there is a more fundamental issue of what coalition can form to displace the ANC-SOS "activists"?
--------------------------------------------------------
What makes you think that Leffingwell won't muster essentially the same coalition that backed Randi Shade and other establishment candidates? That coalition consists of
the Real Estate Council of Austin, the client list of the  Armbrust & Brown lobby shop, the Brown McCarrol firm, the top brass at the Chamber of Commerce, the pillars of the big business elite like Endeavor Real Estate Group, the contractors and vendors at city hall such as Bury & Partners, all listed as bundlers for Leffingwell. Also in that coalition are: BOR and the usual lineup of Establishment hacks, political consultants and functionaries on the payroll of various labor and governmental entities who always stand in solidarity with the downtrodden masses at the Real Estate Council of Austin in its valiant fight for the average homeowners and aspiring young families who have long been oppressed by the tight grip over city hall maintained over many years by ANC and the Sierra Club. What planet do you inhabit? Yeah, and war is peace.

  Dave Shapiro    


[ Parent ]
Yes, tight grip. (0.00 / 0)
VMU was downgraded into nothing. Neighborhood plans that called for no actual increased density were rubber-stamped. McMansion, which allows Laura Morrison her mansion but doesn't allow me 2401 square feet, was pushed through.

The ANC has gotten just about everything they wanted for years. Amazingly, they blame the 1% they didn't get for 100% of our problems.


[ Parent ]
"The ANC has gotten just about everything they wanted for years!?" (0.00 / 0)
Please tell us the last time the ANC had a working majority of its endorsed candidates on the City Council? Second question: wasn't it Brewster Establishment McCracken that
fathered the McMansion?  

A favorite narrative of the crowd that lines-up with RECA
and the Armbrust & Brown lobby shop is that that Austin has gone to hell in a hand basket because, variously, ANC and/or the liberals control city hall. That's bovine scatology.(BS, get it?) It won't stand even one minute of close scrutiny. Establishment-types have won every race for mayor and a majority of city council elections for at least the last 25-years. Last time I looked, Morrison and Tovo were a minority of two on the critical issues that divide ANC/SOS/SIERRA CLUB from RECA/ARMBRUST & BROWN/THE ESTABLISHMENT>    

Your narrative has about as much merit as KT's claim that there are a now competing groups of different environmentalists in town. Yeah, there's the Sierra Club and SOS on one side and then there's the Establishment Environmentalists which consists of the usual suspects, the two people running BOR, the hirelings and consultants and political operatives for the candidates endorsed by RECA and developers who want the city to subsidize roads to their projects and also advance their efforts to destroy neighborhoods in the name of "density" and "New Urbanism." But that "New Urbanism" is really old Establishment bovine
scatology with a thick layer of lipstick on the pig.  

  Dave Shapiro    


[ Parent ]
tl;dr (0.00 / 0)
Your fevered rantings aren't an actual rebuttal to my claims.

The main changes over the last 10 years were VMU (an attempt to add density which the ANC successfully killed, for all intents and purposes); McMansion (part of a supposed deal for VMU); and neighborhood plans (which apart from a few exceptions ended up as "don't change a thing, ever").

The fact that the McMansion ordinance was supported by most of the council proves my point, not yours; it's an anti-density anti-all-change modification to the code that was originally supposed to be part of a deal where we at least got VMU on the arterials. Then the council didn't have the guts to hold fast on the VMU, which ended up watered down to irrelevance.

The ANC got what they wanted.


[ Parent ]
Who are you kidding? Are you saying that ANC policies have been enacted by city councils dominated by RECA-endorsed candidates? (0.00 / 0)

Is it your position that after being elected with the endorsement of RECA, the financial support of its PAC,and   essentially the same bundlers now raising money for Leffingwell and Martinez, those winning candidates turned around and voted for the policies advocated by ANC? Truly amazing! ANC and the Sierra Club seem to be unaware of the great clout that they wield at City Hall. None of their officers gives the impression that they have ever controlled the agenda there. On the contrary, they complain about losing on the critical issues, either 5-2 or 4-3. I've never heard anyone at ANC or the Sierra Club brag about pulling out a victory over RECA and Armbrust & Brown on any major issue before the city council. Quite the contrary, they lick their wounds on the ANC listserve.  What you've written won't do much to cheer them up, I'm afraid. Nor will it persuade them to your view that they exercise tremendous influence over the passage of controversial measures on the council's agenda.  

    Dave Shapiro  


[ Parent ]
Reading comprehension (0.00 / 0)
The ANC got their desired policy - because they got McMansion and the other part of the 'deal' (VMU) got eroded down to nothing.

The fact that they didn't get their desired RESULTS (at least for those who actually care about affordable housing and aren't just using it as a shield, like Morrison) is because their policy won't actually work.


[ Parent ]
Be serious. Two words: Planning Commission (0.00 / 0)
The process of implementing VMU gives the Planning Commission an effective density veto and it's unquestionably dominated by the ANC.  There is no colorable argument that the ANC's representatives working through the Planning Commission have done anything other than oppose density at every turn.  As far as the ANC is concerned, that's the purpose of the Planning Commission--well, that and gutting the city's tax base by designating every stick of wood and slab of concrete it can find as an "historic home"--and the results are plain to see.  Austin continues to sprawl out to Circle C, Lakeway and Cedar Park.  Traffic is insane (but nonetheless high speed bus is an unacceptable infringement on the quiet enjoyment of Tarrytown and Clarksville homeowners), and AISD closes schools and does more with less.  Add it all up and young families leave in droves.  This is simple math.  http://www.austincontrarian.co...

The dumbest part about all of this is that you and your ANC ilk, Mike and I can probably all agree that certain developers are not the best stewards of the city either. If we were able to work together we could probably come up with some parameters and conditions on development that would promote smart, affordable density and preserve any snail darters that get caught up in the mix. But instead your faction has dug in its heels so deep and gotten completely caught up in all it's warmed over hippie bullshit about fighting the man, that you don't even realize the harm you're doing.  The first step to recovery is for your team to realize that preserving the "neighborhood character" of zilker is not the most important civic value one can hold in Austin.  In fact it's a bullshit excuse for the Kathie Tovos of the world to bitch about the multi-family dwelling next to her investment property that's "obstructing the view."  


[ Parent ]
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