Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Week Ahead: Aug. 9-13

New Feature

Starting today, PR in LA will post every weekend its best (ha!) predictions about a few, select anticipated events, news and other actions that public relations professionals should watch, run away from or will be unable to avoid because they are part of it. (Feel free to tell the editor what he's missing)

So, here goes:

Water in California
Monday, Aug. 9.
In an unprecedented event, the CA Legislature is expected to vote on bills to remove the $11 billion water bond from the November ballot. Opponents want to keep Prop. 18 on the ballot... so it can be defeated. Prop. 18 was shaping up to be another famous and expensive CA ballot battle, which meant good revenue news for a few public affairs agencies, video companies and advertising agencies. Organized labor was gearing up to defeat it, which meant the same good revenue news for those agencies on that side. This battle was growing. It even had DC-based groups getting into the act.

WHY IMPORTANT: Hundreds of local water agencies used the ballot measure - and the multiple news stories about "dire" water future - to ask customers to reduce water use. It's a lot easier to get people to act when water is in the news all the time. With the "buzz" gone, agencies must scramble to find new ways to catch the attention of their customers to keep them "water efficient." Plus, the ballot measure had loosely defined money for education and outreach programs, which could have meant contracts for PR/PA agencies for at least 5 years or longer. (Unless these funds get "lost" like relief aid to Haiti).

PREDICTION: Legislature will pull it from the ballot. Opponents will now gather themselves for less visible and more scientific-based battles, like the "Delta Stewardship Council" and water flow reports (Read: only the water geeks will follow). Water PR goes local and will be spotty, at best. Agencies would be smart to start meeting with local water utilities to plan for 2011 outreach plans, develop budgets and convince utility officials of the importance of "investing" in customer good will now for future rate hikes and, perhaps, a ballot measure in 2012.

Thursday, Aug. 12.
The city of Los Angeles is still limping along trying to shed its dependence on coal and natural gas as a source of power, and keep up its efforts to create more green energy production. The battle plan for this is the agency's "integrated resource plan," just released last month. No surprise: it's going to cost $3 billion or more to not only seek new, greener power, but to also maintain aging infrastructure (i.e. "reliability."). Translation: rate hikes.

WHY IMPORTANT: Public outreach is critical. The LADWP has been beaten up severely in the past for not doing enough to warn customers or get them engaged in the rate process. Add to this the battle between the City Council and LADWP over the last rate request. DWP has a new leader and how he handles this IRP and outreach effort will likely be highly scrutinized. (We hope someone notices). A kick-off workshop on Thursday, Aug. 12, should garner some news media coverage, unless another celebrity is thrown in jail.

PREDICTION: It's still a no-win situation for LADWP. The November CA ballot has Prop. 23, designed to remove aggressive greenhouse gas emission reduction efforts promoted by our governor. This battle is raising doubts about green mandates hurting economic recovery. Uncertainly over how hard to push for alternative energy sources, at least for the next few months, will make it extremely difficult for LADWP to promote a realistic energy plan to the public. And, the IRP is a complicated document to communicate. Plus, most utilities simply hold "workshops" (rather than aggressively promote them) to "comply" with outreach requirements. If Thursday's initial workshop gets a large turnout (public and media), then public opinion may turn toward LADWP's favor.

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