Even for San Diego’s city hall, which has become a bastion of secrecy during the reign of Mayor Jerry Sanders, an ex–chief of police known for his aversion to public scrutiny, it would be an audacious move: to quietly turn over all of the City’s streetlights to a private company from Long Beach, the mayor’s hometown. But that’s the deal that may be afoot behind closed doors in the mayor’s well-appointed 11th-floor offices.
Sanders, who already wants to sell off the City-operated Miramar Landfill, has been obliging to friends in the private sector who have backed his political career with generous cash contributions. One of the foremost is Richard Ledford, the well-connected lobbyist who is representing City Light & Power, a privately owned outfit that has operated Long Beach’s 33,000 streetlights since 1995. According to his most recent quarterly activity filing, during the first three months of this year Ledford received $16,000 from the company and directly lobbied Jay Goldstone, the mayor’s chief operating officer, as well as public works chief Dave Jarrell, human resources director Scott Chadwick, deputy director of street maintenance Hasan Yousef, and general services director Mario Sierra. The outcome sought: a “contract with the city to improve, maintain and operate municipal street lights.”
Long Beach city staffer Mark Christoffels says that Long Beach’s deal with City Light & Power runs until 2020 and pays the company $5 million a year. Christoffels says he doesn’t know much about City Light or how it got the contract, just that it’s a private, closely held operation and there haven’t been any complaints about how it’s been handling Long Beach’s streetlights. The firm has a website, but as of last week it was off-line. A man identifying himself as Bill Simmons, who Christoffels says is his contact at City Light, took a phone call and said he would call back to describe the company’s plans for San Diego, but he failed to respond to subsequent calls. Mayoral spokespeople also did not return calls.