Those AT&T Cabinets - Politicians Get The Junkets; We Get The Graffiti

Long before Gov. Schwarzenegger approved a bill easing AT&T’s access to California’s multibillion-dollar cable market, Steve Patterson (chair of the Federation of San Rafael Neighborhoods, a coalition of neighborhood associations in Marin County) warned members of problems on the horizon:

AT&T will need to install (plant?) for every 300 homes this atrocious, massive metal container (they look like refrigs) in the right-of-way strip between the sidewalk and street.  This is unadulterated "visual blight"…. There is currently pending legislation that will eventually need the Governor’s signature that will "preempt" any local control over location sites, appearance, design, color etc.

In a March 31, 2008 press release, AT&T crowed about the legislation (signed September 2006) and their success to date.

"More and more cities across California are embracing the landmark nature of the state’s video legislation and the benefits it brings to consumers and our economy," said Ken McNeely, president, AT&T California. "We look forward to continuing our work with cities throughout the state on our network upgrades to make our advanced services more widely available."

Extraordinarily, the press release quotes California State Senator Christine Kehoe (a Democrat), who touts AT&T as if she’s their VP of corporate communications.  

"More competition, more jobs, more investment in California, more video and broadband availability, what’s not to like," gushed Kehoe (D. — San Diego), Chair of the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee. "This is exactly what we had hoped for when we changed state law to encourage more video competition."

Well, okay.  Here’s one thing not to like - those unsightly cabinets AT&T is planting in our neighborhoods are a graffiti attractant.  This gi-mormous box was splashed with graffiti almost immediately after it was installed in one quiet San Rafael neighborhood.  For months, we’ve been waiting for U-verse to go live, but the roll-out seems to be taking a very long time. 

Last year, a firestorm erupted when the Sacramento Bee broke the story that Kehoe and other public officials accepted lavish, all expense paid junkets to Japan and Europe underwritten by the California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy. 

Reported the San Diego Union-Tribune:  

SACRAMENTO – Its name – the California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy – seems benign, even bland.Yet critics say the organization’s purpose is anything but benign: paying for luxurious, globe-trotting tours for lawmakers in a way that avoids the state’s restrictive gift laws.The San Francisco-based group is funded by companies such as AT&T, Chevron, Sempra Energy and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. During this week’s legislative recess, the foundation sent corporate representatives to Japan with a delegation of top state energy officials.Among the officials were state Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, and Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, both of whom chair committees that review energy and utility bills.Kehoe and Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña, D-San Diego, also went on foreign trips the group sponsored last year.The travelers to Japan also included AT&T California President Kenneth McNeely and two of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s appointees to the Public Utilities Commission – Timothy Simon and Rachelle Chong, who are responsible for regulating telecommunications and utilities companies."They are often extremely luxurious trips, where, we fear, a lot more lobbying and schmoozing goes on than actual work," said Mindy Spatt, a spokeswoman for The Utility Reform Network, a San Francisco consumer group."A few days later the Sacramento Bee further reported: [The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights] demanded full dislosure of the details of an all-expenses-paid trip to Japan undertaken this week by three state legislators and two state regulators."It was with great concern that we learned of your participation in a ’study trip’ to a foreign country with the very companies you are charged with overseeing," wrote Carmen Balber of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, in letters to Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, and Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego.Levine and Kehoe, both in Japan since March 29 [2007], are the chairman and chairwoman of the energy and telecommunications committees, respectively, in the Legislature. U-verse! U-verse! U-verse!  AT&T recruits in California.  Listen to this Jobs-in-Pods podcast recruitment pitch.