Expensive dinners, fancy cocktails, foreign intrigue, glamorous vacations, and backroom deals. This is more or less the California Coastal Commission of today. This is the same entity who is approving nuclear waste dumps on your beaches, causing major water pollution, writing off and overdevelopment. And, boy, are they having fun doing it. As the law is currently written, Coastal Commissioners can have private “ex-parte” conversations with lobbyists, where they plan their next polluting project in secret. A bill in the legislature proposes to ban these secret conversations, but needs your help to pass!
Commissioner Vargas went to Ireland for a U2 show before approving The Edge’s monstrous Malibu compound in a protected coastal area. Wendy Mitchell posed for a picture with The Edge afterward, apparently starstruck as well. The state’s most powerful lobbyist on coastal issues, Susan McCabe, has called Wendy Mitchell “my Commissioner” and set up the Ireland meeting between U2 and Commissioner Vargas. Commissioner McClure stayed in a lobbyist’s seaside villa, and then swore at the LA Times columnist Steve Lopez when he asked her about it.
The Commissioners’ secret conversations mean that at the public Coastal Commission hearings, surfers and coastal enthusiasts don’t get a fair shake. The Commissioners arrive still hungover from the night before, with their promises already made to lobbyists for big business. Surfers’ opinions don’t stand a chance. Why is there a bill to stop these practices, you ask? Because a very strange thing happened back in February, when former Coastal Commission Executive Director Dr. Lester, a surfer’s best friend, was fired by pro-big business Coastal Commissioners.
At Dr. Lester’s public hearing in Morro Bay, the Commissioners listened all day as hundreds of surfers and other beach lovers talked about how there was no good reason to fire Dr. Lester. Amid overwhelming public support for Dr. Lester, only ONE person supported the Commissioners’ eventual decision to fire him. Where were all the polluters’ and developers’ lobbyists, who greatly benefited from the firing of Dr. Lester, the defender of your coast? They obviously had already expressed their feelings to the Commissioners… in secret conversations, that is.
Now, there is finally a bill in the legislature that would ban secret ex-parte conversations between Coastal Commissioners and lobbyists, but it needs your help. Opponents say that banning these private conversations would cost the state millions because the Commissioners would have no way of getting info from lobbyists. Why can’t lobbyists show up to the public hearings like everyone else? And why should the Commissioners be so dependent on lobbyists anyway?
Luckily, there’s still time. The bill must make it out of committee by this Thursday, August 11th. Tell Committee Chair Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) to ban secret ex-parte conversations at the Coastal Commissions and save your coast!
Send her a message, Tweet #SaveYourCoast to @LorenaAD80, or simply call her at (916) 319-2080.
And learn more from the great coverage of columnist Steve Lopez of the LA Times!