By Doug Porter
Escondido City Councilwoman Olga Diaz, voting as the alternate for County Supervisor Greg Cox, cast the deciding vote as the California Coastal Commission sacked executive director Dr. Charles Lester late yesterday.
The 7-5 decision ended a meeting in Morro Bay that ran late into the evening. The commissioners heard impassioned pleas from dozens of witnesses saying the director’s removal amounted to a green light for unchecked development on 1,100 miles of scenic mountains, cliffs and beaches along the Pacific Ocean.
Over 20,000 letters were received by the commission, with a vast majority supportive of Dr. Lester. Billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer delivered a petition with nearly 10,000 signatures asking the commission to “put coastal protection before the demands of special interests.” The outpouring of support apparently didn’t outweigh a letter from the Los Angeles County Business Federation, an alliance of 155 business groups, blaming the commission’s staff for a lack of accountability and regulatory overreach.
Commissioners Olga Diaz, Erik Howell, Wendy Mitchell, Effie Turnbull-Sanders, Mark Vargas, Martha McClure and Roberto Uranga supported dismissing Lester in closed session. Voting against the firing were Carole Groom, Mary Shallenberger, Kinsey, vice chair Dayna Bochco and Mary Luevano.
The Associated Press quoted Councilwoman Diaz describing herself as an environmental activist persuaded by “an issue the commissioners were legally unable to disclose that led to the decision to terminate Lester.”
From the Los Angeles Times:
Commissioners took the action in closed session because they said they were bound by law to honor Lester’s right to privacy.
But their reasoning did not align with advice from the agency’s chief counsel, who told the panel they were free to discuss any current issues involving Lester’s performance because he had chosen a public hearing to defend himself.
Before moving into closed session, several commissioners were critical of media reports, fueled by coastal activists and environmental groups, that attributed the move to fire Lester to a desire for more coastal development.
Commissioners said the reports were baseless and damaged the reputation of the agency.
SDFP editor Frank Gormlie, writing in the OB Rag, was up in arms about the decision:
This vote will go down in California history as a sad victory for developers and developer lobbyists who want a weaker staff and a more developer-friendly California Coastal Commission. Now our 1,100 miles of coastline will be up for grabs by the wealthy and those with connections…
…Something must be done. Environmentalists and people who care about the coast must mount some kind of protest, some kind of resistance. perhaps sit-in at every Commission hearing.
This is terrible news.
Despite a tsunami of opposition to the coup against Lester – and really against the rest of us – Governor Brown’s appointees led the move to oust Lester. Here is the list of Commissioners who voted to dump Lester: McClure, Mitchell, Vargas, Howell, Uranga, Diaz, Turnbull Saunders.
San Diego’s rep, Supervisor Greg Cox, apparently did not join the coup. But if this is Diaz’s first foray into state politics, she just blew it.
An impressive array of local officials and environmental activists made the trek to Morro Bay to support Dr. Lester.
Serge Dedina, the mayor of Imperial Beach, spoke in support of Lester and his staff. He said the Coastal Commission is newly focused on sea level rise, allowing his city to shift its focus from “dredge-and-fill projects” that waste taxpayer funds.
“That’s something we are whole-heartedly moving forward with,” Dedina said. “It actually resulted in the largest and most well-attended public workshop in our city’s history, with our residents completely embracing that strategy.”
Susan Jordan of the California Coastal Protection Network warned that Lester’s removal could threaten beach access for the public and open a new era of unchecked development.
“There will always be another billionaire who will block access to the beach,” she warned, alluding to notorious fights over beaches in Malibu and other celebrity enclaves.
From the New York Times:
“Considering the outpouring of public support, this commission is tone deaf and out of touch with the will of the people,” said Stefanie Sekich-Quinn, the coastal preservation manager with the Surfrider Foundation, an environmental group. “The public trust has been broken, and I believe a fundamental change is needed to restore public confidence in the Coastal Commission.”
Tom Steyer, the president of NextGen Climate, an environmental group, also denounced the decision.
“Behind closed doors, the Coastal Commission defied the will of the people and acted to weaken the protection of California’s iconic beaches,” said Mr. Steyer, who is considering running for governor when Mr. Brown steps down in 2018. “This is a wake-up call for all who care about preserving California’s majestic coastline for future generations.”
Assemblywoman Toni Atkins tweeted: Let me apologize to the public. I truly thought my appointees would be better stewards of the coast.
I sense this issue isn’t going to go away as quickly as some might think. On to other news…
Righties Get Their Manly Tighties in a Twist
Meanwhile, the absurdist right wing media keeps dredging up phony causes hoping to spark outrage among the Trumpian masses.
The latest kerfuffle concerned a correspondence manual guideline established by the City of San Diego suggesting the use of “Founders”instead of “Founding Fathers.”
The Pacific Justice Institute fired off a letter quoted in various right-wing media outlets. Referencing the upcoming Presidents Day holiday, the group suggested these guidelines abridged the free speech rights of city employees to use common everyday terms.
The PJI is perhaps best known for its derangement syndrome for anything vaguely challenging white male supremacy.
From Media Matters:
While PJI bills itself as a generalist religious liberty advocacy group, the organization specializes in combating efforts to protect LGBT youth, especially in California’s public schools. Since its inception, PJI has worked to stifle even the most modest efforts to make schools more welcoming environments for LGBT students, including:
- Lobbying against a bill to ban ineffective “ex-gay” therapy for minors
- Warning that “Name Calling Week” is secretly a plot to advance “overt pro-homosexual messages”
- Attacking “Harvey Milk Day,” named in honor of the gay rights icon, as forcing children to “focus on sexuality for an entire school day”
- Claiming that letting students access LGBT websites at school would “increase access to porn”
- Falsely stating that a bill requiring LGBT history to be taught in public schools would result in “LGBT indoctrination“
- Advocating for students who speak out against homosexuality during the anti-bullying “Day of Silence“
- Criticizing proposed curriculum to teach students not to use homophobic language
Obviously, using the term “Founders” wasn’t manly enough. Cue the right wing media outrage.
Here’s the lede from Fox News’ Todd Starnes:
It appears San Diego City Hall has been overrun by a wild pack of militant, man-hating feminists who are hell-bent on neutering the King’s English.
It didn’t take long for San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer to kowtow to the crazies.
From the Union-Tribune:
“Suggesting that our Founding Fathers should be referred to as ‘Founder’ is political correctness run amok,” Faulconer said in a statement released to The San Diego Union-Tribune on Wednesday. “We are proud of our nation’s history, and there is nothing wrong with referring to the Founding Fathers. At my direction, this was removed yesterday from the City’s correspondence manual. The manual will be reviewed for other misguided examples that defy common sense and changes will be made accordingly.”
The correspondence guide was recently updated in conjunction with a $48,800 effort to create consistency in the city’s visual image and communications. The initiative was related to Faulconer’s project to refresh the city’s online presence.
And then there was the reality of the situation, down a paragraph or two in the UT story:
But the provision advising against the term “Founding Fathers” dates back at least until 2008, according to archived copies obtained by the Union-Tribune. The 2008 version preferred these terms for the Founding Fathers: “pioneers, colonists, patriots, forebears.” By 2014, the “Founders” term was suggested instead.
In endorsing the more traditional “Founding Fathers,” Faulconer is bringing the city in line with The Associated Press stylebook, which most newspapers across America use.
Not Lovin’ the Border Patrol at Lincoln High School
Education activist Sally Smith is at it again. 10News reported on her latest cause: a canceled appearance by the Border Patrol at a Lincoln High School job fair.
It seems as though some students at the majority-Latino (63%) school were unhappy about the agency recruiting in their midst.
This unease about an agency whose bad behavior, corruption, and abusive practices even has right-wing observers criticizing them became translated into a pity party for the “lost opportunities” and “good jobs.”
Good jobs, eh? There’s the matter of workplace violence within the Border Patrol. Or the supervisor arrested last year for secretly filming woman as they used the restroom. Or the collusion between Border Patrol agents and nativist groups during the Central American refugee crisis in 2014.
Or maybe Lincoln High School has some students who follow the news and have actual moral values. And then we get to what the Border Patrol actually does…
“There’s a lot of trauma associated with immigration raids and separation from family. The sight of the Border Patrol in the school zone I think will bring up feelings of uneasiness and fear,” said Pedro Rios, director of the American Friends Service Committee.
School district officials said the two sides mutually agreed to cancel the appearance.
In a statement, the Border Patrol said that “a few staff members protested against our presence” and the agency “was asked by the principal … not to attend the school function … in order to avoid any further controversy on campus and among staff and students.”
Breaking Science News
the fact that binary black holes can merge (into one, and produce gravitational waves) proves Hillary-Bernie voters can unite. — Greg Dworkin (@DemFromCT) February 11, 2016
On This Day: 1968 – Some 1,300 sanitation workers began what is to become a 64-day strike in Memphis, ultimately winning union recognition and wage increases. The April 4 assassination in Memphis of Martin Luther King Jr., who had been taking an active role in mass meetings and street actions, brought pressure on the city to settle the strike. 1972 – David Bowie performed as “Ziggy Stardust” for the first time. 2006 – Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and wounded a companion during a quail hunt in Texas.
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