AQMD Chairman Should Resign Because of Conflict, Letter From OC Legislators States

posted: April 17th, 2013 11:49 am | 1Comment

The battle over whether to ban fire rings on beaches throughout Orange and Los Angeles counties has become political, taking a side trip to Sacramento in the form of a letter from two county legislators to the state attorney general.

In the letter dated April 15, Assemblyman Allan Mansoor, R-Costa Mesa, and Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Irvine, claim that the offices of commissioner of the California Coastal Commission and board member of the South Coast Air Quality Management District are incompatible.

“Under section 1099(a)(2), offices are incompatible when there is a ‘possibility of a significant clash; there is an actual clash, and the clash is significant,” the letter states.

William Burke, who is the chairman of the SCAQMD, also serves as a California Coastal Commission commissioner. Because he was more recently appointed to the Coastal Commission, the letter states, the section 1099 remedy would be for him to forfeit his position on the SCAQMD board.

“The clashing interests between the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the California Coastal Commission make it impossible for one member to be an effective and loyal representative on both bodies,” the letter states. “Several people are considering legal action to enforce section 1099. Legal action would be costly for all parties, and we are hopeful that an opinion from your office will help resolve this issue outside of court.”

The conflict, the letter states, stems from Newport Beach’s request to the Coastal Commission to remove 60 fire rings. The Coastal Commission staff had recommended denial of the request, partly because removing the fire rings would eliminate a popular form of low-cost public recreation that is required by the Coastal Act.

On March 6, the Coastal Commission voted to delay a decision on fire rings because staff had become aware of plans by the SCAQMD board to address the health impacts of beach bonfires. At that meeting, Burke, as a Coastal commissioner, vowed that the SCAQMD would eliminate an exemption that permitted wood fires on beaches even on No Burn Days; read our story here.

Burke could not be reached for comment. But in an interview this week, he told the Orange County Register that there is no conflict.

The SCAQMD board this spring moved beyond removing a No Burn exemption for fire rings and now is considering a region-wide ban on all beach fires to take effect by January 2015; read our story here.

Most of the region’s 840 fire rings are in Huntington Beach, and business and city leaders have been vocal about protesting the fire ring ban with claims that it could cost the city more than $1 million in revenue.

In Newport Beach, city officials have expressed concern that a local issue had grown to regional proportions. Mayor Keith Curry of Newport Beach wrote to the mayor of Huntington Beach, asking if the two cities could work together, and the Orange County Visitors Association board voted unanimously earlier this month to endorse a “to each their own” policy regarding beach bonfires.

“We have residents living in much closer proximity to the rings than in some other areas, and that was our concern,” said Newport Beach City Councilwoman Nancy Gardner — who first suggested a beach bonfire ban in 2009 for Newport Beach. “I was surprised, as I’m sure everyone else was, that this was taken in a larger context.”

The SCAQMD is expected to vote on the possible ban at a June 7 meeting, and the California Coastal Commission must hear the Newport Beach application by July 19.

One Response to “AQMD Chairman Should Resign Because of Conflict, Letter From OC Legislators States”



April 17th, 2013

This would do nothing to solve the problem of cancer-causing toxic pollution from the firepits.

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