March 11, 2016
Early this January, news broke out that the California Coastal Commission (CCC) was to vote whether or not to fire their own Executive Director, Dr. Charles Lester. The motion was immediately flagged as an attempted power grab to allow big development and limit public access, and cued a storm of overwhelming support for Dr. Lester. On February 10th 2016, after over six hours of public comment, all in favor of Dr. Lester, the Coastal Commission fired him in a 5-7 vote behind closed doors, throwing a rock at an already angry hornets nest. (More on the hearing HERE)
This past Wednesday, March 9th, the Coastal Commission met for the first time since the firing. The meeting in Santa Monica was again the center of protest and citizen demand. Social justice, environmental organizations, and the public stood together and rallied to demand transparency of the commission. Citizens attempted to voice their concern and frustration of the firing of Dr. Lester during public comment, but were cut off by Chair Steve Kinsey when he thought a speaker was accusing the commission of “betraying public trust.” In response, Commissioner Wendy Mitchell felt compelled to defend herself and made a lengthy and rather inappropriate explanation for her decision, only adding fuel to the fire and angering the public more.
At a press conference, representatives from The City Project, Azul, Sierra Club, Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples, Center for Biological Diversity and People Organized for Westside Renewal asked commissioners for their inclusion in the hiring process of a new executive director. The commission did not hire a new Executive Director that day, but they did appoint longtime, well-respected Deputy Director Jack Ainsworth to the interim executive director role. The hiring process for an official Executive Director could take somewhere around six months.
In the wake of these two historic days, what do we do now? We continue to keep a close eye on the Coastal Commission while being true stewards of the coast. The simplest way to help is by informing yourself and others about what is going on through reading and sharing news. Remember that you have a voice. Write to Governor Brown and tell him how you are disappointed in the decision of the commissioners and concerned about the future of the coast. Visit actcoastal.org, a great resource, giving updates often and providing links to other news sources.
We live in a special place as Humboltians and Californians, lets keep it that way. I want my children to be able to run through dunes and ride waves with no one but seals just as I was. I want to preserve and protect my coast, and I know tens of thousands of other Californians feel the same.
Before we go…here’s one more look at how epic the ocean is. Check out these award-winning underwater photos, sure to enhance your Friday.