The Voice of OC leaves the identity of the seventh vote a mystery in their article, providing only six names. I mentioned Supervisor Gonzales’ name in Friday’s UPDATE (see MOORLACH UPDATE — The Pits — July 12, 2013) because of the comments she made to those in attendance. The report I received is that she was condescending towards those who opposed the fire pits and that the audience not only groaned at her remarks, they even booed. Making an argument for a position, and stating that those on the opposite side are somehow not as informed (including a number of electeds in the room), is not a good idea or good form. It would be wiser to state that, in your opinion, the vote was a good compromise. I am assuming that the seventh vote to tighten the restrictions was from Dr. Clark E. Parker, Sr.
An observation that I appreciated from one of my e-mailers is that not only wood is burned in the fire pits. Old furniture and plastic items have been seen thrown into the pits. Consequently, perhaps an ordinance against burning non-wood items should be considered as an alternative. Then there is the other side, with another e-mailer making the following inquiry: “Are populations in 3rd world countries who use wood for cooking their every meal showing health issues specifically related to daily wood use?” Debating the topic for the right reasons, with better data, would have been a good exercise. Unfortunately that does not appear to have been the case with this vote by the SCAQMD.
AQMD Approves Restrictions on Beach Bonfires
By NICK GERDA
Air pollution regulators adopted controversial new restrictions Friday on beach bonfires amid an uproar from residents and elected officials claiming it will tarnish a treasured Southern California tradition.
The decision by the South Coast Air Quality Management District board of directors came on a 7-6 vote, with directors Shawn Nelson, Miguel Pulido, Jan Perry, Michael Antonovich, Ben Benoit and John Benoit voting against.
Directors Bill Burke, Josie Gonzales, Dennis Yates, Michael Cacciotti, Joseph Lyou and Judith Mitchell voted for the restrictions.
The new policy requires bonfires within 700 feet of homes to be spaced much farther from each other, gives cities greater power to ban bonfires on their own and prohibits beach burning when the forecast calls for high levels of fine airborne particles.
The policy also includes an exemption allowing bonfire pits with pathways over the beach to help disabled people reach them.
AQMD staff argued that beach bonfires are a major hazard to nearby residents.
“The wide scientific consensus is that wood smoke has serious health effects,” said Phillip Fine, assistant deputy executive officer for science and technology advancement.
The policy’s supporters also argued that the burning is dangerous.
“We suffer from the smoke at the fire rings,” said Corona del Mar resident Frank Peters. “The smoke comes in and settles” at the bluff.
“This has always been about only one thing: health,” added his wife, Barbara Peters.
At the same time, the proposal was met with a forceful drumbeat of objections by residents and local elected officials.
“This is not about heath. It’s about wealth and power and influence,” said Huntington Beach resident Chris Epting. “Is this really what you want to rob the people of?”
All 17 of the elected officials or their representatives who commented were in opposition. They spanned the political spectrum.
“Don’t mess up that tradition. It ain’t broke. Please don’t fix it,” said state Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana.
The “beaches belong to all Californians, not just a bunch of wealthy landowners,” said state Sen. Bob Huff, R-Brea.
“It’s clear that there’s many other ways to work to improve our air quality,” said Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton.
“These are multimillionaire people at the beach down there who don’t want people at the beach,” said Costa Mesa Major Jim Righeimer.
“These beaches are regional, they’re for everybody,” he added. “This is exactly what large agencies with four-letter acronyms should not be involved in.”
Chairman Burke said he was surprised by the outpouring of officials’ opposition.
“I’m just amazed at the very few people who are here in support of the rule today. So numbers are on your side,” said Burke, a vocal advocate of banning the rings.
Several local officials reacted with dismay after the ruling.
“Regretfully, one neighboring county supervisor, Josie Gonzales of San Bernardino, may have been the swing vote,” wrote Supervisor John Moorlach in his daily update.
“The South Coast AQMD has clearly overstepped its bounds,” Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, declared in a statement. “This is the case of an unelected body of bureaucrats ignoring the voice of the people.”
You can reach Nick Gerda at ngerda, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.
FIVE-YEAR LOOK BACKS
Andrea Figler of The Bond Buyer provided a bankruptcy-related legal update in “Orange County Files Suit Against Morgan Stanley Over 1994 Bankruptcy.” I had to endure hours of depositions back then, but it was encouraging when some of the defendants settled shortly after those grueling sessions. Here are selected paragraphs to provide the status on the County’s litigation efforts.
Morgan Stanley is the latest high profile defendant in the remaining cases that will try to recover $2 billion for the county and about 200 local governments that invested in the county’s investment pool, according to published reports yesterday.
Last month, Merrill Lynch & Co. agreed to pay Orange County $400 million to settle civil charges. Merrill Lynch’s settlement brought the county’s total collected from Wall Street to $600 million.
“Merrill Lynch was the big kahuna,” county Treasurer John W. Moorlach said yesterday, referring to how much advice the firm gave the county.
Analysts considered Merrill Lynch’s landmark settlement as a precedent that others may follow in suits against Fuji Securities Inc. and other financial companies. Those cases are pending.
But Credit Suisse First Boston, one of the advisory firms accused, opted out of the lawsuit in May by agreeing to pay the county $52.5 million without admitting or denying fault. Credit Suisse also paid $870,000 to settle allegations that offering documents for $110 million of county taxable pension bonds were misleading.
Law firm LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, which served as the county’s bond counsel, also settled for $53.5 million. The settlement, however, may be challenged by any of the defendants.
The county lost $1.85 billion and filed for bankruptcy in December 1994. It emerged from bankruptcy protection the next year.
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