I applied for the California Coastal Commission (CCC) twice; the first time was in 2009 (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Coastal Commission — November 13, 2009 november 13, 2009 john moorlach). I also served on the California Coastal Counties Caucus while I was a Board Member of the California State Association of Counties.
So, the second time that I was invited by Sen. Darrell Steinberg to apply, my application was very specific. If I am appointed, I would do my best to reorganize the management structure of the CCC. Surprise. I was not selected, again.
I know Charles Lester. I believe he is a nice man, but I did not perceive him to be a strong and effective manager. So, when the majority of the California Coastal Commission recently removed him as its Executive Director, I was impressed that this group of individuals was doing their job.
Many perceive the CCC members as liberal environmentalists, and they would be right. But, when they see an organization that is not run well, they have a responsibility to address it. And, they did. Now everyone is in an uproar and scrambling for fixes. They believe that something is amiss and blame the development community. Wrong. The CCC has needed a management change for a long time, period.
To those who oppose the Commissioners for actually doing their job, I would say, "Stop overreacting and let your appointees manage the CCC, as they are doing the right things." My philosophy as a County Supervisor was to let managers manage. I tried to communicate that on the Senate Floor yesterday. My thoughts were captured by the LA Times and the Sacramento Bee, in the first and second pieces below, respectively.
I also protested against the current model and recommended that the CCC should be more similar to a city council or the State Senate than a group of judges.
The third piece provides a nice shout out by Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. His remarks parallel mine in regards to Caltrans (for those new to the UPDATE, see MOORLACH UPDATE — Caltrans Insubordination — March 18, 2016 march 18, 2016 john moorlach). His piece appears in the FlashReport and in Fox & Hounds.
Cracking a door on backroom decisions
State Senate approves measure that would ban ex-parte meetings with members of the Coastal Commission
The state Senate on Monday approved legislation that would prohibit developers,
environmentalists and others from having private, off-the-record communications
with members of the California Coastal Commission that could influence decision-
Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) introduced the measure because of
concern over the recent Coastal Commission decision to remove Executive Director
Charles Lester during a closed-door session with little public explanation.
More than 200 environmental activists and others testified against the removal,
with some claiming commissioners were making the agency friendlier to developers.
Jackson told her colleagues that the commission has ‘’run amok,” adding the
removal "has resulted in a high degree of public uncertainty, accusations of a lack of
transparency in the decision-making process and concerns of undue influence."
The bill would explicitly prohibit ex-parte communications involving development
permit applications and board hearings on enforcement actions against improper
“SB 1190 will help restore the public’s trust in this commission, ensure that decisions
are made with transparency and remove that backroom decision-making or the
public perception that backroom decision-making occurs,” Jackson said during the
floor debate. The vote was 23-12.
The commission, which plans and regulates the use of land and water along the
coast, allows ex parte communications as long as they are disclosed. However,
Jackson said the disclosures are often delayed.
Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) voted against the bill, saying it is too
restrictive on communications between the public and its government.
“I think we are probably overreacting to something,” he said.
Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) voted for the bill despite concerns that the bill
could prevent full and fair hearings to people and lacks a prohibition in ex parte
communications with staff.
“Currently it’s nearly impossible to get a full and adequate hearing without ex parte
communications,” Hertzberg said, noting interested parties often get only minutes
to make their case at a hearing.
California Senate votes to ban private talks at coastal board
Bill would prohibits private, off-the-record conversations with commissioners in certain proceedings
Supporters argue that developers have undue influence over board
Move follows controversial firing in February of commission’s veteran director
By Alexei Koseff
Lingering frustration over potentially cozy relationships between California’s coastal protection agency and developers prompted the state Senate on Monday to advance legislation prohibiting board members from engaging in private, off-the-record conversations with the parties in permit decisions and other matters.
Under current law, these “ex parte” communications are allowed as long they are disclosed through a form or, if they occurred less than seven days before a meeting, verbally at that hearing. Supporters of Senate Bill 1190 allege that builders and their consultants have developed special access to the California Coastal Commission because of their full-time involvement in the issues it oversees.
“These quasi-lobbyists literally travel with the coastal commissioners. They are everywhere,” said Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, the bill’s author. “This process has become flawed, seriously flawed.”
Jackson said the law would ensure that the quasi-judicial procedures that encompass the vast majority of the commission’s work, such as granting permits and taking enforcement actions against improper development, is conducted with the transparency and impartiality the public expects.
The bill was prompted by the controversial firing earlier this year of veteran Coastal Commission director Charles Lester.
The commission, established in 1972 by voter initiative, said Lester was removed because of his poor leadership at the agency. But environmentalists, commission staff and dozens of former commissioners rallied to his side amid charges that he was being pushed out by pro-development forces.
Led by the Senate’s majority Democrats, SB 1190 passed 23-12 and now moves to the Assembly.
Nearly every Republican voted against the bill. Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, called it an “overreaction,” telling colleagues, “You’ve got to learn to let managers be managers.”
Two senators who are former members of the Coastal Commission split on the measure. Sen. Ben Hueso, a San Diego Democrat and a commissioner from 2007 to 2009, left the room during the debate and did not vote.
But Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, said she was overwhelmed during her time on the commission from 1995 to 2000 by the ability of certain advocates with a lot of money to find her at home or work and set up a time to talk.
“There is a problem. There is undue influence, and it’s not fair,” she said. “I unfortunately think we need this protection in place.”
Another bill that would require paid consultants who lobby the agency to register with the state and disclose their clients is awaiting a vote in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Justification for Transportation
Posted by Jon Coupal
A personal digression: My father was head of the Iowa Department of Transportation (then called the Iowa Highway Commission) in the late ’60s and early ’70s before he was appointed by President Ford to serve as Deputy Federal Highway Administrator. (Of course, he lost that job when Jimmy Carter became president, but he continued to work in the private sector for a transportation think tank). When I was in high school, I remember him coming home from an ASHTO conference. That organization, the Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, was a pretty well respected group and still is. He was complaining bitterly about what was going on in California. I don’t recall his exact words, but the gist of it was that the new head of California’s transportation agency, called CalTrans, had been taken over by a certifiably crazy person (with no background in transportation policy) by the name of Adriana Gianturco. According to my father, in the 1950s and ’60s, California had the best transportation agency in the entire world. But all that changed with the election of a new, anti-growth, small-is-beautiful governor by the name of Jerry Brown.
Now, fast forward 40 years. Governor Brown, version 2.0, proposes a budget that assumes a big increase in transportation taxes and fees. The California Legislature shouldn’t just say no, it should say hell no.
Where to start? First, let’s take judicial notice of the fact that California is already a high tax state with the highest income tax rate and the highest state sales tax in America. But more relevant for the issue at hand, we also have the highest fuel costs in the nation. This is because of both the 4th highest excise tax on fuel and the fact that refineries are burdened with additional costs to comply with California’s environmental regulations.
The high cost to drive in California might be understandable if we were getting value for our tax dollars. But we aren’t. A big problem is that Caltrans is dysfunctional, plain and simple. It has never fully recovered from the days when the agency was effectively destroyed by Gianturco. A report by the California State Auditor just a couple of months ago concluded that a primary responsibility of Caltrans – maintenance of our highways – is not being executed in a manner that is even close to being efficient or competent. Senator John Moorlach, the only CPA currently serving in the California legislature, reacted saying that “This audit reinforces the fact that our bad roads are not a result of a lack of funding. They’re a result of a lack of competence at Caltrans.” Moreover, a report by the Legislative Analyst concluded that Caltrans is overstaffed by 3,500 employees costing California taxpayers over a half billion dollars a year. All this compels the obvious question: Why, for goodness sake, do we want to give these people even more money?
Another unneeded and costly practice consists of project labor agreements for transportation construction projects. These pro-union policies shut out otherwise competent companies from bidding on projects resulting in California taxpayers shelling out as high as 25% more than they should for building highways and bridges.
Finally, California’s environmental requirements are legendary for their inefficiency while also doing little for the environment. Exhibit A in this foolishness is Governor Brown’s incomprehensible pursuit of the ill-fated high speed rail project. Not only has the project failed to live up to any of the promises made to voters, it is currently being kept alive only by virtue of the state’s diversion of “cap and trade” funds which are supposed to be expended on projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But in the Kafkaesque world of California transportation policies, the LAO has concluded that the construction of the HSR project actually produces a net increase in emissions, at least for the foreseeable future.
No one disputes the dire need for improvements in California’s transportation infrastructure. But imposing draconian taxes and higher registration fees that serve only to punish the middle class while wasting billions on projects that don’t help getting Californians get to work or school cannot and should not be tolerated. Legislators who present themselves to voters as fiscally responsible need to understand that a vote for higher transportation taxes will engender a very angry response from their constituents.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.
This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District.
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