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Archive for January, 2009

SINS OF COMMISSION IGNITES AT NATPE

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

NAPTE 2009 - Exhibition Floor Opens is  Las Vegas

NATPE 2009 - Exhibition Floor Opens - Las Vegas

3 1/2 years after Peggy called me to document a California Coastal Commission inspection; SINS OF COMMISSION debuted at the 2009 NATPE CONVENTION (National Association of Television Program Executives), in LAS VEGAS.

Even though SINS OF COMMISSION is not finished, we had no choice but to present it to the global film and television distribution community. 

Time is running out for California.

NAPTE 2009

NATPE 2009 Opening coincides with Chinese New Year

One question each distributor inevitably asks is why a film dealing with a local “California” issue has global importance. It’s a darn good question. Here’s my response -

ERIN BROKAVITCH was a film about a powerful utility company called P G & E (Pacific Gas and Electric Company) and took place in the sleepy southern California town of Hinkley. Who ever heard of Hinkley?

SILKWOOD was about a local small and previously unknown company, Kerr-McGee. The story took place in a Kerr-McGee plant near Crescent, Oklahoma. Does anyone know where Crescent is? 

Everyone knows where the California is.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas….but what happens in California effects the world.

-Richard Oshen, Writer, Director, Producer

NAPTE 2009 IDA Booth

NATPE 2009 IDA Booth

The events revealed in ERIN BROKAVITCH and SILKWOOD entered our national debate and shaped policy.

Although the corruption each film exposed occurred in a local context… it occurs in every state in our nation and universally.

Each film’s specific event is a template anyone living anywhere in the world can identify with.

Same with SINS OF COMMISSION.

Corruption is universally understood.

California Wild Fires from Space

California Wild Fires from Space

The dialog SINS OF COMMISSION ignites, will shape California state environmental policy and will also have a profound effect domestically and internationally for several reasons:

1) quasijudicial regulatory agencies operate in every state in our country and occur internationally 

2) land use is an incredibly hot topic,  and

3) the entire world is effected by the CO2 California emits each year from catastrophic wildfires 

WE NEED YOUR HELP.

NATPE 2009 - IDA Booth

NATPE 2009 - IDA Booth

SINS OF COMMISSION urgently needs your support to complete the film.

SINS OF COMMISSION is a fiscally sponsored film through the IDA - the International Documentary  Association a 501 c3 Non Profit organization.

All contributions made thru the IDA are tax deductible.

Times are tough for all of us,  but so are we…and they won’t get better unless we pull together.

California Coastal Commission - Reforming the environmental regulatory system

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Reforming the environmental regulatory system is a central theme of SINS OF COMMISSION.

As a filmmaker who has swum upstream against the tide of public perception in California, it is thrilling to hear other voices in support of our central theme - that reforming the environmental regulatory system is way past due.  SINS OF COMMISSION is in alignment with, and at the forefront of, a new progressive, and sound  environmental policy…a policy that  honors both the environment and people’s rights.

-Richard Oshen, filmmaker

The Joint Ocean Commission Initiative today released its much anticipated report, “One Coast, One Future: Securing the Health of West Coast Ecosystems and Economies.” The report, requested by 19 elected officials from California, Oregon and Washington State, offers guidance to local, state and federal leaders on how to improve the health of coastal ecosystems and the economies that depend on them through integrated decision making.

“Protecting our oceans and coasts starts at the local level,” said Leon E. Panetta, co-chair of the Joint Initiative and former White House Chief of Staff. “We are pleased to see so much interest in finding solutions to the critical problems facing our oceans and coasts. The Joint Initiative has provided the input that will lead to meaningful ocean policy reform at the state and local level,” Panetta continued.

This information will be critical for protecting human health and safety and the economic vitality and quality of life of coastal communities.  The bolding is mine because the report makes a salient point that The California Coastal Commission refuses to acknowledge, and has refused for over 30 years: People have a right to live…and even prosper….. 

One of the Partnership’s six goals is “a quality of human life that is sustained by a functioning…  ecosystem.” Which seems to be what the California Coastal Commission goes out of its way to ignore, choosing instead, the status quo, cronyism, and environmental degradation.

The Action Agenda lays out initial outcomes and measures for human well-being that include aesthetic values, opportunities for recreation and access, adequate upland and marine resources to sustain tribal treaty rights and needs, thriving natural resource and marine industries, and economic prosperity that is supported by and compatible with ecosystem protection and restoration. The Partnership is currently working to identify specific measures and targets for human well-being.  

Strategic priorities are to work effectively and efficiently across jurisdictions and sectors on priority actions.

This includes planning, implementing and decision-making in an integrated way with an ecosystem perspective, building and sustaining the long-term capacity of partners to effectively and efficiently implement the Action Agenda, and reforming the environmental regulatory system, including aligning regulatory programs. The coordinating structure of the Partnership includes a seven-member, governor-appointed Leadership Council that governs the Partnership and an Ecosystem Coordination Board that advises the Leadership Council on implementation issues.

The Ecosystem Coordination Board includes representatives from federal, state, tribal, county and local governments; each of the action areas; and business and environmental interests.

Conspicuously absent from the report was any reference to or mention of the California Coastal Commission….could it have something to do with reforming the CCC as SINS OF COMMISSION suggests?

California Wildfires - Who Really Gets Burnt? Follow The Money - Part 4

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

In 2005, the wildfire survivors pressed for passage of an ambitious proposal by Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough), chairwoman of the state Senate’s insurance committee, who held her own hearings on the industry’s actions after the wildfires and believed that the previous year’s legislation was insufficient.
Speier proposed that insurers pay out 85% of the limit for personal property without demanding a list of everything lost. Only homeowners wanting to collect the policy limit would have to submit a complete inventory. The concept was endorsed by a Republican senator from San Diego County, Bill Morrow of Oceanside, and it passed the Senate.

When the measure moved to the Assembly, it could not get through the lower house’s Insurance Committee. Insurers complained that they would have no way to stop homeowners from exaggerating the value of lost contents and said most people’s possessions were not worth 85% of their coverage.

The Assn. of California Insurance Cos. wrote to Vargas that the provision “provides another easy vehicle for fraudulent behavior on the part of policyholders.”

Vargas said he agreed. Although homeowners shouldn’t have to document the loss of “clothes, underwear, the stuff in your kitchen,” he said, they should provide proof of “super-expensive stereos, mink coats, flat-screen TVs.” He said insurers should not have to pay out more than 30% of a policy limit without an inventory of things lost. Speier  ” who is widely disliked by insurers even though they have donated at least $264,247 to her since 2000  ” saw that Vargas’ panel would not pass the measure, and she removed the provision so the rest of her bill would pass.

The final version required insurers to provide two years of living expenses, rather than one, for people who lose their homes, but Speier called the bill “a ghost of its previous self.”

“It’s common knowledge,” she said in an interview, “that the Assembly Insurance Committee has become the graveyard for any consumer protection measures relating to insurance.”

Industry-supported laws that passed gave homeowners more options for mediation and required insurers to give a specific reason when they choose not to renew a policy. Lawmakers also placed restrictions on public adjusters’ soliciting victims of natural disasters, by passing a bill that Vargas introduced.

Insurers also must now renew a policy at least once after a house is destroyed by a natural disaster, and cannot leave disaster victims without insurance while their homes are under reconstruction.
Garamendi and Speier, who are competing this year for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor, say these laws are major improvements. Consumer advocates and many wildfire survivors say they are insufficient responses to the problems uncovered during the fires.

“We can’t ever get the tough medicine,” said Bach, whose group has been pressing for changes since the 1991 Oakland Hills fire. “Every time, we’ve had the same challenge: The insurance industry has an extremely powerful lobby in Sacramento. All the reforms we’ve been able to get through are watered down.”

John Raymond Garamendi (born January 24, 1945) is a U.S. politician and a member of the Democratic Party. He became the 46th Lieutenant Governor of California on January 8, 2007. He had previously been the California State Insurance Commissioner from 2003 - 2007, having previously been the first occupant of that office from 1991 - 1995. He was the U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Interior from 1995 - 1998

(Source: Wikipedia)

*
 Political insurance

Members of the Assembly’s Insurance Committee accepted more than $1 million in donations from the industry in 2003 and 2004.

These are the industry donations to the 17 legislators who sat on the panel during that time:

Juan Vargas (D-San Diego), committee chairman … $215,136
Ronald S. Calderon (D-Montebello) …$112,900
Dario Frommer (D-Glendale) … $ 95,116
Dave Cox (R-Fair Oaks) … $93,199
Keith Richman (R-Northridge) … $71,275
John Benoit (R-Palm Desert), vice chairman … $69,550
John Dutra (D-Fremont) … $57,600
Manny Diaz (D-San Jose) … $51,546
Rebecca Cohn (D-Saratoga) … $41,800
Jerome Horton (D-Inglewood) … $37,805
Lou Correa (D-Anaheim) … $34,578
Dennis Mountjoy (R-Monrovia) … $32,500
Russ Bogh (R-Cherry Valley) … $31,500
George Nakano (D-Torrance) … $31,200
Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood) … $25,350
Mark Wyland (R-Escondido) … $23,500
Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles) … $19,600
Committee total $1,044,155

Source: Times reporting
Los Angeles Times

See the article on Los Angeles Times website

Feeling burnt? Help us get the message out.

Donate now through the International Documentary Association, our fiscal sponsor.

Big Kudos to California Clean Money Campaign. Visit them at CCMC

California Wildfires - Who Really Gets Burnt? Follow The Money - Part 3

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

The October 2003 wildfires, which swept huge areas from Ventura County to the Mexican border, damaged or destroyed 3,631 buildings and were blamed for 24 deaths. Although some insurers won accolades for their response, the state insurance department received 869 complaints concerning insurers  ” roughly one for every four lost houses.  

Garamendi and a number of legislators held public hearings in Southern California and fashioned legislative solutions to recurring complaints. Insurers said the survivors’ stories were not symptoms of larger problems and most claims were resolved with minimal dispute. 

“A great many of these issues were brought up based on anecdotes,” said Bill Sirola, a spokesman for State Farm who is based in Sacramento. “Sometimes in the emotional aftermath of disasters, like the fires down in the Southland, there’s a great amount of publicity to what has seemingly gone wrong without seeing that, by and large, everything has gone well.”

State Sen. Martha Escutia (D-Whittier) introduced a measure in 2004 to prohibit insurers from canceling a policy or raising its cost because a home had suffered damage from a natural disaster or something beyond the owners’ responsibility or control.

Among the homeowners who testified was Lisza Pontes. Her Lakeside house was damaged but was spared destruction largely because she had spent more than $50,000 on fire-resistant coating and brush clearance.
“Mine was the only house on a street of 13 that wasn’t a complete loss,” she said. Nonetheless, after Pontes filed a claim, her insurer placed her in a more expensive, high-risk pool, and 17 other California companies rejected her before she found an out-of-state firm that would insure her.

Industry officials argued that it was reasonable to be skeptical of people with a history of filing claims, because they are more likely to file future claims. State regulators and consumer advocates countered that insurers practice “use it and lose it” to deter people from filing claims. Six members of the Assembly Insurance Committee voted for Escutia’s measure, SB 1474. Three opposed it. Nine votes were needed to pass the bill.

Under Sacramento rules, a measure needs the support of a majority of a committee’s members  ” not just a majority of those casting votes. The panel at that time had 17 members. Escutia’s bill failed because eight did not vote, though attendance records show that all were present in the Assembly that day. In 2005, a scarcity of participants in Vargas’ committee killed another bill concerning homeowners insurance.

Sen. Deborah Ortiz (D-Sacramento) had proposed banning insurers from using potential customers’ credit histories in deciding whether to sell them policies. Ortiz said consumers’ credit was irrelevant to whether they were likely to file insurance claims. The industry countered that its studies showed that people who fell behind on their credit were more likely to fail to take care of their homes.

When the measure, SB 603, came before Vargas’ committee, which had been reorganized into a 10-member panel, three legislators cast votes for the bill, and two against it. The bill failed because five other legislators, including Vargas, did not vote, though all were in the Capitol that day.

As do many other interest groups, companies that write homeowners insurance have multiple ways of currying favor with legislators. Disclosure records show that since 2003, property insurers have picked up the tab 70 times on items as small as a $3.72 breakfast and as large as a $340 round of golf at Pebble Beach.

“That’s our premium dollars working against us,” said George Kehrer, executive director of Community Assisting Recovery, an advocacy group founded after the 1994 Northridge earthquake. In the last three years, Allstate, Farmers Insurance Group and two industry associations gave committee member Ronald S. Calderon (D-Montebello) $1,300 in golf fees, meals and a room at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas. Allstate also paid for a $170 meal at a Pebble Beach clubhouse for Calderon and his wife.

In May 2003, Farmers paid for Calderon and then-committee member George Nakano (D-Torrance) to attend a Laker game at $114 per ticket. State Farm gave $50 tickets to a 2004 Clipper game to staffers who work for Nakano and for two colleagues on the panel, Mark Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles) and Jerome Horton (D-Inglewood).

In March 2005, Farmers bought dinner for Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles), Vargas and the committee’s chief advisor at a cost of $166 a person. Insurers do not overlook the Republican minority on the panel, though records show that they have tended to pay for smaller events, like a $32 reception in 2003 for Dave Cox (R-Fair Oaks), who owns an insurance business (Cox was elected to the Senate last year). Committee vice chairman John Benoit (R-Palm Desert) received a $67 dinner in 2004.

One of the most active lobbying groups is the Personal Insurance Federation of California, formed by Farmers and State Farm in 1989 after voters imposed stringent new rules on insurers through Proposition 103.

Between 2003 and 2005, the federation paid for 22 meals for committee members and their aides, as well as a $290 golf game for Vargas’ brother, Javier. A frequent participant at those meetings, legislators said, was the federation’s president, Dan Dunmoyer, now a deputy chief of staff to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Vargas said the perks were irrelevant. “Most of the contact I have is not with them,” he said. “Most of the time I’m meeting with citizens, I’m meeting with friends of mine, and these are people who are not in the insurance business.”

Vargas noted that since he became chairman of the committee, he has sponsored three bills opposed by insurers and often votes against their interests.

Several of the wildfire survivors said Vargas particularly disappointed them. “When we found out that the chairman of the insurance committee was a San Diegan, we thought: ‘How great, who better than a local guy to know what had happened,’ ” said Ciaran Thornton, who lost his Harbison Canyon house in the fires. Thornton and a friend whose home had narrowly escaped incineration met with Vargas at his Chula Vista office in June 2004.

“We sat down, he listened to us. He said, ‘We’ll see what we can do.’ It was very hard convincing him. It was pretty much a roadblock,” Thornton said. “He never got back to us at all.”

Vargas said he gave wildfire victims extensive opportunities to make their cases, both privately and before his panel. But he said his empathy was outweighed by concerns that greater protections for wildfire areas, which tend to be affluent, would be paid for by more economically vulnerable people.

“You know who’s going to get hurt? It’s the elderly woman who has never had a claim, never done anything wrong, and her rates are going to go up by 10%, and that’s not right,” Vargas said.

Amy Bach, executive director of United Policy Holders, a San Francisco homeowner advocacy group, said the schmoozing between legislators and lobbyists cements personal relationships that carry over into the Capitol.

“If the guy’s gotten them a great tee time on a very coveted golf course, then they’re pals, and that makes it that much harder on a personal level to go against them,” she said.

See which California lawmakers, that represent you, make the biggest bucks from the insurance industry in Part 4.

Source: Times reporting
Los Angeles Times

See the article on Los Angeles Times website

Feeling burnt? Help us get the message out.

Donate now through the International Documentary Association, our fiscal sponsor.

Big Kudos to California Clean Money Campaign. Visit them at CCMC

Aides to the LOS ANGELES County Supervisors routinely sought to improperly influence permit development decisions?

Friday, January 16th, 2009

(Source: LA TIMES garrett.therolf@latimes.com)

Bruce W. McClendon, the chief land use planner for Los Angeles County, was fired Friday by the county’s chief executive. McClendon thinks it was in retaliation for blowing the whistle on county supervisors’ aides.

McClendon said he was called to a meeting with William T Fujioka and told he was terminated from his $191,028-a-year job as head of the Department of Regional Planning. Security officers later escorted him out of the building.

According to the LA TIMES, when McClendon was reached by telephone, he said

… he believed he had been fired in retaliation for blowing the whistle on county supervisors’ aides. He said he had given Fujioka information that showed that aides to the county supervisors routinely sought to improperly influence decisions on whether to permit development plans.

“It was illegal, and they can go to jail for doing it,”said McClendon, 62. He said his meetings with Fujioka in recent weeks made it clear that he was likely to be fired. He said he recently began consulting with attorneys in preparation for filing a whistle-blower retaliation lawsuit.

Fujioka denied that McClendon had given him such information. Aides to Supervisors Michael Antonovich, Don Knabe, Gloria Molina, Mark Ridley-Thomas and Zev Yaroslavsky declined to comment on the allegations.

McClendon said that he had to protect his staff from day-to-day interference from supervisors’ aides, which was supposed to be reduced under a new county structure that went into effect in 2007.

The Department of Regional Planning performs all land use planning functions for the unincorporated areas of the county. Like Topanga Canyon. Services include long-range planning, land development counseling, project review, environmental review and zoning enforcement.

This is the same bunch Kathleen Kenny filed a R.I.C.O suit against. ( Please see: Kathleen Kenny vs California Coastal Commission - SINS OF COMMISSION) Watch the trailer on this site or YOUTUBE  

The more things change… the more things stay the same….

Los Angeles County’s unincorporated areas include more than 2,600 square miles and represent two-thirds of the county’s land and one-tenth of its population. Some of that land is in the California Coastal  Zone, and under the jursidiction of the California Coastal Commission… 

Read more of this great article by Garrett Therolf at the LA TIMES garrett.therolf@latimes.com

California Wildfires - Who Really Gets Burnt? Follow The Money - Part 2

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

In the wake of the Southern California wildfires, lawmakers proposed six bills that, among other provisions, would have forced insurers to provide consumers with more information about policy choices, made it harder for companies to raise rates or cancel coverage and reduced the documentation that homeowners must provide to collect on a claim.

Those provisions, like others strongly opposed by the insurance industry, never made it to the Assembly floor.

The less ambitious bills that passed into law, with insurers’ consent, extended living expenses for those awaiting rebuilt homes, gave homeowners more options for mediation as an alternative to lawsuits and prevented insurers from canceling coverage while a home’s reconstruction was underway.

What happened to the homeowners bill of rights?

“What happened to the homeowners bill of rights is certainly an example of the power of this industry,” said state Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, referring to a package of legislation that his office helped write in response to the wildfires.

The committee’s members and insurers alike said donations and gifts had no influence on legislative decisions. Insurers praised the panel for understanding that the proposed rules would have cost them so much that they would have raised premiums on all California homeowners.

“A lot of the bills were written because a natural disaster had happened, and people were writing bills that weren’t fully thought out,” said Juan Vargas (D-San Diego), chairman of the Assembly panel. Insurers, he said in an interview, “have to be held accountable, but at the same time you have to look at the whole picture: These guys are going to make money no matter what, so you have to keep the prices down.”

Rex Frazier, general counsel for the Personal Insurance Federation of California, commended the panel for finding compromises that produced “better bills.” “A number of the bills that were introduced were well-intended,” Frazier said, “but were not good policy.”  

The industry does not rely solely on the force of its arguments to sway lawmakers. Vargas has received more than $325,377 in campaign contributions from the industry, most of it since he took over the panel in 2003. Insurance donations were 17% of the money he raised for his two Assembly races. He is now making his third run for Congress, trying to unseat U.S. Rep. Bob Filner (D-Chula Vista) in the June Democratic primary.

In addition to the campaign donations, insurers with interests before the committee bought Vargas 13 meals, including one for $181 at Morton’s steakhouse in 2004. They paid for his flight to Boston to attend an industry conference and for rounds of golf.

Such events provided the industry with opportunities to present its perspective on legislation. Vargas said his legislative decisions derived not from the gifts and donations, all of which were legal, but from his moderate, pro-business views.

Wildfire survivors who came to Sacramento to press for changes said the committee’s position rarely deviated from that of the industry.

“When it came time to vote on one bill, lobbyists literally ran up to the dais and slipped them notes,” said Rebecca Huston, a screenwriter whose home in Cedar Glen was destroyed in the fires and one of a dozen wildfire victims who came at Garamendi’s behest to testify about their experiences.

“I watched insurance lobbyists mouth things to the Insurance Committee,” Reimus said. “You hear about people being in the pocket of an industry, and I really got to see it firsthand.”

Erik Strahm, a computer project manager at UC San Diego who also testified and met with lawmakers, said: “Always what we ended up hearing was, ‘Well, the insurance lobby is really strongly against this.’ At dinner one night, we actually ran into the insurance lobby giving a party to a lot of the lawmakers we had spoken to.”

See which California lawmakers, that represent you, make the biggest bucks from the insurance industry in Part 4.

Source: Times reporting
Los Angeles Times

See the article on Los Angeles Times website

Feeling burnt? Help us get the message out.

Donate now through the International Documentary Association, our fiscal sponsor.

Big Kudos to California Clean Money Campaign. Visit them at CCMC

California Wildfires - Who Really Gets Burnt? Follow The Money - Part 1

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Fire Victims Feel Burned by Lawmakers Tied to Insurers

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

By Jordan Rau Times Staff Writer
February 27, 2006 in print edition A-1 

SACRAMENTO ” Karen Reimus’ San Diego house was obliterated by the 2003 wildfires, leaving nothing recognizable except a charred jogging stroller and her daughter’s burned bicycle.  Yet her insurer insisted that she catalog each of her family’s destroyed personal items  ” down to pens and tampons ” if she wanted to be reimbursed.

“When insurance companies are selling peace of mind the way they do in their advertisements, nobody has any inkling of the hoops you are going to have to jump through,” said Reimus, a 39-year-old lawyer and mother of two.

She reached a settlement with her insurer after months of wrangling. Dozens of similarly frustrating experiences prompted Reimus and other survivors of one of the worst wildfire seasons in California history to urge that new rules be imposed on insurers. But the most far-reaching efforts were derailed by a panel of state lawmakers that is closely aligned with the insurance industry, offering an unusually clear window on how Sacramento works and how legislation can be determined by a handful of well-placed politicians.

Insurers have spent $25 million on lobbyists

Insurers have spent $25 million on lobbyists, campaign contributions and perks for lawmakers  ” even some who regularly cross them  ” since 2003. Their money shows up particularly prominently in the campaign coffers of members of the Assembly Insurance Committee, a pro-business, relatively conservative bastion within the generally liberal Legislature.

Insurance money  ” more than $1 million in 2003-04  ” makes up nearly a fifth of some of those members’ war chests. And members, their spouses and their aides routinely accept expensive meals, free golf games, hotel rooms, tickets to Laker and Clipper basketball games and other gifts from insurers and their lobbyists.  

See which California lawmakers, that represent you, make the biggest bucks from the insurance industry in Part 4.

Source: Times reporting
Los Angeles Times

See the article on Los Angeles Times website

Feeling burnt? Help us get the message out.

Donate now through the International Documentary Association, our fiscal sponsor.

Big Kudos to California Clean Money Campaign. Visit them at CCMC

California Coastal Commission - Time for Change - Part 2

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

Separation of Powers is vital to individual liberty

The principal of Separation of Powers, vital to the protection of individual liberty, is ignored by the California Coastal Commission. Without it, some people might be tempted to let one individual or group take too much power in the name of pursuing some popular cause.

Right now, right here in California, USA, “the California Coastal Commission is the poster child for government power run amok — but because everything the commission does is supposedly to protect the environment, hardly anybody questions it. Especially the news media.” ¹ 

Do we, the people really want a state agency that claims jurisdiction over telling a homeowner what color to paint their house under the guise of environmental protection?  AND if we do, perhaps its time to re-prioritize PDQ, given our massive budget problems.

The California Coastal Commission’s purpose is so important… to protect the coast from serious threats such as oil spills, sea walls strip mall development it has been able to claim popular immunity for all sorts of sins of commission done in the name of protecting the environment.

SINS OF COMMISSION pierces the fog of secrecy surrounding the imperial California Coastal Commission and replaces cloudy vision with the crystal clear reality that for 30 plus years homeowners, farmers, and landowners have been told what to do by a government agency that was designed to protect our precious coastal resources of California from major offenders, and not John and Jane Doe Homeowner.

The chairman runs the meetings, has influence over the agenda and serves as the commission’s public face.  The commission, the state’s most powerful land-use regulator…is an independent panel – much to the irritation of a number of governors, including the current one – and it has an aggressive staff. Those two qualities often put them at odds with the powers in Sacramento the people who are affected by its decisions first hand.

(Source: John Howard, CAPITOL WEEKLY)

Bonnie Neely recently became the California California Coastal Commission’s new chairperson, and I for one sincerely hope she can get the California Coastal Commission back on the track it derailed from and refocus the commission’s attention to the big issues facing California’s 1,100 mile coastline.

Feeling burnt?

Donate now through the International Documentary Association, our fiscal sponsor.

¹http://www.cpoabigsur.org/Archive/CCC_Articles/Reinventing_The_Coastal_Commission.html

California Coastal Commission - Time for Change - Part 1

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009

Something happening here…what it is ain’t exactly clear…

-Crosby, Stills and Nash

Current California lobbyist registration laws exempt lobbyists who try to sway the California Coastal Commission’s land-use decisions.

Don’t the people deserve to know who is influencing the California Coastal Commission? 

HISTORY

The California Coast is the symbol of our state and personifies the bond WE, the people, have with our land and all nature.  Arguably, it is our most precious natural asset and touches the lives of millions of Californians and people from around the world.

It’s good for the soul. Its a place to recreate, relax, and still a great source of fresh air. It’s not only good for us, but the coast is home to all kinds of fish, birds, mammals, and a wide range of plants. The coast also drives our economy. Coastal visitors bring more than $2 billion a year to Los Angeles County.¹

Three decades ago, oil spills blackened California’s beaches. Uncontrolled development threatened public access to the coast. California voters acted to protect the coast to show the world our commitment to be good stewards of our coastal resources for future generations of Californians and all people everywhere. 

It seemed like a good idea back then to create the California Coastal Commission, a government entity that would protect the coast. It also seemed like a good idea to protect that group from the politics of politics by isolating it from the electoral process.

Only one of these concepts is still a good idea…can you guess which one?

Coastal California Today 

The health of the coast is at risk. Runoff and sewage degrades the water, harms marine ecosystems and closes the beaches the California Coastal Commission is supposed to protect.  

By what rights does the California Coastal Commission have the power to determine whether a house can be seen from a trail, or the open sea, or what color it is, or if people can plant a rose bush, when the coast - the natural resource they’ve actually been mandated to protect, isn’t doing so well? Isn’t that akin to rearranging the deck furniture on the Titanic? 

All Californians know beach access is important. The coastal commission likes to puff up its chest, pat itself on the back, and point to beach access or Beach Clean Up Day (a very good thing) with pride. But doesn’t it seem a little bit deceitful because what good is beach access or a clean beach if the water is too polluted to swim in?

Santa Monica Bay beaches exceed newly adopted bacteria standards. The beach at Santa Monica Pier was by far the most polluted in Santa Monica Bay and was the second most polluted beach in California this summer.²

Los Angeles County beaches received the lowest marks in the state, with nearly one in five beaches receiving F grades. Malibu’s famed Surfrider received a D. Long Beach had the most polluted beaches, according to the report. Nearly half its 25 monitored beaches received C to F. ¹

FOLLOW THE MONEY

TOM HAYDEN tried to reform the California Coastal Commission. Way back in 1988 he smelled a skunk. He authored AB 4122 in an attempt to prohibit Coastal Commission members from engaging in political fund-raising activities. It was defeated. (probably with money from the same organizations he was trying to save us from.)

Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed requiring that lobbyists’ private (ex parte) communications with members of the Coastal Commission be fully disclosed and posted on the Internet. Why? If federal election campaign contributions are public, why not California Coastal Commission lobbist contributions?

California State Sen. Denise Ducheny of San Diego introduced Senate Bill 1295 Februray 19, 2008. Currently, the California Coastal Act allows the commission to initiate an appeal of a coastal development permit with the action of any two members of the commission.

It just doesn’t seem right that the people who make the appeal also decide the appeal,”

-Sen. Denise Ducheny

(Source:  North County Times, March 13, 2008)

Predictably, SB 1295 was also defeated.

The California coast is way too important to be left to the whims of political appointees who are beholding to their patron and easily swayed by the green cash lobbyists so readily throw.

Feeling burnt? Help us get the message out.

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Footnotes:

1 http://articles.latimes.com/2008/sep/26/local/me-beaches26

2 http://www.healthebay.org/assets/pdfdocs/brc/summer/2007/report_print.pdf



 
 
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