By Kathryn Burton
Earlier this year, the California Coastal Commission fired executive director Dr. Charles Lester without a word of explanation. The reason for the dismissal of a well-respected steward of our coast was not disclosed, and probably won't be disclosed willingly, because commissioners met and made the decision to dismiss Lester in private. Regrettably, such back-door deals have become commonplace among the current make-up of the coastal commission.
In fact, the firing of Dr. Lester highlights a painfully apparent truth – many of the agency's current commissioners are unwilling to protect the California coast according to the tenets of the Coastal Act, which was passed by voters in 1972, or by the rules and mission of the California Coastal Commission, which was formally created by the state legislature in 1976.
Perhaps the greatest problem with the commission's actions is the lack of transparency, which is especially true when commissioners meet behind closed doors with developers and their lobbyists. The Coastal Act prohibits such meetings.
Closed-door meetings, or "ex parte" communications, can only take place if properly disclosed – as spelled out in the Coastal Act. Appropriate and proper disclosure would give the public enough time and information to know exactly what transpired, and ideally no more secret deals would be able to be struck. Unfortunately, there are commissioners who fall woefully short in their disclosures – several even appear to do so intentionally.
In an effort to correct the present lack of transparency at the California Coastal Commission, a handful of long-time coastal and good-government advocates have formed a new non-profit organization called Spotlight on Coastal Corruption (SOCC).
Through its attorney, SOCC has filed lawsuits against five commissioners who appear to have violated commission disclosure laws. SOCC's legal counsel has agreed to bring the lawsuits for no fees (on a contingency basis), provided SOCC covers court costs and other out-of-pocket expenses, which are estimated to run about $50,000.
SOCC also has a benefactor that will match the first $10,000 in donations, which are tax-deductible. We hope you can help by donating to this effort. Every dollar helps, and we're already halfway towards our goal. Your contribution will make a significant difference and go a long way toward restoring an open and honest coastal commission – one that continues to protect California's 1,100 miles of precious coastal resources.
Please donate whatever you can. Your funds will help end the lack of transparency at the commission and restore due process. To contribute, visit the Spotlight on Coastal Corruption website and click on "DONATE" to donate via PayPal. You can also send a personal check to SOCC, at P.O. Box 7952, San Diego, CA 91267.
Club member Kathryn Burton is the president of Spotlight on Coastal Corruption and chair of the Torrey Hills Community Planning Group, and was a co-founder of the Torrey Hills Community Coalition. An avid organic gardener, Kathryn previously worked in the San Diego City Attorney's office.
Photo by Tommy Hough.
Photos by Deborah Gostin photography. Click here to view the entire set.
If you use these photos for any purpose, please credit them to Deborah Gostin Photography, and please provide Deborah with a link to your site so she can see it and add it to her portfolio – thank you.
By Tommy Hough
An immense thanks to all the sponsors, club members, award winners and special guests who stopped by Ponce's Mexican Restaurant on Sunday the 11th to help us celebrate our second anniversary.
Special thanks to photographer Deborah Gostin of Deborah Gostin Photography for serving as our event photographer.
Thanks as well to special guest and speaker Daraka Larimore-Hall, secretary of the California Democratic Party. Daraka came all the way from Santa Barbara the morning of the event to be with us, and delivered remarks that wholly fit the moment, time and place of our event – and the environmental movement as a whole.
Many thanks to club member Renée Owens, who donated three beautiful wildlife photos from her collection for our silent auction. Ordinarily Renée's photos and prints go for hundreds of dollars, so her donation to the club and our silent auction effort is enormously generous – and reflects the imperative need to protect San Diego County's wildlife, wild places and native species.
Thanks also to the team at Ponce's Mexican Restaurant, who once again made us feel at home with great food service, and did so with a great deal of care, attention and patience. Please tell your friends and family about Ponce's, and pay them a visit for lunch or dinner again.
Thanks also to last year's Making a Difference award winner, Nicole Capretz of the Climate Action Campaign, for her inspiring remarks in "handing off" and presenting the award to Cori Schumacher, and her ongoing commitment to addressing climate change issues around the region.
And a very special thank you to our award winners – our 2016 Making a Difference award winner Cori Schumacher, and our first-ever Steadfast and Courage award winner Dan Ortiz – for their peerless efforts as environmental Democrats who upheld the very definition of our club's name with humility and strength. We're honored to have you as members of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action.
Finally, a thank you once again to all of our members and event attendees. You're the reason our club is heading into its third year, and the reason San Diego County is rapidly becoming a green, Democratic stronghold. We will call on you again for support, help and assistance as we head into 2017.
Wear those buttons proud and help San Diego County keep "turning the corner" to a greener place.
By Tommy Hough
On the occasion of our club's second anniversary, no one can say 2016 hasn't been a busy year for San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action.
In the midst of an election year, and the vital, important role clubs play in vetting candidates, we've also had a full schedule of activism and action – and victories big and small.
At the end of 2015 we helped facilitate passage of the city of San Diego's landmark climate action plan, which calls for a full renewable energy portfolio for the city and an embrace of community choice aggregation (CCA), through the San Diego County Democratic Party central committee. The move paved the way for Democratic lawmakers to back the measure at city hall, knowing they had party rank-and-file at their back.
In January the club facilitated a public meeting of Carlsbad residents opposed to the construction of a mall along Agua Hedionda Lagoon – one of only a handful of remaining such tidal bodies of water in Southern California – thereby galvanizing the movement into a cohesive force which defeated Measure A in February in what was easily the biggest win for the environment in the region since the fight to Save Trestles.
Since then the club has:
Along with the most critical election in our lifetime in November, there is much more to do before 2016 is over, and we need your help – particuarly as we put together a response to the Lilac Hills development proposal. A year ago I said we would call upon members of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action to step up and do more in 2016, and this year you have in every manner.
From your support on controversial issues, voting on club measures, participating in discussions, attending fact-finding outings, helping us come to an impressive slate of endorsed candidates, to supporting our second anniversary event – the strength you've helped cultivate in this club will continue to pay dividends for our region and quality of life.
This election will come to an end Nov. 8, but our determination to find solutions to pressing environmental issues as Democrats will continue into 2017, and with your help, beyond.
Photo by Tommy Hough.
The blog component of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action welcomes content from SDCDEA members, guests and leadership.