Steve Lopez writes:
If you’ve got a clothespin handy, you should clip it to your nose. I’m now going to tell you about the 12-hour California Coastal Commission meeting I sat through Wednesday in Morro Bay.
When the spectacle was over, members of one of the most powerful regulatory agencies in the country had racked up a number of accomplishments.
-They fired their staff’s executive director, Charles Lester, who knows more about the 40-year-old voter-approved Coastal Act that protects our 1,100-mile shoreline than anyone in the world.
-They devastated and demoralized the agency staff, so much so that some employees wept when the firing was announced.
-They infuriated a who’s who of California’s longest-serving stewards of coastal preservation and access, along with hordes of public officials, current and former Coastal Commission staff, and former commissioners and citizens who had traveled from up and down the coast to speak glowingly of Lester’s integrity and diligence.
-They accused the media of building a bogus narrative about why Lester’s job was in jeopardy, falsely insisting they were not at liberty to discuss their complaints about his performance in public.
-And they spoke of their commitment to accountability and transparency, then refused to conduct their business in public, retreated into privacy, papered over the window and dropped the guillotine on Lester in a 7-5 vote.
“Disgraceful,” Susan Jordan of the California Coastal Protection Network told me, even as staffers sobbed and embraced a stricken Lester.
Among the many outrages, before the vote, was bellyaching from some commissioners about the fact that they are in unpaid posts that require a lot of work.
First of all, no one forced them to take these appointments from the governor and leaders of the state Senate and Assembly.
Second, there are different ways to get paid, such as when the all-powerful coastal lobby chuck wagon rolls around to campaign fundraisers for commissioners who also serve as local public officials.
More carping came from Commissioner Martha McClure, who whined that Lester’s staff hadn’t provided information about the agency’s budget. I guess she didn’t think to look on the agency’s website, where it’s been posted since last month.
Wide spread dismay and offense taken:
SF Chronicle story & Editorial: