For immediate release
February 17, 2016
Speaker Atkins releases bill requiring lobbying transparency at Coastal Commission
Sacramento, CA – In the wake of the controversial vote to oust Executive Director Charles Lester last week, Speaker Toni Atkins has released a bill designed to increase transparency and accountability at the California Coastal Commission and reduce the influence of special interests. The Commission reviews projects worth billions of dollars. Yet, for decades, lobbyists have been able to woo Commissioners without the public’s knowledge of how much these lobbyists are paid or by whom. The bill is co-sponsored by Assemblymembers Stone and Levine.
Atkins was clearly troubled by the Commission’s decision to terminate Dr. Lester, who was widely regarded as a fair and competent public servant. Following hours of public testimony at the February 10 hearing, the Commission chose to retire to closed session, despite the advice of legal counsel that they could deliberate in public. Following the 7-5 vote to fire Lester, Atkins tweeted, “Let me apologize to the public. I truly thought my appointees would be better stewards of the coast.”
The Coastal Commission was created by voters in 1972 to safeguard public beach access, but many Californians are concerned that the panel is unduly influenced by wealthy developers and private property owners.
“California’s spectacular public coastline is our shared inheritance, and Speaker Atkins’ bill is an important buffer against the influence of special interests that want to profit from this valuable real estate or lock the beach up for their exclusive use,” said Serge Dedina, Executive Director of WiLDCOAST. “In the wake of last week’s incomprehensible decision to terminate Dr. Lester, I think we will all welcome more transparency at this powerful agency.”
The Commission has approved some controversial projects recently, including a mega mansion complex on a Malibu hillside proposed by U2’s The Edge. It will consider two more in 2016: a massive home and resort complex on the last open stretch of Orange County coastline, and a billion dollar desalination plant in Huntington Beach.
In a February 10 letter to the Coastal Commission, Atkins wrote, “All eyes are now on you – the members of the Commission we appointed to serve as stewards of the state’s precious coastal resources. Your actions in the days ahead will shape how the public remembers your service: as one who supports and enforces the Coastal Act, or as one who pulled the strings that could lead it unraveling.”
For more information about recent Coastal Commission votes and last week’s hearing, visitwww.actcoastal.org.