Public Health, Public Policy and Public Debate—here’s hoping we get to the “good” after trudging through the “bad” and the “ugly”

So, the big SCAQMD Governing Board meeting happened on January 7th and so far they have been silent about what happened.   Nonetheless, you can read a media report about it here.  That report recounts the heated exchange between a member of the public, Ricardo Pulido, and Chairman Burke.  I gotta say, the whole hearing wasn’t pretty.  I, personally, was troubled by comments from Dr. Burke that one of the people who testified was being “untruthful” in her testimony to the Board when she said that “many of us tried to meet with the Board and there have been refusals to meet with us.” (See the recording of the hearing here starting at 57:35—the person giving the testimony, Cynthia Babich, gave very compelling testimony about the true impacts on this Rule on real people—I urge you to watch it.) After basically calling Ms. Babich a liar, Dr. Burke sought to make it very clear that the Board—unlike some other boards—prides itself on being very accessible. (By the way, a Board Member did refuse to meet with us—you can see that “discussion” between me and Dr. Burke, joined by Rolling Hills Estates City Council Member Judy Mitchell, at about 1:09.) At another point in the hearing, a member of the public, Jesse Marquez, was criticized for “waiting until the last minute” to raise concerns about the Proposed Rule to the Board. (I guess the 20-page comment letter we sent in October and the four years of litigation on this Rule weren’t enough to show that he had issues with it.) These exchanges were particularly unfortunate to the extent that they shifted focus from the critically important air quality issues that were being considered by the Board and the public. They also pull at the very fabric of public participation because ultimately such exchanges make members of the public less willing to testify before the Board for fear of the critical tone directed toward the public; indeed one young man who had planned to testify changed his mind because he was “terrified” by the whole thing.

Anyway, after the testimony was done, the Chairman recognized Kurt Wiese, AQMD’s General Counsel.  Mr. Wiese walked up onto the dais, gave the Chairman a piece of paper and whispered a few words to him.  Chairman Burke then read from the paper: “We have received testimony today from several members of the public and given the history on this Rule, I ….propose that we: 1) close the public hearing…; and 2) ask staff to review the information received and report back to us and to continue our deliberation on the item to our February Board meeting.” (See the recording at 2:47:40.) After a follow-up question from a Board Member, Dr. Lyou, it seems that at the February 4th Governing Board Meeting, Board members will be able to ask staff any questions they have about the proposed Rule, and the Board will vote on the matter then. The Board suggested, however, they would not take public comment during that meeting. Frankly, it’s unclear to me how or why they’d prohibit public comment during that meeting.

The staff/Board decision to delay this item by a month provides a bit more time to discuss the proposed Rule and its dramatic implications for health and the environment in the Air Basin. Sadly, it seems that SCAQMD’s General Counsel believes that the discussion shouldn’t include the Governing Board Members—you know, the people who have to actually decide about this. We asked each Member to meet with us to discuss further the Proposed Rule but Mr. Wiese e-mailed us “to notify” us that he has advised the Board Members “not to accept meetings on Rule 1315.”

In the meantime, I hope that others will join us in trying to understand why the Governing Board would adopt a version of the Rule that would kill hundreds of people when they could adopt a version that would kill far, far, far fewer.

I hope that the Board will take this opportunity to engage in this important conversation in a way that leads to the “good” of public debate and public policy development instead of the “bad” and the “ugly” that we’ve fallen into so far.

So, the big SCAQMD Governing Board meeting happened on January 7th and so far they have been silent about what happened.   Nonetheless, you can read a media report about it here.  That report recounts the heated exchange between a member of the public, Ricardo Pulido, and Chairman Burke.  I gotta say, the whole hearing wasn’t pretty.  I, personally, was troubled by comments from Dr[MSOffice1] . [MG2] [AJM3] Burke that one of the people who testified was being “untruthful” in her testimony to the Board when she said that “many of us tried to meet with the Board and there have been refusals to meet with us.” (See the recording of the hearing here starting at 57:35—the person giving the testimony, Cynthia Babich, gave very compelling testimony about the true impacts on this Rule on real people—I urge you to watch it.) After basically calling Ms. Babich a liar, Dr. Burke sought to make it very clear that the Board—unlike some other boards—prides itself on being very accessible. (By the way, a Board Member did refuse to meet with us—you can see that “discussion” between me and Dr. Burke, joined by Rolling Hills Estates City Council Member Judy Mitchell, at about 1:09.) [MG4] At another point in the hearing, a member of the public, Jesse Marquez, was criticized for “waiting until the last minute” to raise concerns about the Proposed Rule to the Board. (I guess the 20-page comment letter we sent in October and the four years of litigation on this Rule weren’t enough to show that he had issues with it.) These exchanges were particularly unfortunate to the extent that they shifted focus from the critically important air quality issues that were being considered by the Board and the public. They also pull at the very fabric of public participation because ultimately such exchanges make members of the public less willing to testify before the Board for fear of the critical tone directed toward the public; indeed one young man who had planned to testify changed his mind because he was “terrified” by the whole thing.

Anyway, after the testimony was done, the Chairman recognized Kurt Wiese, AQMD’s General Counsel.  Mr. Wiese walked up onto the dais, gave the Chairman a piece of paper and whispered a few words to him.  Chairman Burke then read from the paper: “We have received testimony today from several members of the public and given the history on this Rule, I ….propose that we: 1) close the public hearing…; and 2) ask staff to review the information received and report back to us and to continue our deliberation on the item to our February Board meeting.” (See the recording at 2:47:40.) After a follow-up question from a Board Member, Joe Lyou, it seems that at the February 4th Governing Board Meeting, Board members will be able to ask staff any questions they have about the proposed Rule, and the Board will vote on the matter then. The Board suggested, however, they would not take public comment during that meeting. Frankly, it’s unclear to me how or why they’d prohibit public comment during that meeting. [MG5]

The staff/Board decision to delay this item by a month provides a bit more time to discuss the proposed Rule and its dramatic implications for health and the environment in the Air Basin. Sadly, it seems that SCAQMD’s General Counsel believes that the discussion shouldn’t include the Governing Board Members—you know, the people who have to actually decide about this. We asked each Member to meet with us to discuss further the Proposed Rule but Mr. Wiese e-mailed us “to notify” us that he has advised the Board Members “not to accept meetings on Rule 1315.”

In the meantime, I hope that others will join us in trying to understand why the Governing Board would adopt a version of the Rule that would kill hundreds of people when they could adopt a version that would kill far, far, far fewer.

I hope that the Board will take this opportunity to engage in this important conversation in a way that leads to the “good” of public debate and public policy development instead of the “bad” and the “ugly” that we’ve fallen into so far.


[MSOffice1]I think of it as mocking him – people who insist on being called Dr. when they aren’t really doctors are signaling their own insecurities. Know what I mean, Dr.s Golden-Krasner and Johnson Meszaros?

[MG2]Do we have to call him Dr.? He has a Doctorate of Education—is that like a PhD, or not? If not, the “Dr.” is bs and I will not give him that honor—I have a Doctorate

of Jursiprudence—am I a Dr.?

[AJM3]ok, ok, my husband has an Ed.D and they really do get to be called Dr. Lawyers, back in the day could be called Dr. but they decided they preferred “Esquire”—what’s up with that….

[MG4]You’ve gotta put in that the original stated reason she refused to meet with us given by her assistant is that AQMD legal advised her not to. Please, please. You can explain that maybe it’s a misunderstanding, but still. She must have seen the email her assistant sent, and she made us look like lying assholes, so I now hate her.

[MG5]Do you want to add in here that they closed public comment—we aren’t allowed to testify at the Feb. 4 hearing?

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