In anticipation of the February 10th hearing in Morro Bay to decide the future of the California Coastal Commission’s Executive Director Charles Lester, Angel Law’s Frank Angel submitted this comment letter opposing his removal:
Angel Law writes to express its strong support for Dr. Charles Lester as Executive Director of the Coastal Commission. We have appeared on countless occasions before the Coastal Commission since the early 90’s, advocating for environmentally sensitive coastal habitat and wetlands preservation, ocean water quality and public shoreline access on behalf of our public interest clients, large (e.g., Sierra Club) and smaller (e.g., Save Open Space/Santa Monica Mountains). While we do not always agree (or fully agree) with staff recommendations, that’s not the point. Here’s the point:
We much appreciate staff’s time-honored tradition of keeping politics out of sound coastal planning and good science. Staff must remain independent from the special interests and, for that matter, the various stakeholders appearing before the Commission. That is what has distinguished the Coastal Commission from staff of most local governments, the coastal planning and development decisions of which are driven by parochial interests often in conflict with fundamental purposes of the Coastal Act.
If political machinations now result in terminating Dr. Lester’s position and stewardship, public shoreline access for underserved inland or minority communities, and for citizens of low- or moderate income, will suffer tremendously. So will coastal wildlife habitat protection. The message to the entire Commission staff—already stretched far too thin due to short-sighted fiscal decisions in Sacramento—will be one of intimidation. This is not a recipe for good governance, California style. The Flint, Michigan water quality crisis is just the latest example of what happens when politics and money collide with environmental protection and most basic public welfare needs.
If anything, Dr. Lester deserves a resounding vote of confidence. The public’s trust in the Commission need not suffer more than it has already.
Frank P. Angel