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In the Pipeline: Time to stand up to AQMD

April 04, 2013|By Chris Epting

Mayor Keith Curry of Newport Beach has sent Huntington Beach Mayor Connie Boardman a letter. In it, he pitched the idea of agreeing to let his city become the "smoke free alternative" when it comes to beach bonfires, while letting ours assume our rightful stance as the city that still embraces common sense, tradition, economic strength — and a distaste for the "nanny" state.

I'm wondering if Newport is starting to regret letting the Air Quality Management District (AQMD) genie out of the bottle. After all, I noticed on most of the radio and TV interviews I did this week on this issue, the backlash against Newport seems to be picking up steam, judging from the reaction of hosts and callers.

I also wonder if Newport regrets that, according to an L.A. Times story by Gale Holland, one of its most prominent and powerful citizens, John Hamilton (husband of Newport Beach Parks Commissioner Kathy Hamilton, who voted to ban the fire rings), had a meeting with AQMD Chairman and California Coastal Commission member William Burke. This perhaps sealed not just Newport's fate, but Huntington Beach's too. After all, soon after that meeting, Burke stated publicly that he was "100%" sure the ban would pass. This before any public hearings or briefings and absent any scientific evidence specific to this area,.

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I've reached out to Burke's people to see about asking him my own questions. But nobody has gotten back to me. Maybe I'd have more luck if I was a powerful Newport Beach oceanfront property owner. That said, while I don't have the beach house, I do have this column, and right now to me that is of far more value.

This column provides a chance to pull back the veil on how the AQMD has been operating. And it allows for the sharing of accountability, information and truth in this matter. In short, everything AQMD seems hell bent on keeping from us.

Remember, according to a city spokeswoman the agency never even notified Huntington Beach that it was planning to ban beach bonfires. It has scheduled no local meetings here in our city to learn about our concerns or our economy — nothing.

The AQMD seems to have forgotten its vow "to allow direct input from community members into the rule-making, technology, and policymaking decisions conducted by the district." It seems to be operating in a vacuum at breakneck speed, with judgment day now one month away. And based on Burke's comment, it seems to have already decided our fate.

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