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In the Pipeline: AQMD isn't listening to Huntington Beach

April 09, 2013|By Chris Epting
  • Air Quality Management District board members William Burke, left, and Dennis Yates listen during Friday's meeting in Diamond Bar.
Air Quality Management District board members William… (Courtesy CHRIS…)

Right after I spoke at the Air Quality Management District board meeting Friday, several people asked me if I'd noticed what happened during my discussion with Chairman William Burke.

I had not. Evidently, the sergeant at arms at the meeting had appeared just behind me. A gentleman in the crowd, Randy Brown (who also spoke against the proposed beach bonfire ban) explained to me that the "enforcer" was there to potentially deal with me, I suppose, because I was speaking somewhat forcefully to the chairman, and they were nervous about that.

Nervous about a concerned citizen speaking on behalf of other concerned citizens in view of a draconian, unannounced (to our city, anyway) proposal that would ban all beach bonfires in Southern California — before any evidence had even been collected to prove a case.

It was a surreal day to say the least. When the Huntington Beach contingent arrived that morning, I saw Burke in the cafeteria sitting with some other board members. The day before the meeting, I'd asked AQMD spokesman Sam Atwood for an interview. I received this: "I'm going to decline comment at this time. I expect that SCAQMD's Board will engage in some discussion of this proposal during their meeting tomorrow and you should be able to get all the information you need from that exchange."

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In common parlance, no direct questions from the media. Not one.

So I introduced myself to Burke and he invited me to sit down with his group. Also there was executive officer Barry Wallerstein, whom I interviewed at last week's meeting. As you might recall, he directly contradicted what I'd been told by another board member in regards to whether or not any scientific research had been done yet in Huntington Beach. He did not look happy to see me, but Burke insisted I pull up a chair.

I asked Burke if I could tape the session, which he seemed to have no problem with. But Wallerstein did. I explained that after last week's misrepresentations in the press by AQMD, that I wanted a physical record of everything that was said. He accused me of not accurately portraying our conversation last week but I have my fully notated interview and I quoted him precisely and in context. So he was either lying or mistaken.

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