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In The Pipeline: Anti fire-ring AQMD member's odd resignation

April 22, 2013|By Chris Epting
  • One of the Air Quality Management District monitoring devices is set up next to Pacific Coast Highway and the AES power plant at Newland.
One of the Air Quality Management District monitoring… (Courtesy CHRIS…)

The bonfire fight has never been hotter (or weirder) then it is right now.

On April 12, I went to visit Assemblyman Allan Mansoor in his Costa Mesa office. I have been in touch with a number of local elected officials about the looming draconian ban on beach bonfires about to be imposed by the Air Quality Management District (AQMD). By now I'm sure you've heard the story.

Mansoor told me that on April 14, he would be releasing a letter addressing this issue to California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

After the weekend, I saw the letter, which effectively and reasonably called into question the conflict presented by William Burke serving on both the California Coastal Commission and the Air Quality Management District, and asked for an opinion. (Burke is pushing hard for the ban.)

It included this passage: "The clashing interests between the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the California Coastal Commission make it impossible for one member to be an effective and loyal representative on both bodies." It goes on to say that the appropriate remedy would be for Burke to give up the longest-held of his offices — with the SCAQMD.

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When interviewed about the letter after its release, Mansoor also touched on the fact that many people were offended by comments made by Burke and SCAQMD board member Dennis Yates comparing Newport Beach bonfires with Vietnam carpet bombing.

Burke was defiant. In reaction to this letter, he was quoted as saying that not only would he not apologize for the Vietnam remark but that there was certainly no conflict in his dual appointments.

So it was shocking that Burke very soon after resigned his seat on the California Coastal Commission.

Right after denying anything was wrong, he resigns. And, mind you, not from the board that, as Mansoor points out, would be the legally proper one to vacate, the AQMD.

There is something else extremely peculiar about Burke's resignation letter, which I have seen. It is dated April 12, the Friday before Mansoor's letter even appeared.

So what exactly is going on here? Since noticing the date on the letter, I have reached out to ask about it, but as has now become commonplace, Burke and his people simply ignored the request.

We have paid their salaries, but they will not even answer an email. Is he gearing up for a knock-drown, drag-out battle royale with our city?

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