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In the Pipeline: In the end, the right side won

July 15, 2013|By Chris Epting
  • Board Chairman William A. Burke, center, addresses members of the public during a meeting regarding a proposal that would restrict fire rings on Southland beaches.
Board Chairman William A. Burke, center, addresses members… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

Several months ago, Air Quality Management District Chairman William Burke proclaimed that he was "100% positive" he would be able to ban all fire rings in Southern California. Clearly, he underestimated the power of a little place called Huntington Beach.

As we learned in a vote last Friday, the fire pits are staying right here where they belong. The fate of the pits in Newport and Corona del Mar remain up in the air, but that's their problem, not ours. As it now seems all but evident, this mess started down there not because of any real health issues, but the simple and despicable fact that certain wealthy beachfront owners want to control what types of people visit their beaches.

But all I know is we won. Was it a bit bittersweet that the entire AQMD proposal wasn't thrown in the trash where it belongs? Perhaps. Nevertheless, it was a monumental victory.

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And just look at what we did in the process. We began exposing what would appear to be one of the most unscrupulous government agencies in the state, if not the entire country. We turned this into a national story and so now millions of people will associate the AQMD with this issue.

We created pressure that probably led to Burke's resignation from the Coastal Commission. We exposed his and board member Dennis Yates' preposterous words comparing Newport bonfires to Vietnam carpet bombing (to date, neither man has apologized to veterans). We exposed the apparent academic misrepresentations of board member Clark Parker.

Perhaps most importantly, we came together as a city. People of every political persuasion and economic level worked together to get this done. It was glorious.

And yes we saved the fire pits. Throughout this process, several AQMD employees have reached out to me. They are ashamed of their leaders, and with good reason. This issue was embarrassing on many levels, for our region, for our state but especially for the AQMD.

As one staffer expressed to me, quietly, after the meeting, "You have no idea how huge a victory this is. They planned on wiping all of the rings out, quickly and quietly. But your city stopped them and you should be very proud."

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