Fom our neighborhoods to our regional economies, California is the most diverse state in our nation, making local decision-making authority imperative to economic growth and good governance. However, a handful of Sacramento’s legislators are attempting to revoke local control in Southern California through the recently proposed SB 1387, a proposal to unnecessarily alter the local control of the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD).
Throughout California, regional air quality control boards – like other regional agencies – were established to empower locally elected officials to develop air quality rules and regulations that reflect the unique populations and conditions in their own regions. Currently, Sacramento has three appointees on the SCAQMD Board of 13. SB 1387 would add three more state-appointees to the Board, effectively giving Sacramento lawmakers control over six seats on a Southern California board.
As leaders in the great Inland Empire region, we cannot standby and allow Sacramento to remove our voices through this politically motivated maneuver. We empowered our locally elected city councils and mayors to represent our best interests, and in turn, they select the members of the SCAQMD Board to lead our region to cleaner air with technology advancements. Historically and recently, all the Board members have a track record of tremendous success, and we have no doubt the current board will continue that legacy.
Since SCAQMD’s inception as a board comprised of local voices, air quality has improved. The number of Basin-Days exceeding federal health standard levels for ozone has decreased by nearly 60 percent while the region’s population has increased by a dramatic 75 percent. In the last two decades, annual health advisories and Stage 1 smog alerts, which both used to occur 100 or more times annually, have been eliminated.
The SCAQMD Board is clearly capable of making continued progress to improve air quality. Instead of recognizing the 25 years of good work from all the SCAQMD Board members for huge improvements in improved air quality that benefit all who live in the South Coast Basin, Sacramento wants to take control of the Board by adding three more appointees. This unnecessary proposal would be a gross overreach and establish a negative precedent for other agencies and boards – anytime Sacramento does not like how a local board votes. This political maneuver to pack the SCAQMD Board with more State appointees reduces transparency, accountability and overrides local control.
Appointed SCAQMD Board members are beholden to those who appointed them rather than elected officials who are accountable to their constituents. It would also be unnecessary – Southern California has an impressive, diverse pool of locally elected officials eligible to represent the region on the SCAQMD Board under current law, including 20 county supervisors and 848 city mayors and council members.
We need to protect – not diminish – the authority of local decision-makers throughout our state. We need our Inland Empire delegation to stand up for our air-quality-challenged areas, not outsource local control to Sacramento. This is why Southern California’s businesses, consumers, taxpayers and local government representatives oppose SB 1387, and why the San Bernardino Board of Supervisors voted to oppose the bill in support of local control of the SCAQMD Board as originally intended by the legislature.
The editorial board of the Press Enterprise got it right – don’t pollute the SCAQMD Board with more state appointees.
Ed’s Note: Paul Granillo is CEO of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership.