Opinion

SoCal air board faces new threat — Sacramento

A smog-tinged view in black and white of Century City, Beverly Hills and West Los Angeles. (Photo: Trekandshoot, via Shutterstock)

Last year, a bi-partisan group of local elected officials in the Inland Empire came together to successfully take back control of the Ontario International Airport, which had been controlled by Los Angeles for over five decades.  For years, the airport suffered from declining ridership, causing nearby businesses to move out of the area. Our local officials decided it was in the best interest of the regional economy to take back control of the airport in order to ensure a critical Inland Empire transportation hub gets the attention and resources it needs to be successful again.

That effort serves as a reminder for me of the vital role that local leaders play in protecting the economic vitality of our region. Safeguarding the economic health and job growth potential of the Inland Empire is the primary focus of Inland Action and we intimately understand the critical role our local elected officials play in creating a desirable community and sending a message that we are open for business.

We at the local and regional level know our economies best: we know what industries have helped to spur economic growth and add jobs and which sectors are most vulnerable to change.

Now, local leadership in California faces a threat – SB 1387. This bill would reduce the influence local leaders have on a regional board – the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) – by adding even more Sacramento-appointed representatives. The bill would also allow a state agency to overrule the policy decisions of this regional board.

This could set a damaging precedent for our state and our region. If passed, SB 1387 could usher in a slew of bills diluting local voices, reducing regional abilities and providing Sacramento with a kill switch for community decision making.

This goes against everything that we stand for and runs afoul of the principles that Inland Action was founded on.

We’ve seen firsthand the critical role that local leaders play in influencing the economic well-being of our region. And this same principle rings true for the rest of the state as well.

We at the local and regional level know our economies best: we know what industries have helped to spur economic growth and add jobs and which sectors are most vulnerable to change. We’re familiar with individual facilities, specific economic sectors and local businesses of all shapes and sizes. Most importantly, we know the residents that make up our workforce and depend on these jobs to put food on the table for their families.

Local leaders know best what their constituents need and are more than capable to manage policies that meet those needs.

SB 1387 unfairly undermines that the elected officials on the SCAQMD Board – of which I was one – are somehow incapable of making effective policy, that they need additional interference from the state in order to represent their local constituents. Local representatives are the keepers of unique knowledge about and experience with their localities, in addition to be thoughtful and responsible in how they exercise their authority.

That personal knowledge is not the role of state representatives, and it shouldn’t be. Their mandate is to consider how local and regional decisions conform with the economic, environmental and social wellbeing of the state. But we cannot have a healthy state if we don’t have healthy regions and we cannot have healthy regions if local leaders and their voices are swapped out for those imposed upon us by Sacramento.

SB 1387 poses a dire threat to the economic wellbeing of our region. Local leaders have shaped the environmental, economic and social vitality of our regions for decades and there is no reason that should change now.

As the story of the Ontario Airport and my own experience on the SCAQMD Board demonstrate, local leaders know best what their constituents need and are more than capable to manage policies that meet those needs. That’s why I have joined more than 100 other government groups and concerned organizations throughout the state to stand in support of local leaders and in staunch opposition to SB 1387. I ask our state legislators to respect their local beginnings and do the same.

Ed’s Note: Carole Beswick is a former board member of the South Coast Air Quality Management District and former mayor of the City of Redlands.

 


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