In a show of political force by residents and board members, county supervisor Adam Hill and San Luis Obispo City Mayor Jan Marx had their respective chairman and vice-chairmanship appointments blocked at the Air Pollution Control District’s meeting.
Following more than an hour of public comment on a matter typically seen as routine, a literally divided 12-member board of directors failed to reach an agreement over whether Hill—and to a lesser extent, Marx—would best serve the district’s interests following Hill’s recent scathing words regarding the cooperation of state parks.
On Jan. 23, the board first split 6-6 on a motion to appoint Hill to head the board for the year, with dissention from county supervisors Debbie Arnold and Frank Mecham, as well as Atascadero City Councilwoman Roberta Fonzi, Paso Robles Councilman John Hamon, Grover Beach Mayor Debbie Peterson, and Pismo Beach Councilman Ed Waage.
Failing that, Morro Bay Councilman Noah Smukler nominated Supervisor Paul Teixeira as chair—who was unanimously approved—and Mecham then nominated Fonzi as vice-chair, whose appointment was also unanimous.
And with that, Hill has effectively been blocked from two chairmanships in a month, after the board of the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments, a regional transit and planning agency, passed him over for Mecham.
Close to 30 residents spoke at the hearing, with both support and opposition to Hill’s appointment in a dead heat. And despite assertions by both sides that politics had no bearing on their opinions, it was clear that support or opposition to Hill and Marx coincided with the speaker’s support or opposition to the district’s recent implementation of Rule 1001, which could fine the state up to $1,000 per day when harmful particulate matter exceeds certain levels around the Nipomo Mesa.
The district and the state are currently at odds on how best to improve air quality in the area, which the district attributes in large part to recreational vehicle use in the Oceano Dunes.
“It’s not about politics. It’s about who should be the chair of a powerful regulatory agency whose power can affect peoples lives,” said Mike Brown, president of the San Luis Obispo Coalition of Labor, Agriculture, and Business, a vocal lobbying group that has waged a political war on Hill, and who mobilized members to speak out in opposition to Hill’s appointment.
Many on the board also echoed their disapproval of a sharp-tongued Nov. 16 e-mail sent by Hill, as an individual, to ACPD head Larry Allen and various state officials regarding his opinion of state parks’ cooperation in the process.
A few residents voiced their displeasure over the politicizing of the process and urged the board to instead work toward its common goals of improving air quality and protecting residents’ health.