How's my favorite local California Coastal Commissioner doing?
In the hot seat again. Right, Erik Howell? It seems like a recurring theme for ya. Only this time I'm actually a little shocked! And I'm also appalled!
Being accused of shady dealings with project consultant Susan McCabe after you voted against the development she represented as a Pismo Beach City Council member and then voting in favor of it months later as a Coastal Commissioner after a significant campaign donation? Sure thing. Not that surprising.
In fact, Spotlight on Coastal Corruption (by the way, this group only shined a "spotlight" on one incident—and calling it corruption is a stretch—so maybe they should tone down the name a little, just sayin') sued you and four of your commission colleagues over the incident, alleging that y'all failed to report "ex parte" meetings with consultants as required! A judge ordered you to pay a $3,500 fine.
OK, not a super big deal. But we had fun back then, didn't we?!
Pismo Beach residents filed a California Fair Political Practices Commission complaint for that whole episode, and it was eventually rejected, but, man, I bet that sucked! And then the Coastal Commission fired its longtime executive director Charles Lester, which you voted in favor of, and environmentalists up and down the coast lost their collective minds.
Boy, this is bringing back some memories!
And then last year, the state bar suspended your law license for 60 days and found you in violation of multiple laws—causing "significant harm" to a client by failing to attend court hearings and answer client communications. Wow! The client, Linda McCormick, had sued you for legal malpractice! Wow! A SLO County judge awarded her almost $200,000 in damages. Wow!
OK, I was a little surprised by that. But not all that much.
But this latest incident really chaps my ass!
You, an arguably liberal elected official, don't believe that there's some environmental justice that needs to be addressed in Oceano! Are you freaking kidding me?! Is this because you're from Pismo Beach, and your little town makes a shit-ton of sales tax dollars off of the rough and rowdy dunes riders—and you don't want to share? Sounds like a potential conflict of interest for a Pismo Beach City Council member, to me.
It also sounds like you think the residents of Oceano are just fine with all of the commotion and dust caused by Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area visitors.
After fellow Coastal Commissioner Linda Escalante asked the California Department of Recreation and State Parks what they were going to do about this particular environmental justice issue during an Oct. 18 meeting, you called both Escalante and the commission staff ignorant for even thinking there was an issue!
"I don't like any of this," you whined so poetically at the meeting. "Quite frankly," (ooh, "This ought to be good," I thought), "with all due respect to Commissioner Escalante, the comments regarding environmental justice indicate an ignorance of the geography and the demographics of this area."
Wait. Whose comments "indicate ignorance"? Because it sure sounds like they belong to you, Howell. You added that you were super disappointed in everyone around him—except for State Parks, of course, which can't seem to follow any of the requirements laid out before it by any of the state agencies charged with regulating the dunes (including the commission!). And, according to State Parks' Jim Newland, surveys the people who use to park to gauge whether anything needs to change.
Umm. Hello?! That's surveying 101: You need to get feedback from more than just those who think you're amazing. Biased much?
"Before we talk about this again, please go to Oceano," Howell scolded.
Umm. Excuse me? Erik? With all due respect, I think you need to go to Oceano. Not to the dunes themselves to mob around, stare at the ocean, and try not to crash into a fellow rider, but to the town itself. The part of town that exists beyond Old Juan's Cantina and the Pier Avenue parking lot (which could use a little upgrade, by the way, much like the rough and bumpy Pier Avenue).
If you speak with residents, you will find more than "non-minority, by and large, non-elects" (and what does that mean, exactly?) who "weren't affected by the dunes dust at all." Which is total BS! And it's not just about dust, jackass.
It's also about roads that get used, abused, and left behind. Ones that flood every winter and need to be closed. It's about schools that need a little more funding and local parks that could use an upgrade. It's about an impoverished area that doesn't benefit in the same way that your little town does from all of the tourists—a town that can't afford to banish certain types of "undesirable" businesses from its downtown core.
And if you actually listened to some of the residents, I think, by and large, what you will find is the story you don't want to hear. Residents in Oceano have been complaining for years about what they perceive to be unfair: They get all of the impacts of having a super popular state park in their backyard, while Pismo and Grover Beach reap all of the benefits.
If ignorance is bliss, you, Howell, are reveling in it. Δ
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