Lester says ouster shows developers' influence

Feb 12, 2016

Charles Lester, ousted California Coastal Commission director, talks about the agency's direction.


Tony Barboza with the L.A. Times: "The newly fired executive director of the California Coastal Commission said Thursday that commissioners have shifted in recent years to be more accommodating to coastal developers and to exert tighter control over day-to-day activities at the agency."


"This commission seems to be more interested in and receptive to the concerns of the development community as a general rule," Charles Lester said in comments similar to those expressed by hundreds of supporters who spoke at a public hearing before his dismissal. "There is less focus on how we can make decisions to implement the Coastal Act."


"That's different than saying it's development versus environment," he said. "It's more nuanced. But I think it remains to be seen how it will unfold."


California's high speed rail project is facing scrutiny as the numbers just don't add up.


From the AP's Juliet Williams: "Current state plans for a $68 billion high-speed rail system would not get passengers from San Francisco to Los Angeles in the time voters were promised when they approved the project, attorneys for a group of landowners opposing the system argued in court Thursday."


"In addition, the state's estimated ridership figures for shorter trips are not reliable, and operation and maintenance costs are likely to exceed projections, the lawyers said."


Meanwhile, right-to-die law advocate Christy O'Donnell passes away at age 47.


Jill Leovy in the LAT: "Christy O'Donnell, a former LAPD sergeant and lawyer whose difficult battle with lung cancer drove her to advocate for California's new right-to-die law, has died. She was 47."


"O'Donnell, a single mother motivated partly by her desire to spare her daughter the trauma of watching her die painfully, was prominent among the activists who campaigned for the bill signed into law last year. It will make it legal for the terminally ill to seek medical aid to die."


A behind-closed-doors-vote that fired the Coastal Commission's director is now shifting the spotlight to the issue of government transparency.


Michael R. Blood with the A.P. reports, "The agency that decides what gets built and where along the California coast is facing questions about transparency after it pushed out its top executive in a closed-door vote and without a clear explanation of why the change was being made."


"Executive Director Charles Lester was dismissed on a 7-5 tally Wednesday night, which was announced after the commission listened to hours of testimony from dozens of witnesses, virtually all of it extolling Lester's work and commitment to a coastline open for all."


Gov. Jerry Brown is against a $9-billion dollar developer-endorsed school construction bond targeting affluent areas.


Melanie Mason with the L.A. Times writes, "Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday came out against a $9-billion school bond measure that will go before voters in November, erecting a political hurdle for advocates of new spending on school construction."


"I am against the developers' $9-billion bond," Brown said in a statement to The Times. "It's a blunderbuss effort that promotes sprawl and squanders money that would be far better spent in low-income communities."


Can't we all just get along? How the GOP and Democrats are working together to help reform federal marijuana policy


From Joe GarofoliI in the Chronicle: "Perhaps only one thing could bring a Democratic and a Republican congressman together to headline a $1,000-a-person fundraiser in San Francisco: weed."


"Orange County Republican Dana Rohrabacher and Portland, Ore., Democrat Earl Blumenauer are holding a — wait for it — joint fundraiser Friday in San Francisco. So far, 30 people have signed up and organizers say roughly an equal amount of money is going to each representative."


And now we take a look at who had the worst week in California, #WorstWeekinCA. This was a pretty easy call: The award goes to... Charles Lester


"The California Coastal Commission's decision late Wednesday to fire its executive director, Charles Lester, after closed-door deliberations sparked outrage by environmentalists and is expected to leave deep divisions."


"Many of the more than 100 Lester supporters awaiting the decision broke into tears or reacted angrily."



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