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The Sacramento Bee is disturbed that the Assembly has derailed SB 1190, which would ban lobbying of California Coastal Commission members. Lobbyists had set up meetings between commissioners and David “The Edge” Evans, a guitarist with U2, who sought to build a house in Malibu, and members of the Newport Banning Ranch Project in Orange County. Such activity is what happens when a state sets up a powerful unelected commission.
The Coastal Commission was supposed to be temporary, but before the end of the 1970s, legislators duly made it permanent. In practice, the Commission became the private domain of Peter Douglas, a regulatory zealot with little regard for property rights. On his watch the Commission was also known for Mafia-style corruption. During the 1990s, Coastal Commissioner Mark Nathanson attempted to shake down celebrities for bribes, and wound up serving a prison term.
As we noted last year, the Commission has been expanding its power into new areas. It remains a classic example of government becoming progressively more intrusive, more expensive, and less responsive to the people. When we last checked in, legislators were poised to add three new commissioners, appointed by the governor, the Assembly Speaker and the Senate Committee on Rules. The new appointees are to work with communities burdened by pollution and focus on “issues of environmental justice.”
In February the Commission fired executive director Charles Lester, a rare case of a bureaucrat getting the axe. Lester has yet to be replaced, and while the CCC searches for a new boss, complaints persist.
Banning ex-parte communications and lobbying would be good moves, but the state would do better to get rid of the entire Commission. The duly elected government in Malibu is fully capable of dealing with Mr. Evans’ new home. Elected governments in Orange County are competent to deal with the Newport Banning Ranch Project. Elected governments along the coastline are capable of preserving the coast for all Californians.