Some drove for hours. They testified by the hundreds. They loved Charles Lester and wept when he was sacked.
The California Coastal Commission spent an entire day, first listening to the overwhelming support for its Executive Director then deliberating in closed session on his fate.
It was a spectacle – the democratic process in action with all its warts and blemishes.
More than one Commissioner said they felt the media had misportrayed the issue before them – that this personnel hearing was not a battle of developers versus those who love their coast. But the LATimes, the LA County Board of Supervisors and elected officials up and down the state attempted to frame the topic in simple sound bites that just didn’t suit the matter at hand. The Commissioners wanted a better leader; they wanted a more efficient operation; they wanted a more diverse staff – they wanted an Executive Director who would deliver on all this and in so doing build a stronger Coastal Commission, more efficient and more responsive to every applicant whether they be a wealthy developer or a homeowner of modest means.
If you have ever taken an air pollution issue to the Coastal Commission you won’t be sad to see Lester depart. As the beach bonfire controversies of the past few years reached Coastal’s purview we suffered humiliating rebuke. Lester and his staff ridiculed our advocacy and sat at the same table with Friends of the Fire Rings during the Senate hearings on AB-1102 which would’ve enshrined beach bonfires into the state constitution. He and his staff implied our motivations to be more than unethical, but racist as well. Home owners who suffered night after night with carcinogenic woodsmoke from unregulated bonfires were unwitting fools playing out our roles in a tired battle of rich versus poor.
History will prove him to be shortsighted.
Goodbye, Charles Lester.