Wildlife lovers and animal advocates were up in arms when, about six weeks ago, a young, male mountain lion that wandered into Santa Monica was killed during attempts to return it to the wild.
City Hall received hundreds of complaints from animal lovers who blamed its deathonpolice and wildlife officials. I wrote in my June 4 My Write (¬îA real cat-astrophe,¬î page 4), that ¬ìthe public¬ís anger should be redirected to thereasons why wild animals ¬ó bears, pumas, coyotes ¬ó are turning up in civilized areas more frequently and meeting fatal consequences: the diminishing of their natural habitat.¬î
I declared that,”the real villains in this story are developers, real estate interests andspeculators whobuyup untouched property adjacent tonational and state parks and erect developments thatdeprivewildlife of its homeland.¬î
A male cougar¬ís home range can easily bea couple hundred square miles and therein is the crux of the problem. According to wildlife experts, the cougar killed in aDowntowncourtyard was probably searching for a new home territory away from older and more dominant male cougars in the Santa Monica Mountains.
¬ìAnger over the loss of wildlife habitat ¬ó not limited just to mountain lions ¬ó should also be directed at state and federal lawmakers who aren¬ít doing nearly enough to protectwildlife and natural habitat ¬ó not at law enforcement forprotecting public safety,¬î I wrote. Enter Chula Vista Assemblyman Ben Hueso (D-79th)
Hueso authoredAB 2226, a bill that will make iteasier to develop the entireCaliforniacoast. It wouldundermine restrictions onenvironmentally unfriendly projects such as the156-acre compound that U2 guitarist ¬ìthe Edge¬î (his real name is David Evans) wants to build on a prime, environmentally sensitive Malibu ridge topthat had previously been turned down by the California Coastal Commission (CCC).
Hueso, a former coastal commissioner,told the Los Angeles Times (June 16, 2012) that ¬ìhe introduced the bill to rein in what he sees as an overzealous bureaucracy that uses arbitrary standards to block development …¬î He added thathis legislation was not designed to”advance the interests of the U2 guitarist¬î although that¬ís exactly what it would have done.
The CCC, which overseas coastal development, closely scrutinizes larger multi-structure proposals. Tract developers often try to ¬ìcheat the system¬î by claiming that each of their building sites has different owners.
They evenformlimited liability corporations for each site to hide the identities of the real owners. Evans had falsely claimedeach of the five mansion sites in his proposedcompound had different owners.
AB 2226 required thatthe regulatory agency takeclaimsthat the entity holding the deed to aproperty(s) is the actual property owner at face value. If the state wanted to challengeownership, it would be held to the same burden of proof that would apply in a court of law. Producingevidence of real ownership would therefore be difficult or impossible because, unlike the courts, the CCC lacks subpoena power, can¬ít conduct depositions, engage in discovery and demand sworn testimony.
Passage of Hueso¬ís bill would make it much easier fordevelopers to scam the system. It wouldlead to larger and more environmentally destructive developments and further threaten criticalwildlife habitat.
It¬ís also special interest legislation like Huseo¬ís that results in the low opinion most Californians have of their lawmakers.
The good news is that Hueso¬ís bill, which was quickly approved in the Assembly by a wide margin last April 26, was killedin a Senate committee, last Tuesday. It became a dead issue after word got out about how damaging it could be for undeveloped coastal areas.The bad news is wealthy developers and speculators will find some otherSacramentopatsy to further their agenda by writinglegislation to make it easier todevelop natural lands.
I called Betsy Butler¬ís (D-53rd) Sacramentooffice and was told that initiallylegislators, includingButler, supported it when it was beforecommittee April 17 because there was no opposition from wildlife, environmentor conservation groups at the time.Butleris running for the 50th Assembly District seat this November.
Whenvarious citizens began looking at AB 2226 andrealized that it would prevent the CCC from restricting environmentally damaging projects, they informed legislators. Butlerchanged her position on the measure to ¬ìabstain”(unfortunately, instead of voting ¬ìno¬î) when it came before the full Assembly on April 26. By the time it reached the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, opposition to the bill had gone viral and AB 2226 was toast.
The real lesson here is public vigilance.Citizens need to stay informed. If we see legislation we don¬ít like,we must let the politicians know how we feel. Write, e-mail or call your congressman, state senator, state assembly person and/or city council person and give them a piece of your mind.
Never think you can¬ít make a difference. Share your thoughts with friends and co-workers. Send letters to the media. Go online and blog.
Hold that grudge. Get even at election time. Work to defeat politicians who vote for measures you oppose.Remember, scumbags shouldn¬ít hold office.
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org