June 23, 2009

Moving Forward

I received some positive feedback on the last post, so thanks. I was also asked if "that was it"....if the questions/concerns I identified were my only questions/concerns. Nope. But since my primary concern was a failure to understand why this report was prepared (and the Coastal Commission not involved), I don't think it makes much sense to continue picking it apart. So moving on....

At the City Council meeting (Tuesday, March 24) immediately following the illegal earthwork activity, Fourth District Councilmember Patrick O'Donnell and Third District Councilmember Gary DeLong requested (paraphrased) that staff make a report/produce a memo which essentially outlines the process. Mayor Bob Foster reiterated this request.

What is the status of the memo?

A thoroughly annotated account of what transpired both prior to the illegal earthwork and subsequent would go a long way towards facilitating public understanding. This memo should detail what actions/communications preceded the illegal activity, what actions are being taken to "punish" the offender, what other agencies are involved and what is the status of their activity, what is expected of Mr. Hitchcock now, and what is being done to insure that this egregious behavior does not happen again.

To that extent....I have heard that Long Beach does not really have any meaningful "enforcement provisions" for this type of illegal work; that the most the City can do is slap a "double the permit fee penalty" on Mr. Hitchcock. Given the seriousness of the action, this hardly seems sufficient. But if this is the City's only remediation currently, so be it. Unfortunately, it just is what it is.

However, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Mr. Hitchcock's actions exposed a flaw in the system. It is my opinion that now is the time to "fix it," if possible....at the very least, to try. I believe that discussions should ensue which attempt to do just that.

Now I'm going to throw out some suggestions which I fully realize vary in feasibility. But ya gotta start somewhere, so here goes.....

Other cities have wetlands. Do these Cities have any special enforcement provisions which Long Beach can adopt? How has illegal work on wetlands been dealt with in other municipalities? Or has it? I dunno.

Does the Department of Development Services have a "cheat sheet" which easily identifies/describes the permit process? Akin to a permit flow chart? Would this be helpful to hand out to a developer so that they can quickly and easily see which agencies have regulatory/permit authority for various activities. Again, I dunno.

How can communication be improved between the decision makers and the public? I think issuing the promised memo, if detailed and done thoroughly, is a good first step.

Maybe a citizens task force can be initiated convened in the spirit of the Los Cerritos Wetlands Study Group and original SEADIP committee (hey, I said the ideas varied in feasibility).

It is important to not just identify problems, but also to try and recommend solutions. I realize that this is a difficult activity, but it is a necessary step in moving forward. And at this stage of the game, moving forward responsibly and in light of full information is paramount.