On a 34-0 vote, the state Senate approved and sent to the Assembly on Thursday legislation restoring the City of Los Angeles' seat on the governing board of the South Coast Air Quality Management District.
The bill, authored by state Sen. Robert Presley (D-Riverside), is intended to break a deadlock between two candidates for the existing seat on the AQMD governing board to represent the cities of Los Angeles County.
Under a reorganization approved last year by the state Legislature, Los Angeles lost its separate seat on the AQMD governing board. The reorganization allowed only one representative on the board to be elected from all 85 cities in the county, including Los Angeles.
But, because of a rigid formula for selection, requiring the winning representative to have the votes of two-thirds of the cities representing two-thirds of the population, neither of the candidates--Los Angeles Councilman Marvin Braude and Rolling Hills Councilman Thomas F. Heinsheimer--has been able to get the minimum number of votes to be elected. As a result, the 85 cities of Los Angeles County have been without a representative on the four-county smog agency since it was reorganized in January.
The new bill would give the county's cities two seats.
The Heinsheimer-Braude contest involves at least two major issues. The first is the question of who will speak for the 85 cities on the board. Some smaller cities are concerned that if a Los Angeles councilman is elected, their voices will not be heard.
A second issue concerns which of the two candidates would be more willing to vote for tougher air pollution controls. Several environmental organizations, including the Santa Monica-based Coalition for Clean Air and the Sierra Club are backing Braude. They said Heinsheimer's election would mean a vote for business interests.
Under a reorganization of the AQMD approved by the Legislature last year, the AQMD governing board was trimmed to 11 members from 14. Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties each has a seat on the board. In addition, cities in each of the four counties are supposed to agree upon a single representative. The governor, Senate Rules Committee and Speaker of the Assembly each have an appointment to the board.
The Senate bill approved Thursday attempts to break the impasse by adding another member to the AQMD board. Cities in Los Angeles County would be divided into two blocs--one from the western part of the county and the other from the eastern region. Because of Los Angeles' population advantage, it is all but a foregone conclusion that a city official would be elected to represent the western region.
The eastern region would begin at Los Angeles' eastern city limits. The eastern region has 60 cities with a population of 3.1 million. The western region, including Los Angeles, has 25 cities with a total population of 4.3 million.