Glendale Mayor Jerold Milner suffered a decisive setback last week in his bid to become a voice for home rule on the regional air quality board.
After three rounds of inconclusive balloting, the 61 cities representing Los Angeles County's eastern region passed over Milner and elected Covina City Councilman Henry Morgan unanimously to the South Coast Air Quality Management District's 12-member governing board.
Morgan, considered a compromise candidate, was elected over Milner and the two candidates supported by environmental groups--Santa Clarita Councilwoman Jan Heidt and San Dimas Mayor Terry Dipple. Heidt and Dipple both are advocates of imposing strong agency regulations on cities to clean up the air in the Los Angeles basin, one of the most polluted in the country.
Milner, who believes cities should have autonomy to follow their own clean-air policies and meet goals at their own pace, threw his support to Morgan after two rounds of balloting made it clear he had no chance of being elected.
Long Beach City Councilman Jeffrey Kellogg withdrew his candidacy for a board seat at the last minute, a move Milner said played a major role in his defeat.
The election, organized by the Los Angeles chapter of the League of California Cities, took place at the AQMD headquarters in El Monte. Delegates from 48 of the cities in the region took part in the balloting.
After the vote, both Milner and environmentalists acknowledged defeat but said they were happy they could block each other's candidacies.
"Of all the other candidates," Milner said, "at least Morgan was the closest one to my position."
In a carefully worded candidate statement, Morgan showed concern for both sides of the issue, stating that AQMD goals "are only attainable through proper compromise, sacrifice and cooperation."
But Milner could not hide his disappointment in being defeated, nor the differences that separate him from the winning candidate.
"We got what we deserve," he said, "and the cities that didn't vote for me are going to pay the price. The price is that we won't have that little pestering voice on the board fighting for change. Morgan is pretty much your status quo."
Milner left no doubt that he is disenchanted with the status quo when he wrote in his candidate statement "the AQMD is a resource--it should not be an omniscient dictator."
In the past, Glendale has feuded repeatedly with the agency in court and before agency hearing panels over how to clean up the city's Scholl Canyon Landfill. More recently the two clashed over how to control emissions from the steam boilers in the city's power plant. On several occasions the city barely averted paying fines of up to $50,000 a day.
Milner said the city of Long Beach--which he had considered a natural ally--played a major role in his defeat.
Under the complicated formula used in Thursday night's election, the winner needed two-thirds of the cities' votes, plus the votes from delegates representing two-thirds of the region's population. Since Long Beach and Glendale are easily the largest cities in the region--which does not include the city of Los Angeles--an alliance between the two would have given them virtual veto power over the other candidates.
Long Beach, with its relatively clean air, operates one of two incinerators in the county despite strong opposition from environmental groups. Kellogg had expressed fears that the AQMD would impose standards on incinerators that are too tough to meet, or ban the practice altogether.
If any city would support Glendale's bid, Milner said, he believed it would be Long Beach. He was wrong.
On the first ballot, Milner got 11 votes with Long Beach abstaining, he said. On the second ballot, his vote total went down to 10, and Long Beach voted for Morgan. On the third ballot, Milner withdrew his candidacy and voted for Morgan, who was elected unanimously on the fourth ballot.
Why Long Beach didn't support him, Milner said, "is anybody's guess."
Milner said the other cities did not vote against him because they rejected his platform. He simply was defeated by a more popular candidate, Milner said.
"Mr. Morgan has been active on the League of Cities for many years, and he could get on the phone and get more commitments than me," Milner said.
But not everyone agreed. "I think the cities showed they don't want to be perceived as reactionary. That's why they didn't vote for the Glendale mayor," said Mark Abramowitz, program director for the Coalition for Clean Air, a Los Angeles-based environmental group.
"However," he added, "I think it's somewhat disturbing that the cities did not follow the people's mandate in the valleys to vote for an environmental candidate."
The coalition had previously endorsed Dipple, but Abramowitz said he would have been equally comfortable had Heidt been elected. As for Morgan, Abramowitz said he was somewhat of an unknown quantity.