Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dianne Feinstein on Thursday called for support of Proposition 128--a sweeping environmental measure on the November ballot--as a way to force Los Angeles County officials to improve treatment of sewage before dumping it into the ocean off the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
"California is growing, and unless we do right by the environment, I really believe it will be an ecological Armageddon," said Feinstein, who was joined by representatives of environmental groups at a press conference on the Santa Monica Municipal Pier.
Proposition 128, known as Big Green, would require full secondary treatment of all sewage dumped into the ocean by the year 2000, and would no longer allow waivers.
The Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts has not been required to fully treat its sewage because its application for a waiver, first submitted in 1979, has been tied up in appeals with the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The delay, environmentalists charge, has resulted in a de facto waiver for the district, which discharges 355 million gallons of sewage daily with only 56% of it receiving secondary treatment.
Before the press conference, Feinstein's campaign released a statement charging that when Republican gubernatorial candidate Pete Wilson was mayor of San Diego, he fought the federal clean water program. The result, the statement said, was a $2.5-billion cleanup bill, and "the quarantine signs that go up around Mission Bay one out of every four days of the year stand as a living testament to the lack of executive leadership in that city a decade ago."
But when she spoke, Feinstein talked only of her efforts as mayor of San Francisco to build a new sewer system, noting that "others have not done that. They have fought the clean water act. They have gotten their ocean waivers. They have clung to those ocean waivers."
Wilson has said he opposes Proposition 128 because it creates a new post for an elected environmental czar. But Feinstein said that is merely an excuse for Wilson to avoid supporting the measure.
"It's not unreasonable to have someone designated by the voters who will be forthright, direct with the electorate and will move Big Green into fruition," Feinstein said. "What it does is guard against a governor who may be lethargic, a governor who doesn't want to put their hands on the issue, or even a governor who may be opposed to it."
In a departure from the issue-oriented tone of the morning, gubernatorial partisans spent the afternoon exchanging accusations about campaign financing.
The state Republican Party filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Feinstein and her husband, Richard C. Blum, alleging the couple's loans of more than $3 million to her campaign violated state contribution laws. While not filed by Wilson's campaign, the effort dovetailed with Wilson's attempts to call Blum's and Feinstein's financial dealings into question.
But Feinstein's office quickly produced letters from the state's campaign watchdog agency, the Fair Political Practices Commission, showing that as early as last year the FPPC had approved the use of such loans. Earlier this month, a complaint against the couple was dismissed as groundless, the FPPC said.
The Republican Party argues that the loans came from Blum's assets and should not be allowed under the $1,000-per-person limitation. The Feinstein campaign argued--and the FPPC agreed--that an unlimited amount of money could be donated if it came from community-property assets.
The Feinstein campaign later released a statement publicly demanding that Wilson, one of California's two U.S. senators, return more than $2 million in donations from corporations to his gubernatorial campaign. The statement noted that such donations are not allowed under federal law.
Times political writer Cathleen Decker contributed to this report.