Councilman Rex Richardson Could Gain Seat On AQMD Governing Board (First LB Rep In 10 Yrs) Because He Sought The Seat And Other LB Electeds Didn't; He'll Face Competitors From Other Area Cities; Here Are Salient Parts Of His Record
|(Sept. 27, 2020, 6:20 p.m.) -- Long Beach Councilman Rex Richardson, a NLB Councilman who's already a regional figure as current chair of the Southern CA Association of Governments, could become the newest member of the governing board of the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Richardson would be LB's first representative on the board for its "Western Region" (which includes LB and 50 other regional cities) since then-Councilwoman Tonia Reyes Uranga was chosen b y regional cities in 2008 but lost the seat in a 2010 election by regional elected officials (outvoted by supporters of Rolling Hills Estates Councilman Judy Mitchell.)
Long Beach city management is mobilizing an effort to get Councilman Richardson on the AQMD board. In a memo to Councilmembers, City Manager Tom Modica states:
...Delegates representing the cities in each region elect their Governing Board member through the City Selection Committee. State law determines the process, which requires a candidate to receive both a majority of the vote of the cities, as well as a majority of the population of the cities in the region. The mayor of each city, or their delegate, casts their vote for their preferred candidate.
Councilman Richardson currently holds another powerful regional position; he's the current president of the governing board ("regional council") of the Southern CA Association of Governments."
[Scroll down for further.]
Denying appeal to update impacts of Port petroleum exports, no progress on fed'l legislation requiring covered rail cars
On August 19, 2014, Councilman Richardson (part of a newly elected Council under newly elected Mayor Garcia) joined in a unanimous vote to deny appeals and approve contracts -- dating from 1992 --- without new updated CEQA environmental review -- that allowed the continued long-term export of coal and bulk petroleum coke from the Port of Long Beach through a terminal used (under a sublease from another tenant) by Oxbow Carbon, LLC [a major contributor in LB city elections.].
The appellants (Earth Justice on behalf of the Sierra Club, Communities for a Better Environment and National Resources Defense Council) urged the City Council to send the long-term (15-20 year) leases back to the Harbor Commission for environmental review). Those opposing the appeal included the LB Area Chamber of Commerce, ILWU, Harbor Trucking Ass'n and Pacific Merchant Shipping Association.
Although voting to overrule the appeals, Councilman Richardson voiced concern about open coal cars traveling through parts of Long Beach. On January 6, 2015, the City Council's Federal Legislation Committee, chaired by Richardson, voted (3-0) to recommend Council approval of federal legislation that would require covering trains or trucks hauling petroleum coke or other polluting items and the full Council ultimately approved the Committee recommendation.
To this day, the policy remains recited in the city's "Federal Legislative Agenda" ("Support policies and legislation to require that petroleum coke products are covered during transport and that coal and petroleum coke products from outside California in railcars be covered during transport to the Port of Long Beach for export") but nothing has come of it. Neither Congressman Alan Lowenthal (D, LB-west OC) nor CA's two US Senaors (Feinstein and now-VP candidate Harris) have prioritized the issue.
Councilman Richardson has chaired the Council's "Federal Legislation Committee" (three Councilmembers that can recommended actions to full Council) from the time he took office in mid 2014 through mid-2020; he remains a member of the committee now chaired by Councilman Al Austin.
On January 30, 2018, LB Councilmembers Uranga, Austin and Vice Mayor Richardson (who comprise the Council's "I-710 Oversight Committee") held a 3:00 p.m. meeting (when many people are at work) to choose a Locally Preferred Alternative. No written materials were available for the public online prior to the meeting. At the Jan.30 Committee meeting, Metro reps presented a Power Point presentation and recommended Alternative 5C -- ten freeway lanes at a cost of roughly $6 billion --over Alternative 7 (with an elevated four lane "Clean Freight Corridor") at a cost of roughly $11 billion.
In a Committee discussion with Metro's rep, Vice Mayor Richardson indicated [paraphrase] that he views the project as an opportunity to correct a chronic NLB injustice in the current configuration of the 710/91 interchange that disserves the area and leaves some adjoining land areas "land locked." He also indicated (quite forcefully) that the project's "Early Action" items north of downtown should receive the same priority as downtown LB area items (which include Shoemaker bridge and Chavez Park entering downtown LB.) Richardson ultimately incorporated his concerns into a motion to choose Alternative 5C made by Committee member Austin, seconded by chair Uranga, as follows:
[Jan. 30 Committee meeting minutes text] A motion was made by Member Austin, seconded by Chair Uranga, to approve recommendation to support alternative 5C and further study:  the I-91 and I-405 interchanges with the I-710 with intention of highest and best use of land locked parcels; and  early action projects for the interchanges dispersed throughout the City, specifically to include certain areas on the map are included in City's official request for early action projects further north of the Shoemaker Bridge are included with the same emphasis that have been highlighted with the Shoemaker Bridge.
The Council Committee's motion carried 3-0 but wasn't brought to the full City Council for high visibility binding Council policy-setting vote.
One of the most LB-impactful AQMD actions didn't involve air pollution.. A crucial Sept. 2019 AQMD board vote allowed two major refineries -- Valero (on the WLB border) and the Torrance (TorC) refinery -- to continue using highly corrosive MHF (modified hydrofluroic acid, potentially lethal and if released in sufficient quantity capable of creating a mass casualty event. An AQMD boad majority approved an oil refinery favored MOU (memorandum of understanding) in which the refineries pledged greater safety procedures and greater "mitigation" in an accidental release. (MHF is transported to the refineries in tankers using area freeways.)
The continued use of MHF was opposed by multiple are elected officials. In June 2019, LB Mayor Robert Garcia sent a letter personally opposing the continued use of MHF but never brought the issue to the full City Council vote a policy setting vote.
At the showdown AQMD board meeting, multiple area trade unions and the LB Area Chamber of Commerce urged approval of the refinery favored MOU rather than a phase out.
With the City of Long Beach -- potentially directly impacted (from its downtown to multiple western and noethern neighborhoods) officially mum with no action by its policy setting City Council -- an AQMD board majority voted 8-3 to allow the continued use of the harardous material.
LBREPORT.com covered the issue in detail including the AQMD's decision-making vote here
Strategy 4: Advance environmental and climate justice
After joining in a unanimous July 2020 vote to put a General Fund ("blank check") 15 cent increase in the city’s oil-production tax on the November 2020 ballot, Councilman Richardson has taken a visibility role in urging LB voters to approve the General Fund ("blank check") measure. (The Council has voted to approve a non-binding resolution to use the General Fund sums from the measure to address health inequities and fight climate change.) .
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