Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 31, 2002
By: Kevin Drum

PUBLIC WATERS....The California Coastal Commission is one of the most hated government bodies in the state. Hated, that is, if you're a property owner, because it enforces coastal protection provisions enacted by California voters in 1972.

Approval from the commission is required by anyone making a change to their property, and usually it takes the form of some kind of deal: the commission approves the change but only if the property owner installs a walkway from the road to the beach, for example. These deals are despised by property owners because California law says all beaches are public property, while property owners do everything they can to keep the hoi polloi far, far away.

There have been innumerable well-financed court challenges to the commission, and now one of them has finally succeeded. A state appeals court ruled yesterday that the commission is unconstitutional because a majority of its members are appointed by the legislature and can be fired at any time. The reasoning goes that commission members don't want to get fired, so they are essentially under the thumb of the legislature, and this violates separation of powers provisions of the state constitution.

In a practical sense the whole thing is ridiculous, because far from being under anybody's thumb, the commission has a reputation as one of the most maddeningly independent bodies around. In fact, it's this very independence that drive property owners nuts.

And in a theoretical sense, it also doesn't matter. If the ruling is upheld, then the legislature changes the law to provide for fixed terms and life goes on. Big deal.

So any way you cut it, this suit accomplishes nothing and the ruling is meaningless. I don't get it.

Ann, am I missing something here?

UPDATE: Well, Justene Adamec doesn't think I'm missing anything. Whew.

Kevin Drum 9:51 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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