Donna Frye doesn't often get what she wants. The grand dame of the San Diego City Council has been reelected twice, has scored a few victories for public transparency and nearly unseated former mayor Dick Murphy as a write-in candidate, but she often winds up on the losing end of contentious debates and she's been denied key appointments, such as chair of the council's Audit Committee and president of the council itself.
This, despite being widely regarded as the hardest-working council member in recent memory.
But now, Frye is a frontrunner for a job that fits her like a snug wetsuit. State Assembly Speaker Karen Bass has until the end of June to make two appointments to the California Coastal Commission. Among the openings is the seat representing the San Diego Coast region, currently occupied by San Diego City Council President Ben Hueso, whose term expired on May 31.
Hueso wants to keep his butt in the seat even though he won't be able to complete the next term—because he's vacating his City Counicl spot and running for the state Assembly next year. But that's not the only reason Bass shouldn't reappoint Hueso: He also represents the Coastal Commission's dubious shift away from shoreline protection. A coalition of environmental groups gave the overall commission a score of 38 percent in 2008, the worst score since 1996. They gave Hueso a score of just 28 percent, significantly down from 53 percent a year earlier.
You might say that the Union-Tribune recently sealed Hueso's standing as no friend of the environment when it endorsed his reappointment. The U-T's editorial board views the natural world as nothing more than an impediment to quick business opportunities. It's because of people like those on the paper's editorial board that California has watched wholesale destruction of its coastal wetlands.
We urge Bass to help bring the Coastal Commission into better balance by appointing Frye to represent the San Diego Coast region.
Honestly, there couldn't be a better choice. Frye sits on the City Council by virtue of her environmental credentials; she came up through the ranks of local politics through her activism for water-quality protection, spurred by mysterious illnesses plaguing her husband and other local surfers. In an interview with CityBeat in 2003, environmentalist Laura Hunter referred to Frye as something of an Erin Brockovich when it came to investigating and fighting against water pollution back in the early 1990s.
To the chagrin of entrenched business interests, Frye hasn't compromised since joining the City Council in 2001; she continually bows at the altar of the California Environmental Quality Act, the landmark legislation that requires every significant land-use endeavor to undergo serious environmental scrutiny. When you ask her about the politics of her votes, she often responds by saying she's simply following the law.
If named to the Coastal Commission, she won't need to become a student of the Coastal Act—we're pretty sure she is one already. The Coastal Act made the Coastal Commission permanent in 1976 and is, essentially, the commission's blueprint. There could be no greater champion than Frye of the Coastal Act's dual goals: to protect the shoreline environment and provide the greatest possible public access to it.
Whereas we get the feeling Hueso does whatever he believes is in his own best political interests, Frye will continue to act on what she believes to be in the best interest of the public's health—which is inextricably linked to environmental health.
As much as the Union-Tribune would like the Coastal Commission's mission to be to exploit the coast for economic gain, its mission is actually to “protect, conserve, restore and enhance environmental and human-based resources of the California coast and ocean for environmentally sustainable and prudent use by current and future generations.” If Assembly Speaker Bass keeps those words in mind, she'll have no trouble coming to the obvious conclusion that Donna Frye is the clear choice.What do you think? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.