This winter brings with it poor air quality — and a renewed focus on the sprawling eight-county San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District.
Dean Florez, a former Valley state lawmaker and current member of the California Air Resources Board, expressed frustration about air quality on Twitter recently. Other critics say that the district needs to do more to alert the public when the air quality is dangerously unhealthy.
Ok, this is worse than 2002, why? Because it’s 2017! What have we learned about this district in the process? #SocialMediaNotice an easy one. Would love comments & like 2002, expect some action #soon @markgrossi @FresnoBee @AirResources https://t.co/O50VnVSuiV
— Dean Florez (@deanflorez) January 6, 2018
Now, a Clovis councilman wants to join the local board that is tasked with helping improve air quality.
Drew Bessinger is the only person to apply for a vacancy on the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District board. But, his journey to the policy-making board is wrought with complexity and bureaucracy.
“As being the only technically retired person on the (Clovis City Council), I have the time,” Bessinger said. “It is something I’m interested in doing.”
What does Bessinger hope to accomplish if confirmed?
“We’re in this bowl that keeps getting worse and worse. The unfortunate part is some of this stuff is beyond our control. We have pollutants that come from outside the area, and we get stuck with them,” Bessinger said.
Regarding the additional $19 vehicle license fee that Valley residents pay annually, Bessinger says he is willing to look into it. The added fee accounts for about a quarter of the district’s budget, according to the district website.
“I don’t know that it is fair,” Bessinger said. “We are being penalized partially for pollution that comes into our Valley that we don’t have control over. It doesn’t seem equitable to me.”
Bessinger is slated to replace Oliver Baines, the Fresno city councilman who completed the second of two three-year terms in 2017.
Who’s on the Board
The 15-member board is composed of eight people who are elected county supervisors — one for each of the eight counties in the district. There also are five members from the various cities within the district. Two members are picked by the governor, one of whom has to be a medical doctor specializing in air pollution issues, and one from the health and science community. The governor’s appointments serve four-year terms.
The eight counties (Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare) each choose their supervisorial representative to the air board. Buddy Mendes represents Fresno County and was chosen last month as air board chairman.
There is a multiple-step process to decide the five city members.
Three of the five shall come from cities of less than 100,000 population, with one each representing a county in the three geographical regions — north, central and south.
The remaining two shall come from cities larger than 100,000. The city chosen is rotated around from north to south. The smaller cities have their own rotational schedule as well.
Cities in the district considered large (from north to south) are Stockton, Modesto, Fresno, Clovis, Visalia and Bakersfield.
Since Baines represented Fresno, Clovis is next on the list. Bessinger is the only Clovis council member to apply.
Only one representative per county can be one of the five city members, regardless of large/small population. Currently, there are no other city representatives from Fresno County on the board, so Bessinger is clear.
There is also a role for the regional chapters of the California League of Cities to help the nomination process.
So, for example, if there is a vacancy among the small cities in the northern region (currently occupied by a councilman from Ceres in Stanislaus County), a member representing a city council in Merced County would be eligible.
Cities Vote on Nomination
The next step is for the 15 individual city councils within Fresno County to vote on Bessinger’s nomination. Clovis votes tonight (Jan. 8) and Fresno on Thursday (Jan. 11). A majority of the county’s city councils are needed advance the nominee to the final step, another committee.
That group, the Special City Selection Committee, then meets for final approval. The 59 cities that comprise the air district each appoint a member to the special selection committee. Clint Olivier represents Fresno; Bob Whalen is Clovis’ member.
If a majority there approves, then Bessinger is the new air board district member.
Your Air Board Representatives
|Buddy Mendes (board chair)||Supervisor||Fresno County|
|J. Steven Worthley (board vice chair)||Supervisor||Tulare County|
|David Ayers||Mayor||City of Hanford (small city; Central Region/Kings County)|
|John Capitman||Executive director of Central Valley Health Policy Institute||Governor appointment (health expert)|
|David Couch||Supervisor||Kern County|
|Bob Elliott||Supervisor||San Joaquin County|
|Christina Fugazi||Councilwoman||City of Stockton (large city/San Joaquin County)|
|Kristin Olsen||Supervisor||Stanislaus County|
|Lloyd Pareira||Supervisor||Merced County|
|Craig Pedersen||Supervisor||Kings County|
|Monte Reyes||Councilman||City of Porterville (small city; South Region/Tulare County)|
|Alexander Sherriffs||Adventist Health Care||Governor appointment (physician)|
|Tom Wheeler||Supervisor||Madera County|
|Chris Vierra||Councilman||City of Ceres (small city; North Region/Stanislaus County)|
|Vacant||Most recently held by Oliver Baines|