By Steve Scauzillo, February 12, 2016
Eight-year SCAQMD board member and South Pasadena Councilman Michael
Cacciotti, 57, an advocate for clean fuels and reducing air emissions,
is being challenged by Rosemead Councilman Steven Ly.
The election of an eastern cities representative to the South Coast
Air Quality Management District governing board has become politically
charged, as environmentalists, pro-710 Freeway tunnel advocates and
business groups lobby for their candidate.
At stake is one seat on
the powerful, 13-member anti-smog board, whose makeup recently changed
when Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, a Democrat and friend of the
environment, was replaced by Lake Forest Councilman Dwight Robinson, a
Environmental groups say regulated industries — oil
refineries, paint and coatings makers and utilities — that pollute the
air are trying to shape the board into a more business-friendly body and
soften regulations. They compare this move to the removal last week of Charles Lester,
executive director of the California Coastal Commission, who was viewed
as favorable to coastal protection versus overdevelopment. Lester was
fired by a vote of 7-5 in what some called “a coup” by certain board
members appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown, some of whom intimated the
commission held up development projects for years and trampled on
For decades, businesses have argued the AQMD is too heavy handed,
while environmental groups say the agency does not go far enough to cut
smog. The four-county agency regulates emissions in Orange County and
the non-desert portions of Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino
In the center of the AQMD controversy is eight-year
board member and South Pasadena Councilman Michael Cacciotti, an
advocate for clean fuels and reducing air emissions. Cacciotti, 57, an
attorney, is being challenged by Rosemead Councilman Steven Ly.
Ly is being supported by the 710 Coalition, made up of the cities
of Alhambra, Monterey Park, Rosemead, San Gabriel and San Marino, with
support from 15 other Los Angeles County cities, many of which will have
a vote in electing Cacciotti or Ly to a four-year term.
The pro-710 tunnel coalition objects to an AQMD critique of the 710 completion project that
would close the gap between Alhambra and Pasadena via a single or dual
tunnel running 4.5 miles. The letter was written by Ian MacMillan, the
AQMD’s planning and rules manager in August.
As part of the comments on the draft Environmental Impact Report,
the AQMD letter said the project would raise the cancer risk in the
area and the air quality analysis of carbon monoxide and airborne
particulates was incomplete.
Alhambra Councilwoman Barbara
Messina, the lead advocate for the tunnel project, said the AQMD
overstepped its authority. She pointed the finger at Cacciotti, saying
he “uses his position on the AQMD board irresponsibly.” She said the
AQMD’s comments on the 710 tunnel is one of the reasons she’s supporting
Ly, who favors building the 710 tunnel.
Cacciotti said he had nothing to do with the AQMD letter. He said
staff are routinely asked to give their scientific opinion on how a
project may affect air quality.
“I never saw the letter until after it was sent out,” he said.
31, said his pro-710 tunnel stance is just part of the reason why he’s
running for the AQMD eastern cities seat. He also wants to see more
representatives on the AQMD from areas of low- and middle-income
“This is about the 710, as well as the diversity of
the board,” Ly said. If elected by the mayors of 34 cities, he would
work for clean fuels and more bike lanes, things he has always
supported. He said on those issues, he is in sync with Cacciotti.
Sierra Club activist David Czamanske of South Pasadena said
business groups, including the Los Angeles County Business Federation
(BizFed), were lobbying to remove Cacciotti. BizFed CEO Tracy Rafter
said she did not send a letter to the mayors. The organization did
support Judy Mitchell, another AQMD board member, last year, she said.
“We pay attention to AQMD board stuff. We do encourage competition,” she
Ly, who was a BizFed board member, said he would not be
surprised if business groups are supporting him. He was CEO of the San
Gabriel Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce from 2011 to 2013.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has asked mayors to support
Cacciotti. In an email to Alhambra Mayor Luis Ayala, Gail Koretz, the
mayor’s local government liaison, said Cacciotti was a “strong advocate for the environment”
and added: “With recent changes in the board’s composition, Mike’s
credentials as an environmentalist are important to our shared goals.”
meeting of the City Selection Committee of the Eastern Region of Los
Angeles County is open to the public. It is scheduled for 10 a.m.
Thursday at the Duarte Community Center, 1600 Huntington Drive. All San
Gabriel Valley cities are able to vote, plus San Fernando and Santa
A candidate needs a majority of votes and a majority of population from the 34 cities.