by Mike Feinstein, Green Party of California
On March 6th, Ross Mirkarimi was ap≠pointed to the 12-member Cali≠fornia Coastal Commission, one of the most powerful public agencies in the state and the highest office held for a Cali≠fornia Green. Twice elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Mirkarimi was appointed by State Senate President, Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento.)
“Mr. Mirkarimi brings much experience in grappling with complex land-use decisions in San Francisco. I look forward to him bringing this expertise to his work on the Coastal Commission” said Steinberg in announcing Mirkarimi’s appointment.
The mission of the Coastal Commis≠sion is 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.”
Mirkarimi’s appointment was a strong statement in terms of this balance, with the Commission gaining a new strong voice in favor of public access, affordable housing, public transit and a clean and healthy environment in the coastal zone.
“This is one of the strongest land-use bodies in the country. †It’s safe to say that the ëbeach-head politics’ deliberated here could serve as a bellwether for U.S. policy on issues pertaining to our response to climate change, environmental/maritime degradation and energy independence” stated Mirkarimi upon his appointment. “From the perspective of a sensible environmentalist and/or a progressive, the score card optics of the Commission over the last ten years is not good. As the newest commissioner, I’ll do my best to change it.”
California has 840 miles of some of the most beautiful coastline in the world. At the same time, there are incredible strains and pressures on it. The overwhelming majority of the state’s population lives within 50 miles of the coast, and the state has several major ports, commercial fishing facilities, offshore petroleum and gas development, refineries liquefied natural gas facilities, electrical generating facilities and extensive coastal-dependent development. The coastal zone under the care of the commission covers an area throughout fifteen counties and over 110 cities.
To address this tension, in 1972 Cali≠fornia voters established the Coastal Com≠mission as part of Proposition 20. In 1976 the commission was made permanent as an independent, quasi-judicial state agency by the legislature through the Coastal Act. Part of what makes the Commission so powerful is that in pursuit of that mission, it holds great sway over land use decisions near the coast. Specifically the Commission addresses “development activities,” which are broadly defined by the Coastal Act to include construction of buildings, divisions of land and, perhaps most significantly, activities that change the intensity of land use or public access to coastal waters.
In Mirkarimi’s first Coastal Com≠mis≠sion meeting, he fought hard but lost on a 7-4 vote against an effort by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Southern California Edison to overturn the Oxnard City Council’s denial of a proposed natural gas-fired peaker power plant there on Mandalay Bay, and allow the construction of the first new coastal power plant in California in more than 30 years. “This was a clear case of environmental racism that will particularly negatively impact the local Latino community,” said Mirkarimi. “A small city like Oxnard that has two power plants, a toxic waste site and three landfills doesn’t need more dirty industry in the public’s name.”
In a little over one term, Mirkarimi as supervisor has made great progress fighting for accountable community-based policing and violence prevention programs, tenant protections and housing reparations for local African-American and Japanese-American populations due to misguided redevelopment. He authored the nation’s first mandated law on private company reimbursement for commuters using transit, the nation’s first law banning plastic bags and the nation’s strongest municipal climate change protocol. And in a first for progressive San Francisco, he authored a law furnishing dedicated housing for LGBTQ and homeless seniors.
Mirkarimi’s Green involvement goes back to 1985, attending the first local Green organizing meetings in the Bay Area. In 1990 he helped co-found the Green Party of California and played a major role in its successful 1990-1992 ballot drive. In 2000, he was the California coordinator of the Ralph Nader/Winona LaDuke presidential campaign.
Internationally, Mirkarimi, who is of both of Iranian and Russian descent, co-convened the founding meeting of the International Working Group of the U.S. Greens in 1989 at the national Greens Gathering in Eugene, Oregon. In 2008, he was a featured plenary speaker at the Global Greens Second Congress in S„o Paolo. Brazil. Mirkarimi went on two missions to Iraqóat the conclusion of the Persian Gulf War in 1991 as an Environ≠mental Analyst with Arc Ecology and the Harvard Study Team, and in 1992, with the help of King Hussein, with the Interna≠tional Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Jordanian chapter. His study “the Impact on the Iraqi Civilians” was published in medical and public policy journals throughout the world.
Among several other ëfirsts,’ in 2004 Mirkarimi became the first U.S. Green elected under Instant Run Off Voting, winning in District 5 with its 3,000 Greens and 20,000 Democrats. In 2007 he was easily reelected to a second term. Mirkarimi replaced fellow Green Matt Gonzalez in District 5, who was elected in 2000.
Mirkarimi’s Coastal Commission term is for two years, ending in 2011. That’s also the year of the next San Francisco May≠oral election and Mirkarimi is often mentioned as a potential candidate. While he had not committed to running, if he did run and were elected, it would be the largest U.S. City in which there is a Green mayor.
More information: www.rossmirkarimi.com