Watchdog Groups Raise A Stink About Waste Board Picks

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The long tradition of political appointees landing high-paid slots on California’s waste board continued Tuesday.

Two termed-out Democratic state lawmakers – Assemblyman John Laird of Santa Cruz and Sen. Sheila Kuehl of Santa Monica – were appointed to posts on the Integrated Waste Management Board, courtesy of the Democratic legislative leaders.

The jobs pay $132,178 a year.

Both new recycling board commissioners will replace other well-connected members. Laird will replace Cheryl Peace, the wife of a former state legislator. Kuehl will replace former Democratic Sen. Wes Chesbro.

Government watchdogs have criticized the board for its high proportion of highly paid political appointees.

"These type of sugar-plum jobs have been a senior fellow program for politicians who are termed out of office," said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog.

Court leveled that criticism even as he said Laird and Kuehl were among the most well-respected departing legislators.

"I love Sheila Kuehl," Court added. "But it is hard to justify these types of expenditures given the fiscal reality the state faces … when the state is going to have to cut payments to the blind, the disabled and children on Medi-Cal."

The appointments came on the same day the Legislature tried – and failed – to raise taxes and cut spending to the tune of $17 billion to help close the state’s projected $27.8 billion deficit.

Chesbro, who is leaving the board to return to the Assembly, disputed the suggestion that appointees to the board are overly political.

He touted board members Rosalie Mulé and Gary Peterson, each with decades of experience in the waste industry.

But Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s former scheduler, Margo Reid Brown, also sits on the board. She was appointed by Schwarzenegger.

The board was created by the Legislature and former Gov. George Deukmejian toward the end of his governorship in 1990. Its six positions have since become a landing pad for friends of governors and legislative leaders.

Laird said the commission has "plenty of responsibilities" and that he looks forward to helping implement California’s landmark law limiting greenhouse-gas emissions as well as expanding recycling programs.

"I’m excited about focusing the board on some of these issues," Laird said.

Call Shane Goldmacher, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 326-5544.

Consumer Watchdog
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