I had hoped that coming off his re-election, Gov. Schwarzenegger would truly live up to his promise as an environmental leader. Unfortunately, the first round of regional water board appointments have already shown a profound lack of judgment, with a few good people outweighed by a flood of unqualified or outright anti-environmental choices.

For example, the governor recently appointed Samuel Wakim, a dentist with no discernable water-quality experience, to the North Coast Regional Water Board. Even more disturbing, though, are quotes on Mr. Wakim’s website deriding many of the people he is charged to protect, including the statement that, “The Democratic party has become a haven for radical Moslems, atheists, communists, socialists, and those who support gay marriage and has lost touch with the values of American [sic] and the people.” Such rhetoric unfortunately may come from the occasional party operative. But what possible reason could the governor have for appointing a dentist, who clearly supports the rights of only some Americans, to a nonpartisan agency charged with protecting our natural resources?

The fight over our environment is no less than a fight for California’s and our nation’s future. So I am calling on Gov. Schwarzenegger to fill every vacancy on every regional and state agency charged with safeguarding California’s resources with candidates who will place the health of the environment – and the people who depend on it – first. Now is not the time for business-as-usual, political horse-trading, where the deck is always stacked against the people of California.

We all must be uncompromising in pressing for true environmental leadership from this governor. We owe this to ourselves, and to our children and grandchildren for whom we must hold our government accountable. And we should expect no less from this administration, which has made environmental stewardship a campaign pledge and supposed center-piece of its platform.

In San Diego, seven well-qualified candidates who are committed to protecting the public’s resources have applied for the three open Water Board positions: Richard Barrera (community activist), Jim Peugh (retired physicist), Michael Nguyen (realtor/Vietnamese community activist), Lorena Gonzalez (environmental attorney), Maggie Houlihan (Encinitas councilwoman), Dr. Maria Reyes (Filipino doctor/community activist), Tania Bowman (family law attorney).

These applicants come from all walks of life, political persuasions, and cultural backgrounds. The common value they share, however, is that their first priority is safeguarding California’s environmental future to ensure a prosperous economy and healthy future for our state.

The people of California can play a critical role in ensuring good appointments are made by contacting the governor’s office at 916-445-2841 or via email. Let him know that you expect him to fulfill the promise he made when running for office to protect our air, water, land and resources by appointing true environmental leaders to fill these positions.

BRUCE REZNIK

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