The Marine Life Protection Act “Initiative” aroused controversy up and down the California coast, ever since a decade-old law was resuscitated and reinterpreted by a “public/private partnership,” using tens of millions of dollars of private money from shadowy corporate foundations. While some celebrated it as a victory for ocean conservation, others saw it as the privatization of public resource, and the privatization of public process itself: a process that was rife with corruption, conflicts of interest, and gross violations of the law.
When it came to the North Coast, David Gurney, author of this blog, volunteered to be on his community’s “watchdog committee” for the MLPAI process. While videotaping official public-policy meetings for the record, he was repeatedly harassed, threatened, shut down, and finally unlawfully arrested, by staff of the so-called MLPAI “Initiative.”
And yet the people of California remained largely unaware about the hows and whys of laws that were about to change, affecting their rights to fair and equal access to the ocean for subsistence fishing and gathering, and that these new laws were being corruptly implemented without proper provisions to protect the ocean from industrial threats other than fishing in new “Marine Protected Areas.”
The NOYO NEWS was formed as a sounding board for information and education on this important issue – of interest to all who care about our ocean, and our democracy.
—-> Reporter David Gurney was covering state-sponsored public MLPA Initiative meetings on April 20 & 21, 2010 when he was coerced under threat of removal and arrest to quit recording the proceedings. Recognizing a violation of the law (which turned out to be California’s Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act, and state and federal Constitutions) Gurney attempted, unsuccessfully, to continue recording. Public speech, questions and comment had also been illegally prohibited.
Finally, during a question-and-answer period near the end of the two-day public meetings, Gurney asked why the controversial private/public partnership was not including provisions to protect the new ocean sanctuaries from oil and gas drilling, wind/wave energy “farms,” or other industrialization projects? Before he could receive an answer, he was hauled out of the room and arrested – charged with intentionally trying to disrupt the proceedings. The local district attorney refused to prosecute the case. David Gurney and Eureka attorney Peter Martin have since filed a lawsuit, seeking punitive and declaratory relief from the parties and agencies responsible. The lawsuit is pending.
Meanwhile, this blog, Noyo News, will be addressing issues surrounding the lawsuit, and the historic implementation of the MLPAI, especially as it affects the North Coast. Each of the many facets of the issue will be examined, as we seek to unravel why this process has been so controversial, how it has affected local residents, the implications for ecological protection of the ocean, and where we are now as new developments take place.
Addendum #2, Fall, 2012:
—->We lost the lawsuit. Not a big surprise, since Attorney Peter Martin and I faced off against two powerful legal teams: the California Attorney General’s Office, and the high-dollar law practice of Tarkington, O’neill, Barrack & Chong, led by the curmudgeonly and corrupt Chris A. Tarkington himself, representing the MLPA “Initiative” private contractor Eric Poncelet (who was actually working for Kearns and West Corporation).
It’s another blow to democracy, fair play, and equal access to the ocean. The MLPA “I” closed off our rights to physical and spiritual sustenance, without imposing ANY restrictions on fracking, seismic testing, industrialization, or big oil access to the areas of the “commons” (the ocean) closed.
Noyo News will continue to follow these and other events affecting our oceans.
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