Today’s News: Newport fire ring fight moves to AQMD; Garcetti taps Perry for Economic post; Exide reprieve

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Ring of fire. If you’re headed to Newport Beach for the 4th of July holiday, go ahead and light a bonfire…It could be your last chance.

Yes, Newport Beach officials sent a letter to the California Coastal Commission yesterday nixing the city’s application to remove about five dozen fire rings from city beaches. But the bonfire battle is far from over. The decision had more to do with strategy then a change of heart of over getting rid of the fire pits.

The Coastal Commission was due to vote on the issue July 11th, and a staff report had recommended turning down Newport’s application. But a different agency – the South Coast Air Quality Management District – has been more sympathetic to Newport’s concern that the wood-burning fire pits represent a health hazard for residents. The AQMD has scheduled its own vote on the issue for July 12th.

Newport officials say they withdrew their application with the Coastal Commission because the AQMD decision could have rendered any decision moot.

While Newport Beach wants to ban fire rings, officials in Huntington Beach and other cities want them to stay. They say the pits are a local tradition and help bring in tourist dollars. O.C. Register

Day two. New L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti is getting down to business. Garcetti paid informal visits to all the members of the City Council yesterday. He also appointed one of his former council colleagues, Jan Perry, to oversee the revamping of the city’s Economic Development Department. Perry opposed Garcetti in the mayoral primary and then endorsed him in the run-off. She’ll get the department up and running before handing over control to a permanent general manager. In a wide-ranging interview with KCRW’s Warren Olney, Garcetti talked about personnel moves at City Hall, economic development, the Department of Water and Power and his relationship with the new City Council. Which Way, L.A.?

Exide plant. A judge says a battery recycling plant in Vernon that was shut down by state regulators can stay open while the regulators pursue their case. The state Department of Toxic Substances Control ordered Exide Technologies to close the plant in April, in part because of arsenic emissions that the AQMD said had the potential to sicken more than 100,000 people. Georgia-based Exide then filed for bankruptcy, saying it needed an ongoing supply of lead from the plant to remain profitable. L.A. Superior Court Judge Luis Lavin says the plant can stay open until the case against Exide that toxic substances regulators are presenting to an administrative law judge is resolved. L.A. Times

Anaheim council. The Anaheim City Council has voted to change the way its members are elected – but critics say the moves don’t go far enough to guarantee political representation for the city’s growing Latino population. Anaheim is currently the largest city in California that elects council members at large, rather than by district. The new system maintains at-large voting but requires that council candidates live in specified districts. The council will ask voters to ratify the change in an election next year. The city will also ask voters if they want to expand the council from four to six members. The American Civil Liberties Union has sued Anaheim, alleging that its election rules violate the California Voting Rights Act. O.C. Register

Broken (meter) policy. L.A. City Councilman Mike Bonin has introduced a motion to undo a policy of ticketing drivers for parking at broken meters. Bonin calls the practice “blatantly unfair”. He says reversing the policy would show the public the city is “working for people, not against them.” The idea of ticketing vehicles at broken meters was proposed by city officials, worried that people would break or vandalize them to park for free. The policy was approved last December. L.A. Daily News

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