Larry Allen enters battle against Forbes magazine columnist

January 23, 2014
Larry Allen

Larry Allen

By KAREN VELIE

San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District Executive Director Larry Allen fired back at Forbes Magazine columnist Steven Hayward Wednesday claiming none of the information in his “attack piece” is true.

For example, Allen claims Hayward misstated his base salary by about $100,000. Hayward wrote Allen was paid close to $250,000.

Nevertheless, the APCD’s fiscal year 2011/2012 salary projection listed Allen as receiving $240,119 a year in salary, benefits and fringes. At that time, of the district’s 21 full-time employees, 19 received total compensation of over $100,000 a year.

In addition Allen contends that his department does not permit tractors and as such the comment about a $13,000 fee to Cal Poly for permitting a tractor is incorrect. According to APCD documents, the cost for his staff to inspect and approve tractors is listed as an inspection fee, not a permit fee.

In Oct. 2010, the air quality district charged Cal Poly $13,215 for the re-inspection of a Caterpillar tractor, according to the Cal Poly district file.

Allen’s response to Hayward:

“Mr. Hayward – you ought to check the accuracy and credibility of your information source(s) before you publish an article in a national magazine. Absolutely none of the information you’ve published here in this opinion/attack piece regarding me and the San Luis Obispo (SLO) County Air Pollution Control District is correct.

“Contrary to your claims, local air quality would not be nearly as good as it is today without the efforts of our agency and our many partnerships with local business to help achieve and preserve clean air.

“We do and have implemented many successful programs that have significantly reduced emissions from local sources that are not directly regulated by the state and federal EPA. The residential wood combustion rule you mention was adopted in 1993 to ensure clean burning woodstoves are installed in new homes to reduce exposure inside and outside the home to toxic air contaminants from inefficient woodburning units. It was just one of numerous other measures that were developed and implemented as part of a very effective clean air plan that achieved significant local emission reductions with broad input and support from the business and community interests. Our plan was used as a model by the California Air Resources Board for other air districts to follow, and implementing that plan resulted in SLO County attaining the state ozone standard. I am proud of that.

“Regarding your statements on our budget and salaries, I am paid a $153,096 annual salary, not $250,000 as you claim. Of 23.5 total staff, only 4 others, our Division Managers, earn a 6-figure salary – $105,310 per year to be precise. You might also be interested to know that our staff size has not increased since 1993, a claim very few other government agencies could make. Our agency is extremely lean and streamlined in its operations. Our long-term fiscal plan, adopted by our 12-member Board of elected city and county officials, anticipated the closure and loss of revenue from the power plant several years ago and implemented numerous cost cutting measures to build reserves to cover that loss when it occurs. All of this information is included on the Air District’s website, an information source you must have not considered in advance of submitting your attack piece.

“Contrary to your statements, only 50 percent of our budget comes from permit and inspection fees, which are set by our Board in a public hearing, not by staff; less than 1 percent of our budget comes from fines. The other 50 percent of our budget does come from state and federal appropriations, motor vehicle registration fees and local property taxes. Regarding the alleged $13,000 fee to the university to inspect and permit a tractor: I have no idea where you got such a notion. We do not require permits for tractors, but we do provide grants for farmers to repower or replace their tractors to help them comply with state regulations – I’m guessing that’s what you must be referring to, with the notable correction that we are giving them money, not charging them fees. We typically provide over $1 million per year in grant funds to local business and other organizations to help them comply with state air quality regulations.

“I would hope that a national magazine like Forbes would hold its writers to higher standards than you’ve clearly been held to, and I will be contacting the Forbes editors to ask for a formal retraction and apology to be published by them.

“Sincerely,

“Larry R. Allen”

Hayward’s Wednesday response to Allen:

“Mr. Allen is correct that I have misstated his base salary. He and other public servants like him might help their case, however, if they did not deliberately render their complete compensation in opaque terms that seem designed for obfuscation rather than transparency. The 2012 salary information for the APCD (p. 41 of the budget document) sets Mr. Allen’s direct salary at $153,202, but then adds two curious lines: “Fixed costs: $12,082; Variable costs: $70,919; Total: $236,021.” (The 2011 total figure was $240,119.) There is no explanation or breakdown of either of these categories: how much of these figures are standard benefits (health insurance, etc.), and how much are other items that deserve to be considered compensation, such as pension contributions or especially cashable accrued vacation and sick days or per diems (the favorite trick of the state legislature)? And why is this table omitted from the current year budget document entirely, with no total annual compensation figure listed anywhere? I think I know why. (The 2011 salary schedule puts Mr. Allen’s “variable costs” of salary at $82,000.) The public ought at least to know what the commensurate figure for “variable costs” of Mr. Allen’s salary is this year.

“This opacity contrasts starkly with the way total compensation is reported for senior executives at public corporations, where direct salary, annual bonuses, stock options, and contingent buyout obligations are clearly stated and explained. If Mr. Allen wishes to be more transparent, he should restore that omitted table to the current budget, and offer more details about those mystery numbers. (I was, incidentally, the public interest representative on the California Citizens Compensation Commission in the early 1990s, so I’ve seen this circus before.)

“But Mr. Allen’s salary is entirely ancillary to the main points, about which he disputes two. Mr. Allen says “Contrary to your claims, local air quality would not be nearly as good as it is today without the efforts of our agency and our many partnerships with local business to help achieve and preserve clean air.” Leaving aside how many businesses in the county truly regard the APCD as their “partners,” I categorically dispute Mr. Allen’s triumphalism about the role of his agency in the air trends in the country. A close consideration of the data will show an insignificant difference in air quality trends between San Luis Obispo and counties that do not have special purpose air districts like the APCD. I suspect that Mr. Allen and his staff are unaware of these data.

“Second, Mr. Allen contests my criticism of the APCD deriving its revenue from self-determined fees and fines: “Contrary to your statements, only 50 percent of our budget comes from permit and inspection fees, which are set by our Board in a public hearing, not by staff.” I wonder, then, why the budget page of the APCD website reads as follows: “Most of our funding comes from fees paid by businesses and industries that cause air pollution,” and goes on to say that other funding sources are “minor.” So Mr. Allen disagrees with his own website? Perhaps he will see to changing this soon. But again this misses the point: whether the amount of revenue from permit fees is 25 percent or 75 percent, the correct amount should be: zero. Or at the very least the revenue should flow to the county’s general fund, where its use would be balanced alongside the full range of public interests.

“This gets precisely the heart of the problem. Mr. Allen repairs behind a convenient fiction that the board, not directly accountable to the people, is something more than a rubber stamp for these semi-autonomous, staff-run single purpose agencies, which have, please note, greater autonomy than the federal EPA. (Incidentally, proposals over the years in the state legislature to have local air boards directly elected have been stoutly opposed by air districts. Curious, that.) There is extensive academic literature, again likely unknown to Mr. Allen and his staff, about how single-purpose agencies like the APCD become increasingly zealous over time, and indifferent to wider balancing of public interests. This is why I conclude that the APCD as a standalone agency should be abolished, and its legitimate enforcement functions (enforcing conformity for equipment like diesel generators, for example) transferred to the county’s general planning department, where both decisions and oversight are by their nature required to balance competing interests in a way that the APCD does not. This is just a sound principle of public administration, which has been endlessly trampled by modern trends in administrative governance.

“At the back of all of this is the fact that our air quality statutes, both state and federal, are antiquated and badly in need of reform. We’re not living in the 1970s anymore. To be sure, it isn’t Mr. Allen’s fault that his single-purpose agency is an obsolete model, prone to the usual mission-creep incentives of bureaucracies everywhere to metastasize. But neither does he have any incentive to be a reformer. Quite the opposite. (It’s a separate issue for another time, but the infamous AB32 should be called the “Keep CARB and Local Air Districts in Business Forever Act.”)

“All of the forgoing propositions require considerable evidence and debate to substantiate, which is why I’m working on a book about the subject. But perhaps Mr. Allen will agree to a formal public debate with me about all of these issues after I return to the county later this summer? A public servant ought to be willing to offer a vigorous defense for matters of protracted controversy like this. I’m sure Cal Poly or some other civic organization would be willing to host such a public forum. Let me know.

“STEVEN HAYWARD”


140 Comments

  1. pasodowny says:

    My goodness! The APCD has 25 people on its staff! 25!!

    http://www.slocleanair.org/who/about/staff.php

    For any county that seems excessive. For a coastal county without heavy industry its absurd.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 39 Thumb down 0

  2. blondehare says:

    My new Hero.. Thank you STEVEN HAYWARD

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 40 Thumb down 2

  3. Pelican1 says:

    It would be interesting to find out what sort of relationship the APCD has with the DA’s office.Any criminal enforcement actions have to be approved and filed by the DA’s office on behalf of the APCD.
    Hmmm……

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 30 Thumb down 1

    • Kevin Rice says:

      I’m guessing little to none. APCD likes civil actions (i.e., money).

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 3

    • falconbh says:

      When is DA’s Office, Grand Jury, Law Enforcement, or the State Joint Audit Committee going to spend some time investigating the Oceano Community Service District ?

      We need help cleaning up the next Bell, California.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  4. JB Bronson says:

    Re: Kevin Rice’s earlier post about DA Candidate Tim Covello getting support from
    Adam Hill and endorsing Dan Dow. I was already going to vote for
    Dow. To anyone else who hasn’t decided, Yes, look into Dow, but do
    factor in Hill’s support.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  5. euroamerican says:

    Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases:

    If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

    R. Reagan.

    If you’re a small business owner you know one thing: better stay at a Motel 6 when on a business trip, because IRS are not going to let you write off a townhouse, or suite at the lodge…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 25 Thumb down 1

    • zaphod says:

      a government of the people , by the people , is what we work for , we have met the gov. and he is us . sorry Walt Kelly.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 17

      • euroamerican says:

        zaphod, It use to be a government of the people, by the people. It has taken a while but we have finally, through complacency created a Frankenstein that needs to be unplugged…

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 3

        • zaphod says:

          I missed that meeting. What I sense is folks hypnotized into believing they are victims of the government exercising their rights as consumers instead of participating in a self governing democracy as citizens , so are we victim “consumers” or “citizens asleep” at the wheel eh? wake up and look in the rear view mirror, what we have here is a failure of philosophy, we are hypnotized by our own language, t the reason we need to seek the actual truth of the matter, so some paid advertiser stampedes self government off the cliff and replaces it with quasi private government product, (corporations) this is still the United States of America we just happen to be pumped up with faulty programming from FOX right now, every one enjoys seeing the high and mighty brought low, just remember these folk are our “elites” and sometimes we the people need their service. we have elites for a reason (don’t ask why)

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 14

          • euroamerican says:

            I am certainly not asleep at the wheel. I have been driving my own car without the help of the Government, and doing quite well. I do agree that there area sector of citizens who I would describe as Zombies just slugging along not thinking for themselves, and quite happy to believe everything the Government tells them to be in their best interest…who vote for them as long as they keep those checks coming. If you’re a Civil Servant then it most certainly is in your best interest. No accountability to citizens, and early retirement, with great pension and benefits.
            The Government is now our “elites” they went from serving the people to reigning over us. We are now nothing more than Serfs working to keep the Government in a lifestyle to which they have become accustomed.

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 3

            • zaphod says:

              the schools are never as good as they used to be, a society can be judged by how well they treat the servants.

              Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 13

              • Kevin Rice says:

                Who governed California during education’s heyday?

                Ronald Reagan (R)
                Edmond Brown (D)
                Goodwin Knight (R)
                Earl Warren (R)

                BTW, the “servants” and their $100K clubs are treated quite well. How are they treating us?

                When you say “some paid advertiser stampedes self government off the cliff and replaces it with quasi private government product”, you certainly are talking about the California Teachers Assoc. (the biggest special interest donor) who spent more than $118 million on campaigns in the state during the past six election cycles. The CTA has focused overwhelmingly on initiatives, spending $100 million of that war chest advocating and opposing ballot measures over the past dozen years.

                And, how about Stephen Bing (Hollywood screen writer and top donating individual) who spent over $52 million on Democrat causes?

                Are these the “corporations” you speak of?

                Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

                • zaphod says:

                  no, BAE DuPont you know the type of folk the Bush family lackeys to

                  Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 7

                • Kevin Rice says:

                  How much did those entities contribute to influence California politics last year? I think you are being quite one-sided; even non fact based.

                  Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

      • NorthCountyGuy says:

        Government today is a government of union thugs, government by union thugs, and government for union thugs.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

    • zaphod says:

      Iran got I a told ya Kholemeni and we got Ronald Reagan the end result is the same, crippled democracies, hollowed out economies, global corporations ready with the remedy. Fascism light! new improved . just ask Alex Jones he has been selling anti government shlock programming for decades if you hate the government you actually hate yourself, in a way.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 17

      • Kevin Rice says:

        You confuse being anti-government with being anti-corrupt government.

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

        • Slowerfaster says:

          Some confuse being anti-government as being pro-democratic ( smal d ).
          Just as long as it is THEIR version and system of authority that prevails… a false ‘majority’.

          Actually, most of these Randian nihilists are not so much anti-government as they are anti-civilization.

          Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

          • zaphod says:

            Ayn Rand’s medicare records and social security check stubs crammed in a box in the bottom of the closet of her rent controlled NYC apartment, Alan Greenspan Shrugged,

            Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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