It’s an ongoing battle Michael Cacciotti is determined to fight.
The longtime South Pasadena City Council member is the second longest sitting board member for the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD), the regulatory agency responsible for improving the air in the Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties, including the Coachella Valley.
“We’ve made incredible strides in reducing air pollution in the region, but more still needs to be done,” said Cacciotti when asked why it was important for him to win another four-year term on the board.
He was successfully voted in by a majority of the 34 eastern Los Angeles County cities he represents on Thursday, as mayors cast their votes during a City Selection Committee meeting at El Monte City Hall. Cacciotti was unanimously selected by the 28 cities present, and exceeded a population requirement in joining other elected officials on the board, including City Council members, county supervisors, and appointees from the state.
He likes the idea of being at the forefront of the agency’s air pollution reduction efforts in an effective decision-making role. The South Coast AQMD’s governing board adopts policies and regulations that promote clean air within the four-county area.
“We’re committed to protecting the health of our residents while also supporting a healthy business environment,” explained Cacciotti, who has served on the South Pasadena City Council since 2001. “I’m excited at what the future holds for our eastern cities as we work together to ensure that the AQMD is a faithful partner in our collective efforts to improve the quality of life for our residents, while being sensitive to the regulatory costs that businesses face, as they work with us to improve the air we all breathe.”
Despite significant improvements to cleaning up the air, Cacciotti, recognizing Los Angeles still has the smoggiest conditions in the nation, insists more work needs to be accomplished to protect Southland residents. “We’re making innovative and practical strategies, plus many technological advances that are creating many jobs,” he said. “We’re all aware that air pollution can cause or worsen many health problems, including heart disease, asthma, certain types of cancers, and premature death.”
The AQMD is responsible for controlling emissions primarily from stationary sources of air pollution, along with large power plants, refineries, house paint, furniture varnish, and thousands of products containing solvents that evaporate into the air.
“About 25% of our ozone-forming air pollution comes from stationary sources, and the other 75% comes from mobile sources–cars, trucks, and buses, trains shops, trains airplanes, and construction equipment,” noted Cacciotti, who plays a personal part in the clean air mission by riding his bicycle seemingly everywhere and climbing aboard three buses to attend AQMD board meetings monthly in Diamond Bar, adding: “I have to practice what I preach.”
Long before Cacciotti joined the 13-member board in 2008, the war on smog had already begun. The commitment to control it was launched more than 50 years ago. Today, an Air Quality Management Plan guides the agency, serving as the blueprint to bring the region into compliance with federal and state clean air standards.
The test of whether efforts by Caccioti and his fellow board members are working is the quality of the air breathed by South California residents.
Around the clock, AQMD monitors air quality at 38 locations throughout the four-county area. It allows the agency to notify the public when air quality falls short of being unhealthful. Cacciotti is a big proponent of zero emission vehicles, electric charging stations, and AQMD’s many grant and incentive programs. Among them are residential and commercial electric lawn and garden incentive rebates, exchanging polluting, gas-powered equipment with cleaner, electric models.
“I have a passion to be back on the board and really want to share this information with the 34 cities I represent,” explained Cacciotti. “It’s important for me to make it healthier and safe for all the residents, pets, and wildlife in these communities.”
At one time, like others, he was oblivious to what was coming out of vehicle exhaust tailpipes – nitride oxide, carbon monoxide, hydro carbons and many compounds that have tremendous impact ( causing asthma, cancer and other serious respiratory illnesses ) – and decided he wanted to be part of a movement for positive change.
He’s found it with the South Coast Air Quality Management District. “I didn’t like what I was seeing, and now believe that by working together, making changes in our lives, make a difference and we can live much healthier lives,” Cacciotti insisted.
He’s no longer the new kid on the block – Cacciotti has seen a lot of AQMD board members come and go over the years, but he’s managed to keep a seat, showing the same enthusiasm he had back 12 years ago when it all started.
“I remember that first meeting back then,” he said. “I sat at the end of the table. Now I’m in the middle.”
More like front and center, fighting for clean air.