Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich was vilified Friday by conservationists who endorsed his political opponent while decrying his support for a four-lane road through a pristine canyon.
While announcing their support for Baxter Ward, a loose coalition of about 30 conservationists criticized Antonovich’s support of the county’s plan to extend Thousand Oaks Boulevard through Cheeseboro Canyon in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area to relieve traffic congestion. The environmentalists branded the two-term Republican supervisor “Monoxide Mike” for what they said were his pro-business votes as a member of the South Coast Air Quality Management District board. They called him a “thug” for developers.
In an interview, Antonovich said that such talk comes from “extreme environmentalists” who are “very, very rigid in their thinking.” He maintained that his detractors are in the minority among the 800,000-plus voters in the sprawling 5th District, which encompasses the San Fernando, Conejo, Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys.
Antonovich said he balances the need for new housing with the need to protect the environment.
“I have tried to work to protect the environment and to ensure people have an opportunity to live in a home,” Antonovich said. “We have a critical need for seniors, first-time home buyers and young people. We also have a commitment to preserve the environment.”
Sally Reid, a national director of the Sierra Club, said her organization thinks that Ward would support many local environmental causes, including protecting the Santa Monica Mountains from constant encroachment. During Antonovich’s 8-year tenure, 2,600 acres earmarked for park purchases in the Santa Monica Mountains have been lost to development, she said.
Without the Board of Supervisors’ support, Reid said, she must constantly seek help elsewhere.
“I’m asked in congressional offices in Washington, ‘How come you always have to come to Congress to resolve your Santa Monica Mountains’ problems?’ I just shrug and say, ‘Well, you know who our supervisors are.’ And I get an understanding nod.”
Ward repeated his allegation that Antonovich is a “born-again environmentalist.” He vowed that he would not let the county build a road through Cheeseboro Canyon, a wildlife sanctuary of grassy savannas and dense oak woodlands.
“It’s one of the most incredible sights in Los Angeles County,” Ward said. “It should be preserved.”
The “Monoxide Mike” moniker was coined by Mark Abramowitz, vice president of the statewide Coalition for Clean Air, who said his organization has tracked Antonovich’s votes on the AQMD board.
One Man’s Opinion
“He’s been opposing clean-air measures and has been following through with his stated purpose and goal on the air board in protecting the interests of business,” said Abramowitz, who noted that he spoke as an individual because his group does not make endorsements.
Roger Scott, Antonovich’s campaign spokesman, dismissed the accusation as one man’s opinion.
“Mike Antonovich certainly does not vote for dirty air,” he said.
The conservationists criticized Antonovich’s claim that he is a protector of oaks. Under the county’s oak-tree ordinance, which was recently strengthened by the board, developers must replace each destroyed oak tree with two oak seedlings. The supervisor has estimated that more than 20,000 trees have been planted since he took office.
“It’s so silly to listen to Antonovich saying that he’s planting oak trees,” Reid said. “What he’s done is remove thousands of these huge 300-year-old oak trees and replanted little babies that won’t be as high as your nose for decades--if they grow at all.”