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Mike Sewell, one of the plaintiffs in an important lawsuit against the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District, died Tuesday morning, apparently of natural causes.

Smoke Stacks

Sewell was a longtime air quality engineer for the district and had been involved in various grievance procedures with the district. The other plaintiff is his wife, Teresa, a supervising air quality compliance inspector who is expected to move ahead with the litigation. The Sewells had filed the action in January, accusing the district of systematically imposing illegal and excessive fees against large area businesses.

Monterey Judge Tom Wills recently rejected attempts by the district to have the suit dismissed.

And earlier Partisan article on the litigation can be found here.


air polutionThere are very few jokes about copy editors, probably because they aren’t particularly funny people. But the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District is on the verge of changing its name, and that reminds me of a story about editing and unnecessary words.

It seems that four editors were attending an editors’ conference in San Francisco. During a break, they went for a walk near the wharf and came upon a sign.


The fist editor said, “That’s a dumb sign. Don’t need to say HERE. Surely they wouldn’t advertising fish somewhere else.”

The second editor scoffed, “It’s worse than that. They don’t need to say FRESH. We’re at the wharf. They wouldn’t be selling frozen fish.”

Editor No. 3 chimed in, “Dumb is right. Why bother with SALE? Certainly they’re not going to be renting fish.”

The fourth editor paused, looked around and sniffed the air, taking in a good whiff. “Seems to me that they don’t need a sign at all.”

It does seem to be a good idea to streamline the name of our local air pollution agency, which sometimes goes by the awkward acronym MBUAPCD. That’s a mess even amidst MPWMD, MCWD, MRWPCD, MPUSD and other constructions hereabouts.

The new name under consideration, Monterey Bay Air Resources District, is an improvement, but an imperfect one.

Even the pickiest of editors would have no problem with four of the words, but the fellow who smelled fish in the air might sniff again at “resources.”

What exactly are air resources? Are they the air itself or something within the air? Is it some reserve that the air can call upon when it is feeling depleted or perhaps breathless? Do they kick in at higher elevations? Can they be mined? Sold?

Resources, it can be vague. It has been on the professional editor’s hit list ever since “personnel” departments became “human resources” departments That probably happened because employers wanted employees to feel more appreciated. Raises would have been better.

Why not just Monterey Bay Air District? The “Monterey Bay” part is necessary to distinguish it from, say, the Lower Rio Grande Valley Air Resources District. “District” is needed because that’s what it is. Air? It also seems to be a critical part of the name.

I say out with “resources” even though that is part of the name of some other agencies that do similar work.  The California Air Resources Board, for instance. But “air resources” suggests to me that someone is exploiting the air—which, as a matter of fact, the local agency is accused of doing in a recent lawsuit. The court filing says the district is collecting excessive and illegal air monitoring fees.

If eliminating resources leaves the name without enough gravitas or sense of purpose, how about “quality.” After all, the agency’s job is to protect air quality, is it not?And there is precedent, including the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Just do not get me started about what a better world this would be if they would drop that superfluous fifth word from their names.

Closer to home, this renaming is part of a district “rebranding,” though I’m not sure why a government agency with regulatory powers needs to be either branded or rebranded. It has no need to lure customers. And just by eliminating “resources” from the name, the district could save on labor and materials when it repaints its vehicles. It also should make the task easier for whoever gets the contract for the district’s new logo.

Come to think of it, it could save even more money by sticking with the name it already has. I have not heard of anyone losing sleep over it.

The issue goes to the district board for a vote on March 19. All editors are encouraged to attend.