Long Beach City Councilman Rex Richardson was announced Wednesday as the newest member of the South Coast Air Quality Management District board, restoring a voice from the city on the 13-member body for the first time in over a decade.
Richardson was elected to the board with 57% of the vote from leaders across the agency’s Western Region Cities which includes Long Beach, Compton, Cerritos, Santa Monica and Torrance among others.
His win comes after months of lobbying to secure the spot on the board, something the city hasn’t had since 2010.
Richardson’s selection could be critical for Long Beach as the district moves to update its region-wide plan for regulating everything from trains, warehouses and airplanes in 2022.
“I am honored to have earned the support from Mayors across the region,” Richardson said in a statement. “We are facing significant public health challenges, a climate crisis, and combating the worst smog the Los Angeles area has seen in decades.”
Richardson pointed to recent successes seen in Long Beach including the city’s climate adaptation plan and a ballot measure that he championed that will tax oil production in the city with the tax revenue generated earmarked for climate-related equity causes in the city.
As councilman, Richardson represents a portion of Long Beach that includes the intersection of the 710 and 91 freeways, the former of which has been slapped with the nickname “Diesel Death Zone’ because of its high volume of truck traffic headed to and from the Port of Long Beach.
He will become just the the third elected African American—and the only current one—elected to the AQMD board, something that Richardson said is part of a larger movement to get more Black voices involved in environmental decisions.
His tenure on the board, expected to start sometime in early 2021, will come on the heels of Southern California experiencing one of its worst smog years in decades, according to the Los Angeles Times.
To make room for his work on the AQMD board Richardson’s tenure at SCAG, where he’s currently president, will come to an end in the spring.
[Editors note: Rex Richardson will become the third African American elected to the board, but there have been others appointed to the board.]