July-September

JULY The Orange County Agricultural Commission reported in early July that oranges, which had been our top citrus crop for a century, declined by 70 percent in 1997 and finally dropped behind-gulp!-lemons. That's right, bunky, we live in Lemon County. It's only a matter of time before we'll head out to the Lemon County Fair to see the Marshall Tucker Band-again! Toyota of Orange will be forced to change its advertising jingle to "Well, you won't get an orange at Toyota of Lemon." And those political pundits who aren't from here-but think they know all about us-will start referring to the wacky goings-on "behind the Lemon Curtain." On the bright side, the increase in lemon production should make it smell lemony fresh around here, like that stuff they spray on your dashboard at the car wash. . . . PinkMan (a.k.a. Michael Maxfield) was forced to resign as the mascot for the 1998 Orange County Fair on July 12 after a Register reporter confronted fair officials with news clippings from Oregon that showed Maxfield had admitted to molesting two girls in 1991. He'd never been charged, arrested or convicted of any crime, and fair officials already had the same information. But the newspaper's interest in the story forced fair officials to accept PinkMan's resignation and cash out his $8,500 contract shortly after the fair's opening day. For his part, Maxfield said he never tried to hide from his past: "How could I hide? I'm in a pink suit, waving my arms!" . . . Congressman Ron Packard (R-Oceanside) carried water for the sorta public/mostly private TCA on July 16 when a House subcommittee approved his amendment to bar the feds from questioning the need for the last leg of the Foothill Toll Road through the South County portion of his district. The Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers withheld key permits for the 16-mile, $644 million road dissecting pristine San Clemente because they were not convinced it would alleviate traffic-but they were convinced it would damage the habitats of many endangered species. The new legislation by Packard, who contended the feds' traffic concerns were frivolous and outside their perusal, restricted agency comments to those it has jurisdiction over. An Endangered Habitats League activist feared the amendment could put the notoriously guarded TCA above the law. . . . A judge on July 16 threw out sound restrictions that for years were imposed on the Pacific Amphitheatre, opening the door for the return of live entertainment at the concert bowl on the Orange County Fairgrounds. But fair officials said they needed to study potential uses for the facility (a hat? A brooch?), and they may ultimately decide not to stage concerts there. Can you say "white elephant"? . . . Agents at the U.S. Border Patrol's San Clemente checkpoint on July 19 confiscated 1,046 tablets of Viagra from a Japanese tourist who had purchased the pills hours earlier in Tijuana. It marked the first time OC-based federal agents had seized the woody-woodening wonders, and boy, were they proud. The male-potency pills, which can be obtained without prescriptions in Mexico, were discovered in a suitcase. No one was arrested. The de-pilled 57-year-old Tokyo resident told agents he bought the tablets for $4.50 a pop in TJ and planned to take them home, where they would fetch $300 each. Jeez, no wonder Japan's economy is in the shitter. . . . The city of Dana Point trotted out a new plan for the controversial Headlands project on July 24 that included open space for the high bluff top overlooking the harbor. That amounted to a bureaucratic fuck-you to the 121-acre project's developers, who wanted a resort and exclusive homes rising from the rocky point that gave the city its name. Developers were willing to negotiate on the homes, but they wouldn't budge on the resort. But with the project having generated two citizen referendums and two recall elections over the years, it was hard to imagine city leaders giving any ground. . . . What was your favorite revelation from the court documents released concerning the Orange County bankruptcy? Was it Citron being lured into bad deals by high-pressure Merrill Lynch salesmen? Merrill Lynch's current chairman being warned that Citron's investment strategy might backfire? Citron suffering a brain defect that affected his ability to understand numbers, make rational decisions, and keep from getting duped by assistant treasurer Matthew Raabe? No, the best nugget was Citron admitting to having used a $4.50 star chart prepared by an Indianapolis astrologer to help him manage the county's multibillion-dollar investment pool. It was soooo Nancy Reagan. It had been previously reported that Citron also consulted with psychics (which was soooo Hillary Clinton). The best headline was this one in the July 23 Register: "My Brain Was Unable to Audit." Sounds like a rejected Ed Wood movie title.

AUGUST In a study of a dozen randomly selected U.S. communities with populations of more than 200,000, Orange County's 16.9 percent of children lacking health insurance was 6 percentage points higher than the national average and exceeded only by Little Rock, Arkansas (18.5 percent) and Miami (22.4 percent), according to the nonpartisan Center for Studying Health System Change. The author of the survey for the Washington, D.C.-based research group and an OC social-services provider surmised a large immigrant population may account for our high percentage. So we have three choices when it comes to addressing these embarrassing reports documenting the huge divide between our fair county's haves and have-nots: 1) stop counting immigrants; 2) deport them before another study is done; 3) become a national trendsetter by providing health-care coverage to all countians, starting with mothers and children. Jeez, what kinda nut would promote that last solution? . . . A 57-year-old wheelchair-bound amputee-who had suffered from diabetes, cancer and three heart attacks-faced 25 years to life in prison for allegedly trying to buy rock cocaine from an undercover Santa Ana cop who was actually hawking macadamia nuts. Prosecutors wanted to put Foster Morris away for good under the Three Strikes law. But something happened in OC Superior Court on Aug. 14 that you don't hear too much about in these days of politically expedient, cookie-cutter justice: compassion. Three days after a jury deadlocked 8-4 in favor of convicting Morris, the district attorney's office agreed to drop seven of the eight strikes he'd racked up for robberies and burglaries between 1959 and 1981. Morris then pleaded guilty, was sentenced to three years in prison, and ordered released by the judge, who ruled the problem-free year he'd already spent behind bars for almost buying a nut satisfied the sentence. . . . The Walt Disney Co.'s maniacal plan to turn all of OC into one huge theme park (like it isn't already) continued on Aug. 15 with the announcement that the Mouseketeers will swallow up a 52-acre chunk of Anaheim for a third theme park. For those keeping score at home, the other parks are Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure, which is currently being imagineered in the parking lot at 1313 Harbor Blvd. Disney bought a strawberry farm from a family who refused for years to sell. Alas, it won't be strawberry fields forever. . . . Leaders of the Coalition of Hispanic Organizations and California's LULAC picketed Irvine-based Taco Bell on Aug. 17 over the fast-food chain's use of a Chihuahua pitchman that they say negatively stereotypes Hispanics. Taco Bell officials responded by offering to share market data showing folks love the spokesdog. But Mario Obledo, president of the Sacramento-based coalition that represents about 50 Latino advocacy groups, insisted the rat dog must go. The "stereotyping by these commercials" combined with state ballot measures ending affirmative action, bilingual education and social services for immigrants prove "Mexican-Americans are under siege in America," said Obledo, who you'll recall from the June entry threatened to burn down Barbara Coe's anti-immigrant billboard. But some in the struggle apparently don't share Obledo's view when it comes to Taco Bell. On Aug. 18, LULAC's national president informed California director Gilberto Flores to cease and desist using the 65-year-old nonprofit's name in the boycott. In March, the national LULAC had issued a news release that stated "Taco Bell's Dinky is Not Offensive to Hispanics" after a Hispanic group in Florida bitched about the Chihuahua. Turns out Taco Bell and its former parent company Pepsico are generous contributors to LULAC. . . . A federal grand jury in Los Angeles on Aug. 25 issued a detailed, 24-count indictment against Santa Ana City Councilmen Ted Moreno and Tony Espinoza and unsuccessful 1996 council candidates Hector Olivares and Roman Palacios. Charges of bribery, extortion, mail fraud, conspiracy, money laundering and a host of election violations were brought against Moreno, while his allies were named in some of the counts (Palacios pleaded guilty on Aug. 28 to the one count against him; he'd been working with investigators for months and had struck a plea-bargain agreement with prosecutors before the indictment was handed down). The case centered on alleged attempts in 1996 to extort $46,000 from a Santa Ana businessman and have the funds funneled to the foursome's campaign warchest. . . . Ruling that the area under a woman's skirt is private, an OC judge on Aug. 25 issued an arrest warrant for an Irvine computer programmer who allegedly used a hand-held camera to film up women's skirts at Fashion Island. No laws specifically target videographers whose idea of Citizen Kane is a brief, badly lit shot of an oblivious woman's moving crotch, but a new section of the California Penal Code's disorderly conduct law makes it a crime to illegally film or videotape in restrooms, changing rooms, tanning salons or wherever there is an expectation of privacy. Harbor Municipal Court Judge Geoffrey T. Glass ruled that "under the skirt" qualifies as such a place. Newport Beach Police then arrested the 34-year-old-16 days after a woman allegedly caught him midframe in the tony mall's KCET Store of Knowledge (and you thought the shop's PBS commercials with the ghosts of Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin checking out customers were creepy). Law-enforcement types warned that our warm climate would likely bring out more nut balls with viewfinders. Ladies, remember what your mommas said about wearing clean underwear because you never know who might see 'em. . . . The Irvine City Council voted on Aug. 25 to deposit half a billion dollars to develop a football stadium on 440 acres of the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS). The deal (and all that glorious cash) is being put together by a Santa Monica investment group that wants to snag the National Football League's 32nd franchise. Sadly, conventional wisdom has that expansion team going to Los Angeles, where potential investors have much deeper pockets. But Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis is piping off about moving back to LA. So if a stadium is built in Irvine and the NFL gives LA the new team and Al's still looking for a place to play, it can mean only one thing: ladies and gentleman, please welcome your Irvine Raiders! It's kismet, baby! Irvine came into being because of a land raider, it's now home to all kinds of corporate raiders, and much of the nearby El Toro MCAS has been targeted for takeover by airspace raiders. Listen up, Irvine: beggars can't be choosers; embrace Al-just be careful not to get that oily shit in his hair on you. . . . Newport Beach resident Harold Ezell, the nationally known anti-immigration activist and former Reagan administration official who once wanted illegal aliens "caught, skinned and fried," died on Aug. 25 after a long battle with liver cancer. He was 61. At Ezell's funeral, the Reverend Jim Swanson joked with mourners about the dearly departed's arrival at the pearly gates. "Saint Peter says, 'I have to check to see if you're a legal resident to get into this place,'" the reverend reportedly said. After Ezell's let in, as Swanson related it, the co-author of Prop. 187 thought to himself, "Thank God I'm finally in a place where there are no illegals."

SEPTEMBER Jose Manuel Campos was allegedly trying to flee in a stolen car on Sept. 7 when the unarmed man was shot in the head by an unidentified officer in Santa Ana. The 28-year-old died the next day. Police reportedly claimed the cop feared for his life because Campos angled his car toward the officer. But members of Santa Ana's Latino community, who believe police could-and should-have handled the incident differently, demanded an investigation, according to Josie Montoya of the countywide service organization Los Amigos. They'll get one, a reassuring Mayor Miguel Pulido, speaking on behalf of the council, said two weeks later; as is routine in police shootings, the district attorney's office investigated the incident (there, don't you feel reassured?). Police Chief Paul Walters advised everyone to await that probe's outcome before pressing forward. Campos' mother, meanwhile, wanted the officer who offed her son to come forward and tell her why he did it. "I want answers," Rosalba Campos reportedly said, "and I want justice." . . . Congressman Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach), who would go on two months later to win re-election and briefly throw his hat in the ring for Speaker of the House, on Sept. 16 signed a formal "statement of candidacy" for Dianne Feinstein's U.S. Senate seat in 2000. Federal Elections Commission records showed Cox funneled $900,000 in House campaign funds to the vaguely named "Campaign 2000," an undisclosed account established in connection with an elusive San Diego genetics-company president who once served as Cox's chief of staff (or was that staff's Chief of Cocks?). . . . Instead of prison bars, Irvine slumlord Sherwin Seyrafi got two broken windows to stare out of, thanks to a Phoenix judge. Seyrafi, 38, who operated at least 30 rundown units in Arizona's largest city, was convicted of violating city health codes. On Sept. 30, a judge sentenced him to spend 30 days in one of those flea bags. Seyrafi was forbidden from repairing his temporary residence until he fixed other apartments in the building. Nor could he leave the premises, which-damn! -just happened to be located in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods. Meanwhile, a separate Maricopa County indictment alleged Seyrafi collected rental deposits by showing photos of desirable property and then refused to refund the money when the residences turned out to be "virtually uninhabitable." . . . Beverly Hills may be the town everyone equates with Southern California wealth, but Newport Coast actually had the highest percentage of rich folks in SoCal, according to a report released on Sept. 30. The Arkansas data-analysis firm Acxiom Corp. ranked household incomes more than $100,000 yearly by postal ZIP codes. Newport Coast-the phalanx of fortresses that just sorta sprouted when we weren't looking along the stretch of Pacific Coast Highway between beaches Newport and Laguna-wound up with 62.9 percent of its inhabitants topping the magic $100,000 mark. Villa Park-the rural outpost the rich are exiled to when they get too uppity for everyone else in Orange or Anaheim-finished sixth. Beverly Hills, meanwhile, came in eighth. Hah! So when are OC landmarks going to work their way into those opening montages that display SoCal's monied by overusing the exteriors of the Beverly Hills Hotel and that rich sheik fuck's goofy mansion? When were we going to get a TV sitcom about bubblin'-crude-accruing hillbillies loading up the truck and moving to Newport-Coast, that is. When would the 92657 ZIP code's well-endowed high schoolers be portrayed by jiggling twentysomethings and a filthy-rich executive producer's horse-faced daughter? The Slums of Villa Park, Down and out in Villa Park, and Eddie Murphy in Villa Park Cop couldn't happen soon enough for us, by cracky! . . . The failure of Dana Point city officials to amend the city's general plan eight years ago came back to bite them on the ass on Sept. 30, when a judge ruled they must consider the landowner's plan to develop the Headlands, one of the last pristine chunks of the Southern California coast. The City Council in June authorized 185 homes for the environmentally sensitive bluff overlooking Dana Point Harbor and a 100- to 150-room hotel on Strands Beach, which is near sea level north of the bluff. But that plan conflicted with the city's overall general plan, which would allow up to 522 homes and a hotel on the bluff. Local activists who had fought Headlands development for eons warned city officials as far back as 1990 that they'd better amend the general plan. That advice was ignored, so Orange County Superior Court Judge John C. Woolley ordered Dana Point to set aside its specific plan and process the landowners' proposal, which fell within the general-plan guidelines.

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