Green With Anger

It's bad enough that Orange County environmentalists have to battle powerful developers, the developers' lawyers, the developers' flacks, the developers' paid politicians and a confused public that constantly hears the message that preserving nature kills jobs. Now the ongoing rehabilitation of Aliso Creek and the Bolsa Chica wetlands is pitting OC greenies against one another as well. The California Coastal Commission on Nov. 13 approved the $100 million restoration of the wetlands near Huntington Beach, a plan that would carve through Pacific Coast Highway to reunite the marsh with the ocean for the first time in a century. Several groups—most notably the Bolsa Chica Land Trust—have championed wetlands restoration for decades, but opposition is now coming from wet card-carrying members of the Surfrider Foundation. Surfers fear that bird shit, dead animal parts and residue from nearby rusty oil equipment will flush out of the wetlands—Ma Nature's filter—and into Ma Ocean. Down in South County, the county and a variety of government agencies plan to remove tainted water from chronically polluted Aliso Creek, zap it with ultraviolet light to kill bacteria and then use the cleaner water for irrigation. The environmental group Orange County CoastKeepers blesses the project, but Clean Water Now! activist Roger von Butow last week threw a monkey wrench into the proposal, which has already received $500,000 in taxpayer funding. Von Butow charged that water districts would profit from the sale of the cleaner water, that the water's removal would essentially kill the creek farther downstream, and that the whole operation doesn't get at where the pollution's coming from in the first place—a point seconded by state water-quality regulators. CoastKeeper grand poop-bah Garry Brown bristled at the criticism, reportedly telling The Orange County Register, "To me, it's inconceivable to try to stop or throw obstacles to these projects when they are clearly doing the right thing." It's unclear whether Brown made that statement from industrialist John Crean's vast estate, where Brown recently presented the Irvine Co. with a CoastKeeper award.

STEREOTYPE OC NEGATIVE Tom Umberg, the former OC state assemblyman, Clinton deputy drug czar and corporate lobbyist, has two obstacles in his quest to become state insurance commissioner: lack of name recognition (something every OC politician invariably faces when running for state office) and his active status in the Army reserve amid the war on terrorism. Unfortunately, a recent story in the San Diego Union-Tribunedetailing Umberg's plight did not help him in that regard: the Tribmisidentified him as "Jim Umberg." SUCH A PILL Local no-nukers have failed in previous attempts to get the state, feds or power companies to supply everyone who lives near nuclear power plants with the anti-radiation pill potassium iodide (KI). As reported previously in the Weekly (Nick Schou's "Bitter Pill," Jan. 14, 2000), proposals to distribute KI to folks who live within 10 miles and even 100 miles of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station have been consistently shot down by the plant's owner, Southern California Edison ("the state of California does not endorse or recommend predistribution of KI to the general public"), the Nuclear Regulatory Commission ("it is recommended that you first consult with a physician"), and the state Department of Health Services ("stockpiling KI might create a false sense of security"). Now, Congressman Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts) is essentially telling all those naysayers to go suck on spent rods. On Nov. 13, he introduced a bill that would require the availability of KI for everyone who lives within 200 miles of the country's 103 operating nuke plants. And like his police-state-makin' Republican counterparts, Markey is exploiting Sept. 11 hysteria to ram it through. "Potassium iodide is to radiation exposure what Cipro is to anthrax," says the longtime nuke foe. "In this new era of terrorism, in which the threat of an intentional release of radioactivity can no longer be ignored, we should waste no more time." BLAST FROM THE PAST This has got to piss off Gaddi Vasquez. One of the disgraced ex-OC supervisor's heroes is disgraced ex-President Dick Nixon. So who shows up to blast Vasquez's bid to become Peace Corps director at the Nov. 14 Senate confirmation hearing? Nixon's old Peace Corps director, Jack Hood Vaughn, who called Vasquez a "rank, total amateur" who "lacks management skills." Gee, Jack, don't sugarcoat it.
Illustration by Bob Aul
EMINENTLY QUOTABLE "Beaver was always one to stand up to bullies. . . . We found one of the ultimate bullies in the world, and it's not merely Osama bin Laden, it's terrorism in general. What a terrorist does is try to scare you and bend you to his will. The Beaver and all of the people in Mayfield were very, very strong, in that they knew they were Americans and they had a right to live whatever way they wanted, as long as it didn't infringe on other people."

Jerry "The Beaver" Mathers, on U.S. military actions in Afghanistan, in the Nov. 10 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

MALL RATS Of all the indignities the Disney Co. has faced lately (freefalling stock value, poorly attended theme parks, poorly performing Anaheim sports franchises), could anything be worse than this: what was once the crown jewel of California tourist attractions—Disneyland—is getting punked by a freaking shopping mall? Ontario Mills, a five-year-old mall in western San Bernardino County, is expected to draw 21.5 million visitors this year, the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reported on Nov. 14. That far outdistances the Mouse House, now the state's No. 2 attraction with about 14 million guests yearly. Considering the light foot traffic at Disney's second theme park in Anaheim, Clockwork suggests Ontario Mills resist any temptation to open an adjacent California Shopping Adventure. BANG THE EARDRUM SLOWLY A fax crossed Clockwork's desk on Nov. 15 regarding an old, forgotten friend of the Weekly. "I'm writing today to share some very exciting news: Wiercioch Strategic Communications is open for business!" The Wiercioch part of that handle is, of course, ex-county El Toro pusher Courtney Wiercioch. Out of power since the summer of 1999, Wiercioch's mismanagement of the disastrous El Toro Master Development Program provided this fish wrap with mucho primo copy. Now, it seems, Wiercioch wants to turn that government experience into private public relatin'. She's offering it all, baby: planning and counsel, communications audits, issue identification, media skills training, and, of course, coalition building—a skill she honed during her years whoring El Toro to increasingly pissed-off South Countians. What was supposed to be her ultimate triumph became her ultimate undoing: two days of large-scale noise tests in early June 1999, when commercial airliners flew in and out of El Toro. The tests, you'll recall, were a PR disaster, and succeeded in radicalizing South County and causing county overlords to quickly chuck Wiercioch. BALBOA NO-PAY CLUB Members of Local 681 of the Hotel & Restaurant Employees Union say they have met so much resistance in their long struggle for better pay and benefits for Balboa Bay Club workers that they picketed the private Newport Beach residence resort on Nov. 16. So far, the club's only response to the bargaining demands has been to hand workers news clippings bemoaning the post-Sept. 11 downward plunge in Orange County's tourism economy. One story not being distributed: the Weekly's June 1996 piece "Membership Has Its Privileges," which exposed how the exclusive club sits on public land yet has enjoyed free rent from the city of Newport Beach for the past 50 years.
 
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