JANUARY Considering Jan. 1 was the first day of California's brand-new smoking ban, we didn't know what to expect when we entered our neighborhood sports bar to catch the college bowl games. We pictured something along the lines of a Mel Brooks fight scene, with bartenders using soda-water nozzles to douse lit cigarettes, bouncers ignoring fights between drunken patrons so they could break up fights between waitresses and smokers, and confused medicinal-marijuana users weeping in the middle of the melee because they don't know whether to side with health advocates or smokers'-rights supporters. Instead, we witnessed something from the past-as in 10 hours past. Nothing had changed. Drinks were ordered, watered down and distributed. Waitresses were overworked, propositioned and stiffed. Patrons got loud, loaded and then more loaded. And hanging over it all was that familiar blue cloud that's as much a fixture at bars as Norm's fat ass is in the corner stool at that place where everyone knows your name. This sports bar's employees were not about to tell some inebriated construction worker with a Megadeth T-shirt and Manson-esque squint in his red eyes that he'd have to put out his cigarette or else. Smokers didn't even get dirty looks. Okay, everyone got dirty looks, but not because they were smoking. Thus, California's don't ask/don't tell policy (don't ask them to stop smoking/don't tell them to stop smoking) was the butt of many a joke on Day One. . . . Led by Supervisor Todd Spitzer, the Board of Supervisors on Jan. 8 voted to implement a 32-hour workweek requirement for OC's 100,000-plus welfare recipients, many of whom are single mothers already working minimum-wage jobs. Health and welfare advocates had supported a 26-hour week proposal, but Spitzer and Chairman Jim Silva defeated that plan in December 1997. With a federally imposed deadline looming, the Supes endorsed the 32-hour workweek-one of the strictest in the country. "We are not in a competition to see if we can be the county that is the most restrictive and most punitive [to welfare recipients]. Are we?" OC resident Carla Henderson asked the board. Clearly, the answer was yes. . . . Guess who helped the Marine Corps get the green light to build officer homes on a pristine bluff overlooking world-famous surfing hot spot Trestles? None other than that archenemy of development, the California gnatcatcher. A federal judge on Jan. 13 rejected the Surfrider Foundation's request for an injunction to halt a Marine housing project on San Mateo Point, paving the way for the construction of 120 duplexes on 32 acres surrounded on three sides by San Onofre State Park and bordering the San Mateo Creek wetland reserve and President Richard Nixon's former Western White House. Surfrider's volunteer attorneys contended the Marines violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to adequately evaluate less environmentally sensitive land. Surfrider even suggested an on-base site next to San Clemente, but an assistant U.S. attorney representing the Marines said that plot is in a flood plain and would have destroyed a habitat of the endangered gnatcatcher.
FEBRUARY Having earlier convinced the San Diego Regional Water Control Board that an environmental-impact report was not needed, Southern California Edison on Feb. 11 won the board's blessing to discharge warmer water from the San Onofre nuclear-power plant into the Pacific Ocean. Edison, which flushes about 1.2 million gallons of sea water daily, completed a less onerous negative declaration, a simple checklist that concluded that discharging water that's up to 25 degrees hotter than the ocean's natural temperature won't significantly impact the marine environment. Environmentalists called the negative declaration bogus and countered that the hotter cooling water will further cloud the ocean and harm everything from plankton to kelp. . . . Is there anything more bitchen than OC's Libertarian streak? Bar owners here who were still pissed over California's new cigarette-smoking ban hit the state where it hurts most. Modesto? No, silly: the wallet. The barsters, who reported business was off because of the smoking ban, launched a one-week boycott on Feb. 15 of the state's popular "Hot Spot" lottery game, which patrons played on terminals inside taverns. The statewide effort was expected to cost the less Golden State between $80 million and $150 mil. . . . The Trabuco Canyon Water District blamed El Nio for the Feb. 16 failure of an electrical pump station that sent 480,000 gallons of raw sewage into the Pacific Ocean. The worst spill in OC in three years, the shit closed a two-mile stretch of Aliso Beach. Capistrano Beach, Salt Creek County Beach and Dana Point Harbor breakwater/Doheny State Beach also experienced El Nio-induced sewage-spill closures. Mark Cousineau, president of San Clemente-based Surfrider Foundation, urged surfers and swimmers to stay out of those waters until contamination tests could be completed. One local surfer who spoke with us needed no convincing. "Fuck this," he said. "I'm going snowboarding." . . . Thomas F. Riley's death at age 85 on Feb. 19 prompted real-estate developers, politicians and journalists to get all misty-eyed over the concrete-loving former county supervisor. As if reading the same cue cards, OC powerbrokers praised Riley's "integrity" and "honesty" in the local dailies, which chose not to touch on the fact that the Newport Beach supervisor's public office was an ethical cesspool. Some praise was downright laughable, such as an unattributed line in a Times OC news story: "Riley's attention to the nuts and bolts of office holding was legendary." Of course, this is the same Thomas F. Riley who chaired the Board of Supervisors when Orange County lost $1.7 billion in the world's largest municipal bankruptcy.
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MARCH Tattooed, crossdressing, multihue-hairdoed club kid Dennis Rodman filed suit in Orange County Superior Court on March 4 against Street Players Holding Corporation for making and selling the Dennis Rodman Wedding Day Doll without his permission. Rodman, who resides in Newport Beach, had a licensing agreement with Street Players since 1996 that paid him a percentage of sales. But his suit, which sought unspecified monetary damages, claimed that the LA-based collectibles maker violated their agreement that he must approve the use of his, um, image. . . . Congressman Jay Kim (R-Diamond Bar) was sentenced to a year's probation, 200 hours of community service, a $5,000 fine and two months of home detention on March 9 after pleading guilty to accepting more than $250,000 in illegal campaign donations. Kim was forced to serve his home detention in his home on the East Coast, which meant he could not campaign in his home district before June's primary election. . . . The Orange County Human Relations Commission announced on March 12 that hate crimes dropped 21 percent in 1997. The commission received reports of 145 hate crimes in '97 compared with 183 in the previous year. African-Americans were the most hassled group, followed by Jews and Asians. One thing didn't change: white teens perpetrated the most hate crimes. . . . An organization that pays crackhead women $200 to get their tubes tied moved out of its founder's Stanton home on March 20 and into a new office in Anaheim. "I feel like it's a reality finally," Barbara Harris, who founded Children Requiring a Caring Kommunity (CRACK) in 1994, told The Orange County Register. "We're going to be a household name." That's pretty much already the case, thanks to intense media coverage of her crusade to stem the tide of crack babies. When a Los Angeles woman approached her in October 1997 and accepted $200 in exchange for undergoing a tubal ligation, the local media pounced on the story, which was picked up by the wire services and led to Harris appearing on Oprah, The Today Show and CBS Evening News. People in six states have offered to open CRACK chapters (don't call 'em "houses"). . . . Guttermouth's Mark Adkins was arrested in Canada on March 22, detained overnight and deported after allegedly exposing himself and urging an underage girl to do the same during a concert at the University of Saskatchewan. The lawyer for the lead singer of the Huntington Beach-based punk band later entered a not-guilty plea in provincial court; trial was set for Oct. 21. Guttermouth canceled the rest of its Canadian tour. Adkins was arrested in 1995 on suspicion of inciting a riot at the Blockbuster Pavilion in Devore. Citing insufficient evidence, San Bernardino County's district attorney did not file charges. Would a guy up on indecent-exposure charges want his case dropped due to insufficient evidence? . . . The Boy Scouts of America can ban gays, agnostics, girls, Presbyterians, Swedes-anyone-the California Supreme Court ruled on March 23. Acting on cases brought by twins from Anaheim Hills and a gay man from Berkeley, the Supremes decided the Scouts are not a business but rather a private club, and they can therefore discriminate against potential members like your finest country clubs, royal orders of bullshit spreaders and the Republican Party. Because there is apparently no federal law on which to base an appeal, the ruling effectively ended the seven-year quest by the twins, Michael and William Randall, to advance in scouting without having to pledge an oath of duty to God. Poised to become Eagle Scouts, the OC twins quit rather than recite the oath. . . . Surrounded by his wife, son, city officials and four of the jurors who convicted him, controversial Baptist pastor Wiley S. Drake thrust a gold-plated shovel into the earth on March 29 to symbolize groundbreaking for a 52-bed homeless shelter at his First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park. Drake and the church were convicted in July 1997 of four misdemeanor counts for allowing indigent people to camp in the church parking lot and patio structure. A judge put the church on probation for three years and ordered it to follow city codes. Drake, who was spared jail time, later negotiated with the city to build the 5,200-square-foot structure and reached out to the community for cash, labor and building supplies for the $400,000 project.