Personal Observations and Commentary
By John Earl
Editor, Surf City Voice
If there ever was a corporate right-wing conspiracy going on behind the Orange Curtain (Gasp! Who would have thunk it?) it happened last Friday inside the Grand Californian Hotel at–perhaps appropriately enough–the Disneyland Resort. It called itself the OC Water Summit, presented ostensibly by the Municipal Water District of Orange County and the Orange County Water District but, in fact, sponsored by a bunch of multi-national and other water related business sharks that smell green blood in the lucrative business of disaster capitalism via control of heretofore public water resources.
The summit’s stated purpose was to look at solutions to California’s water problems. In reality it was a mostly one-sided presentation (Central Valley farmers good, environmentalists and little fishes bad) and seemed like a thinly veiled plug for water privatization, what some critics would call unsustainable agriculture practices, and urban sprawl via speculative desalination.
The summit’s stand-in facilitator of the day, after comedian Paul Rodriquez couldn’t make it, was Laer Pearce of Shea Properties/Parkside/build on the Bolsa Chica Mesa fame/infamy whose politics are about as far-right as you can get in Orange County without totally going insane. Normally highly opinionated and hot tempered, Pearce was on his best behavior; but, with a few exceptions, it might have been a more entertaining half-day if he had just acted like he does when he’s being interviewed by the Voice.
Of note, the presentation by Karl W. Seckel of MWDOC on the now underway Dana Point desalination project, a public owned and operated concern with a totally different, much more environmentally friendly, perspective than Poseidon’s proposed Huntington Beach desalination plant, was well worth viewing and we will have more on the details of that soon. Also of great interest, the presentation by Gary Crisp, a desalination advocate from Australia, on how his country is implementing desalination. More on that later, too.
The most curious but totally unsurprising spectacle of the event, however, at least for Surf City residents, might have been the sight of four of our city council members (Joe Carchio, Cathy Green, Devin Dwyer and Gil Coerper) sucking it up with Poseidon Resources CEOs at its specially reserved round table. Poseidon, by the way, has a new EIR currently before the city for approval, due to the fact that the once-through-cooling process, which it was depending on (along with hundreds of millions in government handouts) to provide mythologically (as in Poseidon, God of the Sea) inexpensive water to Orange County residents, has been banned by the State. How Poseidon and its city council cohorts expect to be able to use a banned water intake process is unclear at this point, but nothing stands in the way of a god, apparently.
Joining Poseidon’s city council disciples at the supper table was Huntington Beach Planning Commissioner John Scandura. Carchio is a candidate for reelection in November.
Did the four city council members violate the Brown Act by meeting with each other and discussing or listening to issues before the city? No, they did not, even though the summit cost participants between $125 and $140 each. According to the law, it’s fine in this case because the event was open to the public, despite its prohibitive cost. But if you ever wondered why our elected officials vote the way they do, you might consider who they get their information and social support from.
Surf City residents might want to ask their elected and appointed officials what they talked about at that meeting, however. They should have kept records of all that was discussed.
Update: At last night’s city council meeting (May 17, 2010) during disclosure time, member Gil Coerper disclosed that he had gone to a League of Cities meeting, but none of the council members mentioned that they had been to the OC Water Summit and that they sat with Poseidon’s CEOs the whole time.
However, mandatory disclosure time, as required by AB 1234, comes right after public comments on the city council meeting agenda, nearer the start of the meeting. That’s when, presumably, spectators still exist in the chambers and before the television audience goes to sleep–and there’s nothing in the rules to prevent a council member from commenting on a non mandatory item, such as a summit about the future of California’s and Surf City’s water supply. But, at the end of the meeting, non mandatory disclosures, often mentions of charity events and the like, are normally made. At that time, Mayor Cathy Green, who took her turn last, was the only council member who bothered to mention her attendance along with Dwyer, Carchio and and Coerper at the OC Water Summit–without any information about the event other than that they attended it. Green told the Voice, “…I was reading off a list after a long evening. Remember we start at 4 p.m. [including the study session and closed session]”
So much for the water crisis.