Friendly Fire: The Illusion of Justice (Book Review)

Friendly Fire: The Illusion of Justice by Adam Bereki.  Costa Mesa: Spartan Associates, 2010.

Reviewed by Daniel C. Tsang
Special to the Surf City Voice

I made the mistake of initially dismissing as a flimsy account Adam Bereki’s slim (160-page) personal narrative about being drummed out of the Huntington Beach Police Department because of his sexual orientation .  But on re-reading his book, Friendly Fire: The Illusion of Justice, I came to realize that his book is a stunning indictment of what the author perceived as the deep machismo, laced with homophobia, of the Surf City’s police department

Adam Bereki, . Photo courtesy Mike Lee of Starlight Photography

Current Police Chief  Ken Small, who headed the department during Bereki’s short tenure, is quick to dismiss (in the Orange County Register) Bereki’s work as “fiction”.  Yet Bereki tells a believable if horrifying  story where truth is stranger than fiction, such as when a trusted mentor turned on him by simulating anal sex with him during police training exercises and another fellow cop made jokes about it being his “day off” when someone was reported masturbating in public.  He also got demerits for being gung ho about police work, thus  putting his lazier fellow cops to shame.  In fact, his personnel  evaluations  miraculously shot up when he briefly slacked off and in his own recounting, did what many other cops did: read a book, sit under a tree, or browsed the Internet during work hours.  Bereki  also claims most cops file reports that are never acted upon; more than once, he felt tempted to tell crime victims that dark secret.

Bereki, passionate about police work since he started in the Explorer program as a teenager, went to police academy and was initially welcomed into his hometown police department.  But soon rumors of his sexual preference began spreading, especially after his housemate, a cop whom Bereki viewed as his mentor, “Junior,” found him in bed with another guy, who was actually a fellow gay cop, “Justin,” from Laguna Beach Police Department . It didn’t matter that the two were zonked  out drunk after a night on the town in L.A.  The mentor  went to the “police association’s bar and told everybody the story.”  His tormentor would later scream at him, according to Bereki, saying: “I don’t want gay rumors or roommates in this house.  I don’t know where you and Brad have been doing up in LA, but that’s where all the fags go.” Brad was another friend of Bereki’s. Continue reading Friendly Fire: The Illusion of Justice (Book Review)

What is Organic Food and Is It Worth It?

By Sarah (Steve) Mosko
Special to the Surf City Voice

Presented with two equal-priced apples or cheeses – one organic and the other produced with conventional methods – which would you choose?  Does upping the cost of the organic product by 10 percent change your mind?  How about 40 percent?

Such decisions have become routine for even mainstream shoppers who’ve never set foot in a specialty health food store, now that Wal-Mart and major supermarket chains are competing with their own organic product lines and corporate giants, such as General Mills and Kraft, have jumped into the organic market under different brand names like Cascadian Farms and Boca.

Slaughterhouse workers hoisting a dead cow. Photo: PETA

What consumers believe about the differences between organic and conventional foods, and the value they place on those differences, will obviously drive their choices.  However, most people probably have only a rough idea of what an organic label signifies and even sketchier knowledge of how conventional foods are produced, leaving them ill-equipped to make an informed choice.

USDA Certified Organic
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sets national standards for the production and handling of agricultural products earning the USDA Organic Seal. Only when all ingredients are organically produced can an item be labeled “100 percent organic.”  Foods made with at least 95 percent organic ingredients may only claim to be “organic,” whereas those with at minimum 70 percent organic ingredients are restricted to labeling as “contains organic ingredients” and are also denied the USDA Organic Seal.

Plant Products
Organic produce relies on traditional farming methods established prior to the 20th century, like crop rotation and use of composted animal manure, to maintain biodiversity and soil fertility.  Genetic modification, where genes from another species are inserted into DNA, is not allowed, and crops must be grown without conventional pesticides and fertilizers made from synthetic ingredients for greater than three years.  Application of sewage sludge to farmland is prohibited as is ionizing irradiation to kill pathogens. Continue reading What is Organic Food and Is It Worth It?

Sucking Up: AES must modernize, but what about Poseidon?

By John Earl
Surf City Voice

Surf City’s power generator, owned and operated by AES Southland, and located on the corner of Newland Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway, will be replaced with a brand new and fully modern plant, minus the industrial dinosaur look–including the ugly smoke stacks that leak large steam plumes into the sky—currently a visual blight for miles around juxtaposed with one of the most beautiful coastlines in the state.

That’s good news for the city’s residents and tourists, but even better news for the millions of marine animals that would otherwise be killed by being sucked through the plant’s intake pipes along with seawater used to cool the plant.

Seater intake system
AES seawater intake system. From the Poseidon SEIR

The good news comes from a May 4 decision by the State Water Board that was long expected and is intended to stop the massive destruction of marine life by requiring power plants to use the “best technology available for minimizing environmental impact” or reduce water intake in order to create no greater an impact.

The ruling will affect 19 power generators along the California coast.

In effect, that means AES will either have to shut down or find an alternative to the “once-through-cooling” (OTC) process it currently uses to cool it’s Huntington Beach facility as well as generators in Long Beach and Redondo Beach.

The new standard must be met by 2020; the State Water Board could give more time for AES HB and other power plants to comply in phases, but change is coming. Continue reading Sucking Up: AES must modernize, but what about Poseidon?

Surf City Community Garden Concept Progresses

By John Earl
Surf City Voice

Surf City’s first community garden—organic and pesticide free—may be opened for use before Labor Day, according to David Baronfeld, president for the Board of Directors for the Huntington Beach Community Garden.

Baronfeld made the announcement at a community meeting at City Hall on Wednesday, May 19.

Baronfeld and others have worked tirelessly for the past eight months to come up with the concept—modeled after the Long Beach Community Garden, which started 25-years-ago—and language for an agreement between the city and Southern California Edison, which owns the land that will be used for the garden.

Baronfeld sees the garden as a beautification project and puts it in the same category as a public library or other city service.

“The purpose of the community garden is both recreational, hobby, [and] educational,” he said, adding that it would give people, who are struggling in the current economy, a chance to grow fruits and vegetables that they otherwise might not be able to afford.

Community garden Long Beach
The Long Beach Community Garden. Photo: David Baronfeld

The community garden will cover 2.5 acres of land divided into 84, 15 by 20 foot lots. The lots will be leased out on a first-come first-serve basis until all 84 are reserved. Then a lottery will be set up for the next available lots.

Ten lots are reserved for disabled people and are located nearest the entrance for greater ease of use.

The garden will be open to Huntington Beach residents only and for non-commercial purposes—businesses cannot lease the plots. Strict rules and security measures will be implemented. Daylight hours only will apply and members will need a card-key to unlock the gate and enter.

There is an initial $10 application fee and a yearly rental fee of $100 that covers the city’s cost for water and supplies.

Forty residents have signed up already and Baronfeld is delighted by the response:

“To have 40 members of the community come together, when it’s not been advertised or promoted at this early stage, really gives us the belief that we will have 84 plots leased by the time we get it in the ground, and no later than Labor Day.”

The garden will be located on the corner of Atlanta and Brookhurst, under heavy power lines. There is no expected danger, but the soil will be tested anyway and organic top soil will be brought in for the first stage, Baronfeld said.

There are 80 community gardens in southern California, 18 of which are in Orange County. Costa Mesa has two community gardens; Seal Beach and Garden Grove each have one. That makes Huntington Beach one of the last cities considering a community garden, according to Baronfeld.

“But what makes that exciting is that with state of the art technology, if you will, with organic, pesticide free soil, I think that we’re going to have a model community garden once we get it going,” he said.

The long-term goal of the Huntington Beach Community Garden committee is to have multiple community gardens throughout the city.

Anyone who wishes to apply contact: info@beachcommunitygarden

Long Beach garden
Long Beach Community Garden. Photo: David Baronfeld
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‘Responsible’ Desalination Comes to Dana Point

By John Earl
Surf City Voice

The pilot desalination plant under construction in Dana Point, just off of Pacific Coast Highway and next to Doheny State Beach, will test environmental data to determine  the design of a larger facility in the future that will create 15 million gallons of drinking water per day from ocean water, meeting 25 percent of the supply needs for five partner cities or water districts that together will form the South Orange Coastal Ocean Desalination Project.

The desalination plant is being created by the Municipal Water District of Orange County (MWDOC) with funding assistance from various other government agencies.

Unlike the two desalination plants proposed by Poseidon Resources Inc. to be built in Huntington Beach and Carlsbad, the Dana Point facility is publicly owned and will not use a water intake system that kills countless marine life organisms and is being phased out by new environmental regulations. That system is used by power generating companies to keep their plants cool, and Poseidon hopes to piggy back on it to supply 100 million gallons of seawater to each of its desalination plants daily in order to create 50 million gallons of drinking water.

Scott Maloni and Karl Seckel
Poseidon CEO Scott Maloni and MWDOC manager Karl Seckel at the OC Water Summit. Photo: Arturo Tolenttino for the SCV

Recently created state regulations covering power generating plants would require the “best technology available for minimizing environmental impact,” or a reduction in water intake in order not to exceed the maximum environmental impact allowed. That would for all practical purposes end that “once-through-cooling” process which is currently used by the power generating plants in Huntington Beach and Carlsbad and that Poseidon plans to plug into. The new standard must be met by 2020. Continue reading ‘Responsible’ Desalination Comes to Dana Point

Loretta Sanchez: Poseidon not viable

By John Earl
Surf City Voice

After speaking at the OC Water Summit on Friday, Congress person Loretta Sanchez of Anaheim was asked by the Surf City Voice for her views on the desalination plant proposed by Poseidon Resources to be built in Huntington Beach, in the southeast section of town, next to the AES power generating plant, on the corner of Newland Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway.

Photo insert by Arturo Tolenttino for the Surf City Voice

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Carchio to Surf City Voice: ‘Shame on you!’

Huntington Beach Councilmember Joe Carchio lashed back at the Surf City Voice today for a commentary that criticized him, three other city council members and one HB planning commissioner for sitting at a table with Poseidon CEOs at a recent water summit that depicted environmentalists as villains and desalination as one solution to the water management crisis in the state of California.

The OC Water Summit, held May 14 at Disneyland’s Grand Californian hotel, which is currently in the middle of a major labor struggle with members of a hotel union, was organized by two Orange County water districts but was sponsored by various corporations, including Poseidon Resources Inc., which has a water privatization and desalination plant proposal currently before the Municipal Water District of Orange County and the city of Huntington Beach.

Carchio sent the SCV an e-mail or text message which stated, “John hard to believe you did learn something about the state of emergency our water system is in did you not listen to Jose and Laura explaning (sic) our situation shame on you for critizing (sic) officials for trying to learn more and solutions no matter where you sit Thanks Joe Carchio.”

Later, at a meeting at city hall, Carchio recounted a childhood experience as a metaphor for his meeting with Poseidon officials. “Just because I had lunch with Ted Williams of the Red Sox doesn’t mean that I am a Red Sox fan.”

Carchio, who clearly supported the proposed desalination plant as early as 2004 when he ran and lost for city council, stated that he is open minded about the desalination plant. “I have not decided how I’m going to vote yet,” he said, referring to the Environmental Impact Report and franchise agreement that will come to the city council for a vote.

Carchio said that he will meet with Merle Moshiri, president of Residents For Responsible Desalination, a Huntington Beach residents group that is opposed to the desalination plant, and said he wants to find out more about various other desalination plants as well, including one slated for Dana Point, which is considered much more environmentally friendly than the plant proposed by Poseidon.

Regardless of whether he ends up supporting Poseidon or not, Carchio said, the instability of the Delta levees creates the need for some type of desalination program in the future.

Joe Carchio
Joe Carchio at the OC Water Summit. Photo: Arturo Tolenttino for the SCV.
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Commentary: Poseidon up for review and city council members mingle with their corporate god

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.

Disciples of Poseidon
Poseidon disciples: HB City Council members Gil Coerper, Joe Carchio and Cathy Green sitting at the Poseidon table with CEO Scott Maloni. Member Devin Dwyer's empty seat is seen too. Photo: Arturo Tolenttino for SCV

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.

Disciples 2
HB Planning Commissioner John Scandura, next to Poseidon CEO Scott Maloni at OC Water Summit. Photo: Arturo Tolenttino for SCV

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.

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SE Meeting: Poseidon, Ascon, AES top the list

May 18, 2010
4:30 PM

Huntington Beach
Civic Center
Lower Level, Meeting Room B-8

Mayor Pro Tem Jill Hardy, Chair; Council Member Joe Carchio, Council Member Devin Dwyer & City Staff

Contact: Economic Development Department @ 536-5542

  1. 1. Public Comments

The Southeast Area Committee welcomes public comments on all items on this agenda or of community interest.  We respectfully request that this public forum be utilized in a positive and/or constructive manner.  Please focus your comments on the issue or concern that you would like to bring to the attention of Committee Members.

  1. 2. Poseidon Project……………………………Ricky Ramos – Planning

  1. 3. Ascon Landfill Project…………………….Rosemary Medel – Planning

Update on the status of Interim Removal Measure by Mary Adams Urashima

  1. 4. AES ……….……………………………………Staff

Introduction of new AES Plant Manager Weikko Wirta

  1. 5. Park Projects……….………………….……Dave Dominguez – Community Services

Presentation on Community Gardens by David Baronfeld

  1. 6. Major Development Projects……………Staff

  1. 7. Capital Improvement Projects…….…..Tony Olmos – Public Works

Newland Street Widening

Newland/Hamilton Traffic Signal

  1. 8. Adjournment to July 20, 2010

Union Reform Moves Forward in Orange County

Edgar Esquivel, a UPS worker in Orange County, Calif., reports on the progress of the new reform movement in his Teamster local.

May 10, 2010

Analysis and commentary
By Edgar Esquivel

Special to the OC Voice

FIVE MONTHS after it was born, the grassroots movement Reform Teamsters 952 has gained significant momentum through rank-and-file workers’ efforts to change the direction of their union.

Teamsters Local 952 members on strike against the Orange Country Transportation Authority in 2007. Photo: Reform Teamsters 952

In recent weeks, the group, made up of pragmatic rank-and-file workers from Teamsters Local 952 in Orange County, Calif., has campaigned at numerous work sites, including UPS, CVS, Coca-Cola, Straub (the local Budweiser distributor), UPS Freight and Yellow Freight–and has been well-received by workers at each of these companies.

But perhaps the biggest shock to the Local 952 system came at the UPS hub in Laguna, Calif., where the reform movement was launched. In late April, UPSers from the Coast Center at the Laguna hub organized votes of “no confidence” against their two shop stewards, who were controlled by the union old guard. One old guard steward was defeated, and a reformer elected in his place.

Over the past few years, the center had developed a reputation for weakness due to their shop stewards’ lack of action. A majority of members in the center circulated a petition that forced their union business agent to hold a new election for shop steward for package car drivers.

This action by Coast Center workers was a blow to the officers of Local 952, who for years have failed to instruct and train shop stewards on how to properly carry out their tasks in defense of members.

And on April 28, in a stunning upset for Local 952 President Bob Hahn, Mike Deszcz–a reformer who for years had been blackballed by the president himself for his strong union advocacy–won the election. As a result, a Hahn clone has been replaced with a 30-year Teamster who wants UPS to acknowledge that UPSers are human beings, and not a number or a bottom line.

After the victory, Deszcz added: “I consider it a privilege to represent workers at a time when it’s greatly needed.” Showing that he was not running to be exempt from union dues, he said he will use his portion of his monthly dues to buy gift cards for the hard-working members of Coast Center.

Reform Teamsters 952 congratulated Deszcz and the Teamster brothers and sisters at Coast Center for taking a stand against the status quo and old guard policies of Local 952. Their triumph symbolizes reform, and Reform Teamsters 952 welcomes and embraces it. Continue reading Union Reform Moves Forward in Orange County