Weekend Open Thread: 15 Minutes of Activism from OCCORD’s Dinner


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Thanks to someone who may desire anonymity (but who is welcome to claim my public thanks for the asking), this past Wednesday night I was able to attend the 3rd Annual Dinner and Celebration for OCCORD (Orange County Communities Organizing for Responsible Development) at the union-compliant Anaheim Hilton.  (It occurs to me now that I really could have gotten a press pass, but the fact is that I hadn’t tried.)  So I have some nice photos and cool video for you.

I only got about 13 minutes of the main event, the keynote speech by Los Angeles County AFL-CIO head Maria Elena Durazo, but I’ll be happy to explain how she finished the vignette she was telling in comments.  As for the shorter video, when El Centro Cultural de Mexico goes to pick up an award, they put on quite a show!  Other award recipients include the Bravo family (read about them here), Victor Becerra and the Community Outreach Partnership Center at UC Irvine, and … well, I’ll save that last one for after the videos.  Let’s start with El Centro:

Next time I get an award at a formal dinner, that is totally what I’m going to do! (By the way, both videos cut out early because my camera phone was near capacity.)

Now this is going to be 13 minutes long, but it’s really good stuff. My camera work is shaky (working without a tripod and switching hands as they tired), but the audio is much more important than the video. If you want to know why so many of us are excited about the new labor movement, listen to Maria Elena Durazo:

That story ends up, by the way, with the college student telling her that they were much more effective when wearing the t-shirts from their own colleges rather than the union-provided shirts printed.  It’s a lesson on “learning from people on the front lines” that Durazo took humbly, with good nature, and with what it seems like a lot of enthusiasm for being around people who could explain when they could do something better.

Maria Elena Durazo and her dining companions

Maria Elena Durazo (at left in blue) and her dining companions

Maria Elena Durazo listens to a new generation of activists

Maria Elena Durazo listens to a new generation of activists

That was great stuff, but closest to the heart of the blogging community (at least the better parts of it) would be the only award recipient I haven’t yet mentioned: these guys:

Voice of OC -- Adam, Norberto, Nick

Adam Elmahrek, Norberto Santana, and Nick Gerda of award recipient the Voice of OC, with their eyeball poorly airbrushed to make them look dark (or, in Adam’s case, at least slightly open.)

Yes, the merry Musketeers of the best journalistic outlet in town, the Voice of OC.  (It turns out that you can get the usually serious Norberto to smile if you make merciless fun of Adam.)

Norberto, VOC’s Editor, spoke for the group in accepting the award.  It was a wonderful presentation about journalism in Orange County — and afflicting the powerful.  (That includes the Voice’s willingness to take on it’s initial financial backer, the Nick Berardino’s Orange County Employee Aassociation.  He has that latitude because he knows that he quite seriously cannot be replaced by anyone with his knowledge and skills.)

Voice of OC -- Norberto lectures on OC journalism

Norberto Santana lectures on OC journalism. The section on investigative journalism prior to the creation of Voice of OC was a bit brief.

I wish that I had recorded a video of it … or an audio … or taken notes … buy hey, I’m not the one who went to J-School!  Maybe Norberto will publish it himself at some point.  (Note: Jason Young did get it on video, so it’s not lost to history.)

Voice of OC -- plotting the next story

It was the end of a long evening. Everyone was tired.  But yes, Norberto DID make Adam and Nick go back to work!

I went and sat at the table with the journalistic heroes as the dinner ended.  A highlight for me was being able to introduce Norberto to “Save Anaheim’s” Jason Young, who it seems have had a mutual admiration society going for a while regarding each others very different venues, without having yet met.

In the course of that conversation, Norberto mentioned how much things had changed since he’d been with the Register.  Quite seriously, none of us are sure that the activism regarding Anaheim — however successful it may ultimately turn out to be — would have been possible without the Voice of OC’s leadership.  And he was gracious enough to acknowledge Jason’s critical role in it as well — and, after what was probably no more than two minutes of my loudly clearing my throat and gesturing at him — the Orange Juice Blog’s occasionally useful contributions as well.  He was nice enough, even, to give me a story idea — and you know it’s something big because I’ll even have to interview someone for it.

These are time of great turmoil in local political journalism — although the Register’s getting out of the brokering-naming-rights business is a good step in the right direction — but in many ways things truly are looking up for those who want to see real investigative journalism in OC.

Of that, those of us celebrating OCCORD were in accord.

This is your Weekend Open Thread.  Talk about that, or anything else you’d like, without broad bounds of decency and decorum.  If you missed the Dearthwatch — a late addition to last year’s WOT — go back and check it out.  I won’t do one this week, but the good news is that we’re back under 753,000!


About Greg Diamond

Prolix worker's rights and government accountability attorney. General Counsel of CATER, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, a non-partisan group of people sick of local corruption. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Runs for office sometimes, so far to offer a challenge to someone nasty who would otherwise have run unopposed. Someday he might pick a fight intending to win it rather than just to dent someone. You'll know it when you see it. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level. A family member works part-time as a campaign treasurer. He doesn't directly profit from that relatively small compensation and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he hated. He does advise some local campaigns informally and generally without compensation. If that changes, he will declare the interest. He also runs a less frequently published blog called "The Brean," for his chosen hometown, where he is now fighting with its wealthiest and most avaricious citizen-donors. This just seems to be his way.