Bao stands for Garden Grove against Poseidon; the rest of council waffles (temporarily?)

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"It was the best of Nguyens, it was the worst of Nguyens..."

“It was the best of Nguyens, it was the worst of Nguyens…”

It’s as good a “litmus test” as any, in contemporary OC politics.  I’m saying, the proposed Poseidon desal plant in Huntington Beach – though I hate to seem obsessed with it – is as good a litmus test as any when judging the intelligence, honesty and independence of a North or Central Orange County politician, Democrat or Republican, this decade.

It’s so easy for an incurious (and/or bought-off) OC pol to go with the lazy group-think:  “We’re in a drought, duh, and we live in a desert, DOY, and we need every source of water we can find!”   And, if he or she is a Dem, to get brownie points from the dread trade union leaders who slaver over the couple thousand VERY TEMPORARY construction jobs like that’ll justify their existence.  scamAnd at every juncture is Poseidon’s fabled largesse, their hundreds of thousands in campaign contributions these 15 years, the wining and dining and making you feel important and smart (a lot smarter than us opponents for sure!) – not to mention the vicious proxy attack campaigns the Connecticut corporation will wage against you if you oppose them – just ask HB Mayor Jill Hardy!

But any politician who takes their job seriously, uses their brain, and cares about their constituents’ actual interests, sees very quickly that north and central OC ratepayers don’t need this grotesquely overpriced water, just as our beautiful shoreline does not need the continued marine life slaughter, the fifty-year plume of heavy brine, and the greenhouse gases pumped into the sky from the astronomically energy-intensive process.  (On top of the recently discovered fact that Poseidon won’t actually give us any additional water at all, which people still seem to be digesting.)

Since the death of Gus Ayer, and the defeat of HB’s Shaw and Boardman last November, it had seemed that every major Democratic figure in this damn county was a Poseidon shill, indistinguishable from the dozens of bought-off Republicans on this matter.  One Democratic pol whom I won’t name even said to me, “Why do you keep bothering ME about Poseidon, why don’t you bother Mayor Bao Nguyen of Garden Grove, he’s closer!”

baoWell, I don’t have to.

We wrote last May about the town hall forum Bao and his water officials put on, where the case was made very clearly that Garden Grove, like all north and central OC towns, don’t need the desalinated water, and that the Poseidon project would cost their ratepayers extra money unnecessarily.  A man of action, Bao and GG staff followed up that forum with a report which we’ve uploaded here, recommending a (nonbinding) resolution of disapproval, intended to be voted on by Council last Tuesday (boilerplate omitted):

WHEREAS, the Orange County Water District is exploring ocean desalination as a way to increase local water supplies; …

WHEREAS, on May 14, the OCWD approved a term sheet with Poseidon Resources, which outlines the overall structure of the agreement to purchase 50 million gallons of water a day created by the proposed Huntington Beach Ocean Desalination Plant; …

WHEREAS, the benefits of the project to the basin should be understood and accepted by the Groundwater Producers [that includes Garden Grove – V] before the OCWD commits to the project on their behalf;

WHEREAS, the City has prepared a White Paper that studied the issues, costs, and risks of a final contract with Poseidon Resources to purchase the plant and distribute water with specific regard to City Impact;

WHEREAS, the City has reviewed and accepted the White Paper and finds that sufficient information is available to disapprove of the OCWD’s proposed contract… ;

WHEREAS, the proposed construction will place an undue burden on the rate payers of Garden Grove for the next 30 years;

WHEREAS, the OCWD should analyze alternative water supply projects relative to the Poseidon Project prior to finalizing a contract;

WHEREAS, the City of Garden Grove supports the research an implementation of cost-effective alternative supplies of water; and

WHEREAS, desalination projects should only be implemented when costs of treatment and distribution are competitive with existing reliable supplies and/or other reliable improvement options;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the City Council of the City of Garden Grove as follows: …

3.  The City Council hereby disapproves the contract between the OCWD and Poseidon Resources to construct a desalination plant in Huntington Beach.

4.  The City Council hereby approves a letter be written to Dina Nguyen, an elected OCWD Board Member representing the City, stating the City’s position and recommending that she act in the best interest of the rate payers.

dina ugly croppedOh yeah, Dina Nguyen.  Dina is the member elected last November to represent the eastern 2/3 of Garden Grove on the OC Water District.  Elected overwhelmingly by the small number of voters who came out in an off year and bothered to check off a box for the obscure water board position.  Elected, we’ve learned recently, with $11,000 of Poseidon money funneled through Dave Gilliard’s “California Homeowners Association” just so it’d be hard for you to figure out who was buying her.  And an immediate dancer to the Poseidon piper’s tunes, obediently joining six of her colleagues to greenlight their term sheet.  By the way, apparently allergic to and unable to respond to any criticism, she avoided the May forum after promising to be there, and also stayed away from last week’s council meeting.  Here is the letter which was intended to be sent to her:

Dear Director Nguyen.

The City of Garden Grove writes to urge you to act in the best interest of the rate payers of Garden Grove.  The City of Garden Grove has reviewed the term sheet that was approved by the OCWD last May an prepared a White Paper on the impact of the project to the City,  The White Paper and City Council Resolution opposing the construction of the Poseidon Plant is attached hereto for your review.

It has been very unsettling to learn that you voted in favor of the term sheet despite the fiscal impact this would have to the Garden Grove rate payers.  Garden Grove has long been a fiscally conservative City, as a former City Council Member you are aware of this fact.  Our review of the term sheet reveals cost increases for a typical residential water bill ranging for $6 to $12 for the next 30 years.  To many of our citizens, this is an unconscionable action by the OCWD, and you should be aware we will let the citizens know about your voting record on this issue.

The City is currently struggling to meet the state’s mandatory 28% water reductions to mitigate the drought and, at this time, we do not need additional water;  we need conservation.  The Poseidon Project has caused much grief with the residents and they view the drought as an excuse to raise the rates.  The construction of the project would make their fears come true.  The City of Garden Grove strongly disagrees with the construction of the Poseidon Project and directs you to vote in best interest of the rate payers of Garden Grove…


So, what happened at Council last Tuesday?

Jones, Nguyen, Phan, Bui, Beard.

Jones, Nguyen, Phan, Bui, Beard.

Long story short, the decision has been put off till next meeting, a week from tomorrow, Tuesday the 28th.  Among a dozen other sudden quibbles, the letter to Dina was deemed too harsh and “confrontational,” and will be re-written.  GG insiders who generally know the town had assured me the resolution would sail through unanimously, but they were wrong.  I suspect the three members who happen to be Republicans got lobbied heavily by Poseidon, or maybe lobbied and even threatened by higher-ups in their own corrupt Party.

Commenters were two-to-one against Poseidon, a minority on either side actually being from Garden Grove.  We opponents filled the first few rows, and the Poseidon forces clustered in the back left corner – Poseidon VP Maloni, two trade union leaders, Congressional candidate Lou Correa, OCWD head Cathy Green, OCTAX flack Carolyn Cavecche, and some kid who’s now heading up the Young Dems and kept babbling “DO-ALL APPROACH.” 

Apparently it would be a real black eye for a city like Garden Grove to come out in opposition – and so, rather than speak on Poseidon’s merits, these spokesholes begged and pleaded for the Council to take no action, and just let things take their course before they rushed to any decision.  Yes, of course.  Just relax and don’t fight, it will hurt less.  (You can see all our comments in the first hour or so of the video below;  one of the best oppo speakers was our blogger Tyler In Irvine, at 52:08.)

Democrat Kris Beard, it turns out, has opposed Poseidon for many years, although he joined the other three in postponing the vote.  Chris Phan, whom I’ve thought of as honest and smart, was ominously silent.  Phat Bui, an ardent and devoted lover of his own voice and wit, brought up a dozen problems, ranging from irrelevant to nonsensical, but swore that even though he doesn’t trust “experts” in general (no offense mind you to the water experts of the city) he has NOT made up his mind about Poseidon.

Mayor ProTem Steve Jones can only be described as pathetic.  Beginning at 2:13:25 below you can hear him demanding to know WHY Garden Grove should take any leadership on this, and why they shouldn’t wait for some OTHER city to go first.  “We have always been conservative,” he protests.  Note the sharply different meanings of the word “conservative” – in the letter to Dina above meaning “not wasting public money unnecessarily on harebrained schemes,” versus Jones’ meaning of “not taking a stand or speaking out;  TIMID.”

And continue watching to at least 2:25, you won’t be sorry.  You will see how the Buddhist Mayor barely contains his rage and exasperation at such craven, un-American sentiments.  “We were elected to do what’s right for the people of Garden Grove, not to wait for some other city to go first.”  You’ll hear him talk about the folks he sees in line early in the morning and late at night (for his mayoral hours are Mussolini-esque) who “are already having a hard time paying their water bills, and can’t take another increase.”  You’ll hear him explaining to Bui as patiently as he can that, yes, the Term Sheet is not set in stone, which is why NOW is the time for cities to weigh in on it, and that at the very LEAST it would give OCWD more leverage in negotiating something better. 

And you’ll see why I’d be overjoyed to support this cat for Loretta’s old Congressional seat, over Poseidon-loving Klepto-Dems Lou Correa and Jordan Brandman.

(As a bonus, hear Bao compare himself to Tom Tait at 2:29, after losing the vote against postponement 4-1:  “I feel like another OC Mayor.  Like maybe the one from Anaheim…”)

One very disappointed gentleman was popular Garden Grove bartender, DJ, commissioner, community activist, and occasional OJ blogger Josh McIntosh, who squandered his 5 minutes of public comments promoting some local events and businesses, under the mistaken presumption he could speak about Poseidon later in the meeting.  A couple days later, after he’d calmed down sufficiently, he sent Council this letter, which we reprint with his permission:

josh mcintoshGood evening Garden Grove representatives. I think that I may be calm enough at this point to address what I saw last night at the 7/14/15 Council Meeting. In a nutshell, it was disappointing. 

I was disappointed for a few reasons. For one, I never delivered my Poseidon speech. No, it was not the same Poseidon Rap that got me “Gonged” during oral communications a few weeks ago from Mayor Nguyen. This was a new one and it was important for me to express it. I erroneously thought I would have the opportunity to speak again during the night and as I had alluded during my speech, that I would be returning to the mic to address the Poseidon desalination plant. I never got to tell you how much I despise it. Luckily there were many others who did. I hope that you heard them. I hope that you listened to everyone, including the union reps and paid consultants who supported Poseidon yet had no real talking points and were purely there because they have money involved. The union reps want this as a big union job. If this were not a potentially big job for them, I really don’t think they would be there to support this project on their own will. No way, they were there because they have the opportunity to make some big bucks. In fact, it is probably safe to say that anyone supporting Poseidon is in it for the money. 

So we had a lot of speakers, mostly there in favor of the staff and Bao’s resolution to let the Poseidon know that as a city, we do not need nor want this 50 year contract. One after another they provided us all with information regarding the Poseidon plant and many were experts in their field. Of all of the speakers, only one GG resident claimed to support the contract with Poseidon. He was a union guy whom we have never seen at any other Council Meeting. However, many of your constituents were there and they do not want to enter an agreement with Poseidon. 

Why was the momentum of this resolution stalled? How did it go from a vote to being passed over for another two weeks? How did you get confused about the information provided? Who didn’t do their homework and read all of the information that was available before the meeting? I expect you guys to read about what is on the agenda and not have to ask questions that the majority of the audience could answer. 

We have the opportunity to say NO to a terribly planned desalination plant that could screw over all of Orange County for the next half a century. You have the ability to do the right thing. I am not worried about hurting poor Dina Nguyen’s feelings in the letter as it is. Our so-called representative on the OCWD as not bothered to attend the past two community events where the public, who she is supposed to represent, would be at. What kind of representative is she? A poor excuse in my eyes. I spoke with her on Monday afternoon. After weeks of her dodging my calls and ignoring my emails, she accepted a call because I used a phone # she did not recognize. I was told that she is not going to come to any event held in Garden Grove. She is only willing to participate at the OCWD headquarters. She is not going to respond to my emails and instead chose to write to the city. So this is our so-called representative. According to the Surf City Voice article on our public forum in GG a few months back, writer John Earl states she took in $11,000.00 in campaign funds from Poseidon. This seems like a woman who has been bought and paid for already. 

I hold you all accountable to do the right thing on behalf of the residents of Garden Grove and all of Orange County. I want to you to deliver that letter to Dina and the rest of the OCWD. I want you to stand up to Poseidon and say no. I want you to speak with the council members all over the county and get them to say no. This is one of the biggest opportunities you have to ensure that OC does not get screwed. I hope that you’re taking this to heart and that your conscience guides you. 

Joshua Z McIntosh

Well, I’ll be there again on the 28th.  I hold little hope for developer Steve Jones, who is just the sort of person to naturally identify with a company and project like Poseidon;  he even looks like the love child of Curt Pringle and Keith Bohr.

But, will usually straight-talking Naval Officer Chris Phan find the PHYSICAL COURAGE to do what’s right for the people of Garden Grove who elected him, and risk the wrath of a deep-pocketed Connecticut corporation and his own vengeful Party?

And will the wandering, curious, and self-infatuated mind of Phat Bui somehow wander into enlightenment?  July 28, we shall see!

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at, or 714-235-VERN.