OCBC Luncheon – Snacking and Cackling with the “Masters of the Universe”




“For the next two hours I will be your MISTRESS OF DEBAUCHERY,” vamped OCBC President Lucy Dunn somewhat unconvincingly from the stage, “and what happens at the OCBC luncheon STAYS at the OCBC luncheon!”  Moments before she’d popped up at my side, hand on my shoulder – how did she move so quick?  “VERN.”  (I guess she knew who I was, my jacket was off and badge not showing.)  “If you video-tape here, you will be escorted out, and you will NOT get your money back.  This is a private event, and the people here want to be able to have fun without turning up on some blog!”

“I wasn’t really thinking of video-taping, and I guess I won’t if it’s against the rules.”  “Two people say they SAW you video-taping!”  “Well they were wrong, who said that?  I haven’t even held this phone up.” I was telling the truth!  But Lucy continued, hand still firmly on my shoulder, “Two Disney employees said they saw you video-taping.  Just DON’T.”  

I think that was a lie.  I think it was Curt Pringle, who has more of a paranoid secretive nature, and had given me the evil eye when I walked in.  What would Disney employees care, and how would they know me?  But I didn’t see anything I would have wanted to tape anyway.  A couple hundred covetous fogeys making believe they’re doing something disreputable – there wasn’t even any drinking, cussing or canoodling, let alone “debauchery.”  The food was okay, and the comedy was mostly lame, derivative spinoffs of pop-culture humor aimed playfully at local politicians and President Trump.

That’s right, it was billed as “an afternoon of political humor and fun,” and apparently they do this every Election Day.  Why is that?  Is it meant as a cavalier way to show how sure they are that they’ve got the election in the bag?  I had to take a couple hours off my own canvassing for Gil Cisneros, Duke Nguyen and Prop 10 myself, and I was stressing out about that.  But these folks felt fine kicking back at the Disneyland Hotel and chuckling over, among other things, how ridiculous it was that Todd Spitzer thought he could ever beat Tony Rackauckas for DA.

It’s certainly easy to make jokes about Todd Spitzer, Dana Rohrabacher, and Donald Trump, colorful political characters who together were the butts of about 2/3 of the zingers, but the crowd really seemed incapable of conceiving (or in denial of) the possibility that they could be losing the see-no-political-corruption District Attorney they’d been living and operating under for two decades.  It was a comforting certainty, for a crowd that moves so seamlessly and carelessly between politics and profit.  

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A straw poll was taken on who would win the biggest local elections – and the audience picked the Republican every time.  They did not always turn out to be correct.  Yes, this crowd, apart from a few token klepto-Dems like Alicia Berthow and George Urch, was overwhelmingly Republican, but NOT the type of Republicans I’d characterize as honest conservatives (Tait, Moorlach, Bruce Whitaker) or the goofy extremists either (Peotter, Rohrabacher, Pauly.)  These are the businesspeople, lobbyists and politicos who push every project that’s bad for the taxpayer but profitable for well-connected big businesses – toll roads and toll lanes, Poseidon, subsidized Anaheim hotels, high-density development, charter schools … everything this blog fights. 

Along with OCTAX, the larger Chambers (HB, Anaheim), lobbying groups like SOAR, and hostage agencies like TCA, OCTA, and OCWD, OCBC is a vital organ of the kleptocratic monster running this county, whose human members in euphoric moments call themselves “Masters of the Universe.”

I understand the same people are currently swarming like sharks onto Sharon Quirk-Silva‘s well-intentioned AB 448, the OC Housing Trust Fund vehicle, in a way that’s giving even Sharon second thoughts.  (This blog will be watching this CLOSELY.)  Suffice to say, where some of us see a way to finally house some of the county’s homeless and low income people, others take a sniff and call out to each other, “GRAVY TRAIN!”

Another revealing moment:  Lucy asked the crowd “How many of you have donated to political campaigns this season?” and most hands went flying up.  “And how many of you didn’t?” to which a few went up timidly.  “Shame on you!  That’s what we’re all about here!  How are you going to influence policy if you don’t donate?” 

My bad, let’s start at the beginning.  On entering the lobby I first caught Pringle’s evil eye, then began to avoid the ubiquitous Steve Lodge, before I finally spied a relatively friendly face  – HB Mayor Mike Posey.  Moderate Republican Posey had in recent months been savaged by the more extreme Reeps in his town, as not sufficiently Trump-loyal or anti-immigrant, and Posey asked me not to share with you exactly how he feels about that development.  Let’s just say, he won re-election to council that day, while extremists Dana Rohrabacher and Gracey Vandermark went down to glorious defeat!  

Posey – Fitzgerald

Then a short lady standing next to him stuck out her hand, “Vern! I’ve been wanting to meet you!”  It was Fullerton councilwoman Jennifer Fitzgerald, top Pringle employee and omnipresent kleptocrat.  I can never tell what these politicians are secretly thinking, the ones who get trashed on my blog, when they stand there smiling at me: “Fuck this guy,” or “I wonder if I can charm him into gentler coverage?”  I didn’t have time to figure out, as we were summoned to our tables.

I knew a few people at my table:  Former Newport Mayor Keith Curry was still a little bitter at how we Fire-Pit lovers had “mischaracterized” his position on that issue during the Great 2013 Fire Pits Wars.  On account of that, I was led to understand, Newport had to suffer the goofy-ass extremism of Scott Peotter, a Trump-worshiping immigrant basher who believes that gay marriage is causing global warming and sea-level rise.  Peotter wasn’t there (not being exactly the OCBC type.)  But he WAS the main target of Barbara Venezia‘s routine (which was the most pointed and angry of all the political comedy), and I’m glad to report that the dingaling lost re-election that evening – at least Keith and Babs can be happy about that!

Curry – Peotter – Harrington

Across the table was Aliso Viejo’s David Harrington – an election scofflaw (in Dan’s decent report) and sheriff candidate defeated in the primary.  A nativist who didn’t quite fit in with the crowd, he’d had the cojones to show up to Los Amigos asking for their support, the day after leading his town in an anti-Sanctuary vote.  He told me sheepishly that he was now supporting Don Barnes in the sheriff finals against Duke Nguyen, despite his earlier harping on the guy’s corruption – keeping ICE in OC jails is that important to him, I guess.  Harrington did win re-election to AV council that evening, but came in second to Democrat Tiffany Ackley.  (Congrats Tiffany!)

To my right was a Rancho Santa Margarita woman who kept booing every time Todd Spitzer’s name came up;  she later explained that her husband worked for Rackauckas.  She might be happy to hear now that victorious Todd is pointedly NOT planning a staff shake-up.  To my left was a lady who works for the California Hospital Association.  As one of the county’s biggest employers, they like to stay involved with the OCBC, to keep some influence on policy and legislation.  Like for example, nurse staffing ratios in ER’s, she told me.  “You would like to hire more nurses, or less?”  “Oh, we just want more FLEXIBILITY,” she answered – something the dread unions want to deprive them of, it seems.

I have seen better comedy in my life, as I’ve intimated.  Someone presented a version of OC politicians “reading nasty tweets about themselves” that really fell flat.  Brian Calle, the fake-libertarian former Register editor who recently purchased the LA Weekly with some dubious friends, put much effort into showing off how gay he really is, as well as the fact that he is “Hispanic from the waist down,” which grossed out both genders at my table.  Don Hansen put on a scripted version of Jeopardy that included a category called “Pringles!”  Every question turned out to be about the potato chips, except for the last one which was “Who is sitting in the audience right now who thought this category would be about him, because he thinks the world revolves around him?”  And the laughter, to that, was actually a little uncomfortable and nervous!

Pringle himself came up next and grumbled a little about Hansen’s joke, sounding only-half-kidding.  HIS routine consisted of picking the next job, out of three possibilities, for a series of well-known, termed-out politicians.  “Disneyland ticket taker” was a common, demeaning choice for a few of them; as was “chief of staff for DA Todd Spitzer,” which was considered doubly funny as not only could Todd never possibly become DA, but he’s also known to go thru so many chiefs of staff.  Tom Tait was offered the possibility of “Laguna Beach lifeguard.”  But no possibility received such wild applause as that of Kris Murray For Third District Supervisor!

It was all over so soon, once again I didn’t get a chance to talk to Der Pringle himself – who seemed to have vanished before the final joke. 

  • I’ve noticed that for a few years now he’s been elbow-deep in pushing Charter Schools, which fits right into his general metier of steering public resources to private profit; 
  • His meddling is county-wide or larger, including propaganda contracts for extending the 241 into the heart of San Clemente; and
  • Little did I know at the time that, despite all the other great victories Democrats and honest people were to have that day, and despite Pringle loudly moving to Tustin, he was on the verge of regaining the great prize of the Anaheim council – the town he’ll never REALLY leave.  What is the OCBC/Pringle/Disney crowd expecting now from the grand five-member majority they spent such a record amount on?  We unfortunate residents will have to wait and see, and this blog will try to be the first to warn you, and to do our best prevent the looting to come!

(NOW WATCH:  San Clemente toll road opponent Courtney W.
discovers and explains the familiar Web of Kleptos
we’ve come to know up here in the other end of the county.)

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 vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.