Clockwise: Medrano, Alvarado, Daly, Brandman, Newsom, Boxer, Umberg, Murray.

I don’t like having to write stories like this.  It’s miserable.  But some blogger has to tell the truth.

There are some issues where informed, honest folks can have a difference of opinion.  But by now, the Poseidon boondoggle shouldn’t be one of them.  The facts have been out there, and plain to see, for way too long:  Number one, the project is TOTALLY UNNECESSARY, which makes it inexcusable that it’ll raise our water rates considerably while receiving taxpayer subsidies, and damage our environment in several big ways, all for the profits of Poseidon’s owner, the the giant global private equity firm Brookfield Investments.  Add to which, Poseidon Resources itself is the most dishonest bad actor that Orange County could ever have the bad judgment to deal with.

Anyone who supports the proposed Poseidon desal plant at this point is either ignorant and misinformed, or willfully dishonest and corrupt … and I don’t think politicians and policy makers who have been immersed in the issue for years could be ignorant or misinformed.  And every one of these latter characters has received money from Poseidon.  There’s a phrase for that, which is also the title of this piece.

As a Democrat, I’m especially disgusted to see so many politicians of my own party sell themselves as Poseidon whores.  I kind of expect Republicans to be the unprincipled slaves of big money, no offense, and I make sure to compliment the ones that aren’t, but those are rare – Tom Tait, Dave Sullivan, Bruce Whitaker – and most of them are out of power now.  Even the celebrated bean-counter Moorlach never took the time to look at Poseidon critically.  But I’m saying, we expect that dishonest solicitude to big money from Republicans; it’s tragic to see it taking over more than half of the alleged Party of the People.

At Friday’s 12-hour long meeting of the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board (SARWQCB) plenty of Poseidon opponents showed up to speak, which they did passionately and eloquently with facts and logic.  Poseidon’s advocates had equal or more time, and addressed NONE of these facts, instead repeating mindless propaganda about how badly we all need water, water, water.  And also, have you heard about:

“The Human Right to” Desal?

Early on in the meeting, OC Labor Fed chief Gloria Alvarado, the ultimate OC Democratic insider, spat out a stinging diatribe about how central county Latinos such as herself need water, desperately need water to cling to life, and how it was being DENIED to her and her compadres by selfish, spoiled, white “coastal elites,” privileged enough to be able to fight the desal plant because they “don’t want it in their backyard.”

Except Gloria didn’t identify herself as a Labor Chief and Party Insider, a charter member of the labor movement that’s been pushing Poseidon for two decades because of the temporary union construction jobs it would provide.  Instead she claimed to be part of some new grassroots civil rights organization, named Water is a Right.” 

I wrote about this phenomenon five years ago when Poseidon first purchased the OC branches of LULAC – the hedge fund’s local vendidos y vendidas now proclaim that this desal water is a human right unique to working-class Latinos, and anyone who fights the boondoggle is essentially trying to make the brown folks of Santa Ana and Anaheim die of thirst.

IT IS ORWELLIAN AS FUCK.  What hurts working-class people of all races is OVERPRICED WATER, HIGH WATER BILLS.  And these Poseidon whores are conspiring to make them HIGHER. (Have I mentioned that Orange County actually doesn’t get ANY NEW WATER out of this raw deal, we just have to pay more?)  Pissed off, as many folks were, at being labeled “Coastal Elites,” I began my retort (8 hours later) with these words:

“Hello Board, I’m from Anaheim.  From the Anna Drive barrio of Anaheim.  I’m not part of any “Coastal Elite,” as a certain LaborFed chief masquerading as a ‘human rights activist’ put it earlier.  My neighbors are working-class Mexican-Americans.  My wife is a working-class Mexican-American.  We have a right to AFFORDABLE water, and to clean beaches and air.  This whole new phony “human right to desal” nonsense these people are pushing is pure, Poseidon-funded ASTROTURF.”

The term “Astroturf,” in case you didn’t know, refers to FAKE GRASS ROOTS GROUPS, funded by special interests. And this new “Water is a Right” is classic Astoturf. As it turns out there IS a worldwide movement, including the UN and Unicef, aimed at making access to healthy drinking water a human right – but that is focused mainly on third-world countries where drinking water is really unavailable, and where it’s often privatized by profiteers (LIKE Poseidon!) This Poseidon-funded group cynically latches onto that movement for the sole purpose of pushing this particular desal boondoggle. Look at their new and half-assed website – heart-tugging photos of people needing water, and when you click on “take action” the only option is to send a letter in support of … Poseidon’s desal boondoggle!

Medrano, Zeke Hernandez – so thirsty!

OC Business Trades Chieftains Ernesto Medrano and LuisAndres Perez (both fresh from shilling for Anaheim’s Angels Stadium Giveaway) presented themselves Friday as members of “Water is a Right”, as did LULAC leader Zeke Hernandez (the enemy of Anaheim’s district elections.)  Luis, in place of his one-minute comment, played a one-minute video from the group, which was one of the dumbest things we ever saw, in which Ernesto, Zeke, and a few other Latinos I couldn’t identify (looked like wives and kids) took turns telling us how much they like and need water, and how “THEY don’t care about US!”  (“They” being us “coastal elites” who oppose the boondoggle.)  Ernesto looked especially indignant when he growled at the camera, “OUR JOBS aren’t important to THEM!”  Don’t believe me?  Well, the cruelest thing I could do now is to show you the video:

(That fair-skinned “farmer” in the sombrero in front of the fake farm backdrop really takes the cake, doesn’t he?)

There ARE actual grassroots Latino/minority organizations that are addressing Poseidon, and they did a bang-up job Friday, speaking in OPPOSITION.  There was Azul, a “grassroots organization of Latinos” founded in 2011 “to conserve marine resources” – they’ve gotten real into this struggle along with members of Oak View Comunidad, Huntington Beach’s largest and most organized barrio.  (Hey Gloria, are these your “coastal elites?”)  There was the Sunrise Foundation, a group of minority youth featuring Anaheim’s very articulate young Alejandro Sobrera, and a coalition of Native American tribes who were pissed that they only got 15 minutes to speak.  I’ll let them speak for themselves here – this is what informed Latinos and Latinas really sound like:


For your consideration: One more Poseidon buzzword.

“Infeasible?” Infeasible is a word that we heard a lot at Friday’s meeting. Let’s back up and fill you in.

The official topics for Friday’s Board meeting were twofold: First, celebrate this Orwellian new Human Right to Desal calling itself a Human Right to Water, but more substantively, to discuss what environmental MITIGATION Poseidon would be asked to perform in the surrounding area to balance off the substantial environmental DAMAGE it would cause if it went through.

Dead zone.

First of all, it’s completely messed up that this convoluted BS is even on the table – “We’ll let you pump greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, slaughter countless marine life in your intake pipes, and create a dead zone of brine, if you just help dredge the Bolsa Chica Wetlands, rebuild a reef up off Palos Verdes, and buy a bunch of carbon credits” – why can’t our supposed adults in charge simply say no?

But since the damage the plant will create is so extensive, the “mitigation” our government scientists calculate the company would have to do to make up for it is also extensive, and expensive, and Poseidon bitches about it endlessly but promises glumly to do it.

BUT our government scientists, wisely, don’t trust Poseidon as far as they can be thrown, on account of their record of broken promises in OC, and their bad record elsewhere (notably Carlsbad.) So they have recommended that this board, the SARWQCB, insist on a “DISCHARGE PROHIBITION,” which means the plant wouldn’t be able to begin operation until the required mitigation is underway.

And this DISCHARGE PROHIBITION makes Poseidon (and its obedient shills) squeal like stuck pigs! (Dramatization at right.) Think about that. They say they’ll do the mitigation, but the fact they’ll actually be forced to do it is somehow a HUGE PROBLEM. It causes them to bawl out two threats, which seem contradictory:

  • They’re gonna just have to pass on the costs of any mitigation they’re forced to do, to us OC ratepayers, making our prices EVEN HIGHER; and
  • This mitigation, if it’s actually FORCED on them by a discharge prohibition, will also make the project “INFEASIBLE,” one of Poseidon’s favorite words, by which they mean, it would eat into their PROFITS.

Think about THAT as well: We are supposed to care, our government watchdogs are supposed to care, about Poseidon/Brookfield’s profits more than we care about our air and ocean. I remember them using that word “INFEASIBLE” eight years ago when we tried to get them to use SUBSURFACE INTAKES to reduce the marine life slaughter, and various other improvements that would have made their project a little less damaging. INFEASIBLE? Who cares? That means the project doesn’t pencil out, after all these years. That means GO AWAY AND DON’T FUCKING DO IT.

After hearing both sides’ presentations and comments last Friday (the 23rd) the Board will apparently be voting this Thursday (the 29th) and the best thing they could do is just to deny the project altogether. That would be a surprise. The next best and most responsible thing would be to follow the staff’s recommendation and insist on the DISCHARGE PROHIBITION, infeasible or not. 

But look at the time!  Let’s get back to our main theme:

More Poseidon Whores.

When I list and lambaste certain Poseidon Whores, by which we mean intelligent, powerful folks who passionately and dishonestly advocate for the project while ignoring all facts, and who have also received plenty of money from the company throughout their careers, why do I focus almost exclusively on Democrats?  Well, as I said earlier, I am a Democrat, so my expectations of Democrats are higher.  But there’s also all this:

  • Democrats are SUPPOSED to care about the ENVIRONMENT. 
  • Democrats are SUPPOSED to care about the little guy, the working class, and not letting them get ripped off even further by big corporate interests. 
  • And in this Dark Age of Trump and QAnon, Democrats are SUPPOSED to respect FACTS and SCIENCE.

And when all of those Democratic ideals are betrayed, in the service of campaign loot, temporary union jobs, and ambition, who can blame the public for asking why bother voting Democrat?  Do you see what I’m saying?

Take “The Two Toms,” Assemblyman Daly and State Senator Umberg, the two OC Democrats who vote most like Republicans (and who are also arguably the Two Whitest Men in the County.)  They each sent obedient emissaries to the meeting to dutifully urge the Board to not only approve Poseidon’s permit but also please “don’t impose any mitigation or discharge prohibition that will make their project INFEASIBLE.”  Many Republican politicians said the same exact thing, but it felt most like a gut punch when Democrats did.

Daly was the more distressing, because we know he’s not stupid and can spot a swindle when he wants to – as witness his fierce criticism of the Angels Stadium Giveaway.  I heard Umberg, on the other hand, on a Zoom call last fall, saying the Stadium deal was just swell, and seeming puzzled about all the outrage.  But I know he’s not stupid either.  It’s unclear and confusing just when and why these politicians are allowed to use their brains and consciences… but it seems to be geared around when they’re not gonna muck things up for the special interests.

Brandman’s April 2021 look.

The cesspool of Anaheim corruption makes a good segue here, as we discuss the increasingly deranged Councilman and OCWD board member Jordan Brandman.  They say “Elections Have Consequences,” and one consequence of last November’s Big Disney Sweep in the Council elections was keeping this longtime Poseidon backer on the water board, not something most Anaheim voters were probably considering.  Jordan’s received campaign cash directly and indirectly from Poseidon for his entire political career, and he is loyally paying them back now. 

Still, his speech Friday was a little … eccentric.  It was like someone dared him to give a speech with the word “compliant” in every sentence.  “I want to talk about a word I love, compliance,” he began, and went on to tell us how “compliant” Poseidon always is, and how much his city of Anaheim loves “compliance.”  Not true, but weird.

Another former Anaheim politician renowned for corporatist subservience and Poseidon donations (and the only Republican I’ll be picking on) is Kris Murray, who is actually on the SARWQCB itself.  Our stomachs collectively sunk a couple years ago when the Governor, at the urging of local labor, put her onto this Board.  “She is just there to grease the wheels for Poseidon,” we all said, but she swore up and down she did not have her mind made up and would be objective.  Yeah, right.

She spent most of the Friday meeting basically attacking her own Board and staff for being too rough and unfair with Poseidon, even suggesting that they could be sued for requiring more mitigation from them than they had ever done with any other project.  She had to be reminded by colleagues and commenters that no project this BIG and DESTRUCTIVE had ever come before the Board before, so DUH.  Not that anyone could stop her threats, on behalf of Poseidon, to her colleagues and staff.

Perhaps most grotesque is the case of former Senator Barbara Boxer, who, after decades of being a pretty good Senator especially on environmental issues, leapt directly into a career as a literal Poseidon lobbyist.  ON THEIR PAYROLL.  So that innocent people can look, and point, and say to each other, “How bad could this be, if Barbara Boxer supports it?”  The LA Times kindly printed a letter of mine when this first transpired.  She was there in all her smooth glory Friday, warning about SUPER-DROUGHTS and talking about how wonderful Poseidon’s mitigations would be.  I can’t even look at her any more when she comes on MSNBC to opine on the Senate.  I grumble, “Poseidon whore!” and change the channel.

Some men look at what should never happen,
and say “Why not?”

Then there’s the case of the goddamned Governor, Gavin NewsomWriters across the state have documented the corruption of his Poseidon-pushing; enjoying their campaign contributions, attending their lobbyist’s birthday party at the French Laundry, and in return removing Board and Commission members who are critical of the project and replacing them with non-scientists who look like they can be counted on to toe the labor line. 

Newsom, as you may have heard, is facing a recall, a recall for bullshit reasons, organized by a bunch of assholes.  But it’s hard for a lot of us Democrats to feel like getting up out of our chairs to defend him when he treats our County like a trash can.  Governor, you need FRIENDS down here right now.  And WE NEED SOME GOOD NEW COASTAL COMMISSIONERS WHO ACTUALLY CARE ABOUT PROTECTING THE COAST, not about short-term jobs and campaign cash.


Two Board Members to Watch Tomorrow (Thursday 29)

and to contact today!  (Wednesday)

Some of these SARWQCB folks seem more honest than others, but it’s hard to keep most of them accountable to the public, as they are appointed not elected.  But this is not the case with two of them, who could maybe be urged into doing the right thing.

One Board member is the Tustin Mayor, Democrat Letitia Clark.  Throughout the meeting she seemed concerned with the (true) fact that Poseidon’s expensive water would raise rates for everybody, hurting mostly Orange County’s poor.  It’s unclear if she realizes that the project really doesn’t have to happen at all.  First she learned that the water vendors HAVE to charge the same rate to everybody.  Then she started puzzling over whether some kind of government subsidy could be arranged to help lower-income folks pay their Poseidon-jacked-up bills.  I realize that came from a good place in her heart, but that’s still the kind of thing that makes me grumble, “Privatize the profit, socialize the cost.” 

THEN she asked a Poseidon spokesman if THEY might be willing to contribute to such a fund.  The spokesman politely responded that such a thing had never been discussed or contemplated, but he would look into it.  And at that moment uproarious laughter erupted in northeastern corporate board rooms, behind muted mics. 

Mayor Clark, there’s only one way to protect the working-class people you clearly care about:  Deny the project!  (Or at least make it “infeasible” with your staff-recommended “discharge prohibition!”)



Then there’s Joe Kerr, the retired firefighter who was probably put on the Board as a reliable union vote for Poseidon.  But it’s possible that Joe is a good, honest, intelligent guy, and he IS planning to run for Supervisor District 5 (south County) next year.  A tough vote on Poseidon tomorrow would show his independence, and that he cares more about the environment and working-class folks’ water bills than he does about short-term jobs and corporate profits.  (And it would go a long way toward making us forget about the 2018 residence confusion.)  SURPRISE US, JOE!



Update 4/30

Mostly a Victory for the Whores

Yesterday Poseidon got NEARLY everything it wanted from the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board.  Poseidon VP Scott Maloni was right up there with this “regulatory board” as though he were a member, making his demands and comments, with no other outside voices allowed.  Only Board member Daniel Selmi seemed to find this objectionable.  At one point Selmi said, “It’s not Poseidon’s job to MITIGATE.  Their job is to make profits for their shareholders.  It’s OUR job to MAKE them mitigate.  WE are the REGULATORS.”  To one degree or another, none of the other Board members seemed to grasp that.

Maloni – used to getting his way.

The three options under consideration (there was NO suggestion of OUR preferred option of just denying the permit) were: 1) the stricter one the Board’s own staff preferred that FORCED Poseidon to mitigate its environmental damage;  2) a COMPROMISE proposal the Board had created to make Poseidon happy (which barely won); and 3) a really loosey goosey one that Poseidon wrote themselves, which 3 out of 7 Board members voted for.

Poseidon’s proposal was lacking some crucial legal language, so staff had to touch it up for them.  (The Board’s attorney cracked that it was because “it was written by people who don’t write permits, while the others were written by people who do write permits,” earning a scolding from the Board’s Poseidon attack dog Kris Murray for his insolence.)  Of course Kris, as expected, voted and passionately advocated for the permit Poseidon wrote for themselves; the depressing thing is that she was backed up by Tustin Mayor Letitia Clark and Joe Kerr, who is running for District 5 Supervisor next year.  We need to remember this in 2022.

This was bad, and was nearly much worse.  Coastkeeper says they will appeal this decision, and they have a good record in Court.  Next stop, the Coastal Commission in a few months; and we need to demand Governor Newsom appoint some Coastal Commissioners that care about our protecting ocean rather than short-term union jobs.  Also in the works: Have the city council of Santa Ana discuss this boondoggle and instruct their OCWD rep Nelida Mendoza to oppose the project.  And write more songs, and some resolutions.

Update 5/3

Kris Murray was placed on the “regulatory” Board near the end of Jerry Brown’s tenure, at the insistence of the Building Trades and probably Poseidon themselves, to be a dependable vote for the project.  We’ve known Kris for over a decade, and her guiding principle is the upward transfer of wealth from the public to her friends.  There’s not a morning that she doesn’t wake up and think how best to achieve that.

Letitia Clark and Joe Kerr are the newest members, placed on the Board by Newsom – one into a vacancy and the other in place of the fine, informed Poseidon critic William von Blasingame whom Newsom had removed.  Their apparent purpose there is to have Murray’s back in shoving through Poseidon as easily as possible.  Clark asked a few questions showing concern for the impact of prices on OC’s poor, but behaved as though the project was inevitable.  Kerr barely spoke at all, except for a few procedural questions, but was always there to back up Kris Murray.

No coincidence that it was these three (along with Board chairwoman Lana Peterson) who probably shouldn’t have participated in the hearing at all due to conflicts documented by the OC Register and Coastkeeper – Clark for recent contributions from several Poseidon-backing Labor unions, and the other three for receiving improper ex-parte communications from Newsom’s EPA Secretary Jared Blumenthal emphasizing how IMPORTANT this vote was to Gavin – in the middle of a previous hearing!  Read Coastkeeper’s damning letter here.

Very disappointing for a couple of OC’s prominent Democrats – the Tustin mayor (Clark) and the standard bearer for South County Supervisor next year (Kerr.)  Is it so quaint to imagine a Board whose mission is to protect our water and environment, not to take orders from the corporations it’s supposed to regulate? 

I understand a lot of people are mad at me for the strong language used in this story.  Well, for these three Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board members, would “saboteurs” be a better word?

Just SOME of our Previous Coverage of Poseidon:

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.