Big Money Doesn’t Alway Win


Agua HediondLagoon

Outrageous campaign spending usually means an easy win for the guys and corporations with the big bucks, but in smaller, local races where the people are informed, often it’s not enough to fool a majority of voters and ram through inferior, pre-bought candidates or ill-conceived, damaging initiatives designed to enrich those working for and spending big on their passage.

We saw this recently in Richmond, CA, where after years of battling with the city over attempts to enforce environmental regulators, restrictions and fines for years of illegal and dangerous emissions from their oil refinery, Chevron Corp decided to buy their own mayor and city council. The company spent in excess of $3 Million to try to win three council seats in a city of 107,000, but local citizens didn’t buy into the lies and manipulation, defeating every Chevron candidate, despite Chevron’s opponents being outspent 30 to one.

This was somewhat reminiscent of the 2010 effort of Pacific Gas & Electric Co. when they alone spent over $40 Million in an unsuccessful effort to pass a deceitfully written state

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initiative that would have prevented local municipal governments from contracting with new and alternative energy providers for local power.

Now, yet again, a big-buck effort to subvert the best interests of a small community was spurned by local citizens who saw through the rhetoric and deceit and told a
billionaire developer that their community did not need and did not want his self-promotion or his takeover of their town.

In California’ San Diego County, there is a near pristine inland habitat called the Agua Hedionda Lagoon that actually was designated as a “critical” habitat back in the year 2000. It is open to the public as a passive recreation area, where activities that disturb neither the flora nor the flauna such as walking and some limited water sport including kayaking, waterskiing and wave runnering are permitted. There is a nature center for education about local natural history, ecology, and cultural history of the lagoon and surrounding area, and an award-winning Environmental Stewardship School Program. The center features free lectures, birding hikes, and a large California native plant garden.

Well, in came billionaire Los Angeles area developer Rick Caruso and his Caruso Affiliated development company, and they proposed building a shopping and entertainment center “adjacent” to the Agua Hedionda Lagoon. It was Caruso’s master plan to incorporate the shopping and nature experiences together, actually having a retail center mixed in with trails and agricultural areas. The proposal ended up on the ballot a couple of weeks ago, and while local citizens managed to raise about $100,000 to oppose the measure, Caruso and company spent $10.5 Million to get it passed.

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Local government officials supported Caruso and the project, and it was reported that local residents by and large were repulsed by deceitful promotions that downplayed the existing natural resource of the Lagoon while promoting the proposed “natural” features to be included in the man-made development.

In a close election that took until this week to tabulate, the measure went down
to defeat, 52% No to 48% yes, despite spending that $10.5 million.

But, perhaps a big part of this defeat is the fact that after decades of discussions, debates, fights, five lawsuits, later agreements and the like, and then years of construction, right next to the Agua Hedionda Lagoon now sits the recently opened $1 Billion Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant, the biggest desalination plant ever built in the United States.

That project did not go before the voters.

About theHoundDawg

For many years as a lawyer, I saw much of the good and bad of society, and did what I could to right many wrongs. The lack of understanding of what is good and bad, right and wrong, just and unjust, as evidenced by such events as the election of King W as president, (who as such far surpassed the evil of richard nixon but not quite that of ronald reagan) lead me in a new direction, to spend my time trying to understand what is happening to our society, to try as best I can to spread my insights to others, and along the way to maybe even eke out a living through the internet.
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