A Wave of Memories, Part 2

A hare-brained idea: having Gov. Gray Davis get up close and personal with the invertebrates at Heal the Bay's S.M. Pier Aquarium

Mark shares some more of his more memorable moments at Heal the Bay:

The Ahmanson Ranch campaign.  I remember: touring the watershed with Board President Tony Pritzker and former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, representing Washington Mutual.  Flying up to a WaMu shareholders meeting with Rob Reiner and Alfre Woodard on a private jet to protest the development.  The coalition of Hollywood (Chris Albrecht and Reiner), electeds, Native Americans, Mary Weisbrock and Save Open Space, Heal the Bay (Mark Abramson’s covert maps of Ahmanson Ranch riparian habitat were key), and the brilliant campaign work of Chad Griffin and Steve Barkan.  Getting screamed at by Reiner at a meeting.  The only other person that ever yelled at me like that was my dad.  I can only imagine what would have happened if we lost! The anti-climactic press event celebration when the state purchased the land (Governor Davis was being recalled).  The joy of taking my kids, Zack, Jake and Natalie, to the Ranch just days after it opened to the public.

Litigation  I’ve always been a “sue as a last resort” kind of advocate, but sometimes litigation is the only solution.  NRDC’s Joel Reynolds and I spent countless hours with former L.A. County Sanitation Districts’ GM Jim Stahl to settle the full secondary treatment lawsuit about the Carson plant.  Once we got through the “sewage is good for the fish arguments” (thank you Willard Bascom of the Southern California Coastal Waters Research Project in the late 1980s) and the “sewage solids are needed to cover up the DDT and PCB contaminated sediments” or “two wrongs make a right” argument, we were able to negotiate a resolution quickly.  In fact, it only took the Sanitation Districts four years to build its full secondary facilities.  Also, we partnered with NRDC on some industrial waste litigation and an industrial stormwater lawsuit against the Port of Long Beach (led by current criminal court judge Gail Ruderman Feuer).  I still remember all the inspections of pretty nasty Port facilities.

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A Wave of Memories

Dorothy and Jack: mentors, friends ... and thwarted wedding photographers

I started volunteering at Heal the Bay as a 22-year- old in 1986.  Over the last 25 years, I have some amazing memories.  Here is an extremely abridged list of a few of the most memorable.

 My first hearing at the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board.  L.A. County San’s general manager, Chuck Carry, chewed my head off publicly for stating that the Carson Plant was violating the Clean Water Act’s sludge dumping prohibition by discharging centrate (the liquid removed from centrifuged sludge) off of Palos Verdes. After the Regional Board ruled that Heal the Bay was right, wise and kindly board member Chuck Vernon came over to me to offer support for hanging in there against Carry.  Definitely a Mean Joe Green-Coke moment.  That was the first of my over 200 Regional and State Water Board meetings.

Heal the Bay’s annual meetings  At one meeting, U.S. Sen. Pete Wilson and Attorney General John Van De Kamp, two of the three gubernatorial candidates in 1990, gave plenary talks.  Wilson announced for the first time that he would create Cal-EPA if he was elected.  He won the seat and he did just that.  Other annual meetings included a Senate environmental debate between eventual winner Barbara Boxer, Congressman and Santa Monica Bay Restoration Project founder Mel Levine, and Lt. Governor Leo McCarthy, and an L.A. mayoral environmental debate with every candidate but the eventual winner, Richard Riordan.  I still remember then-Councilman Nate Holden stating that he’d make Santa Monica Bay drinkable if he was elected.

Surfboard Art — one of the most creative, amazing events in non-profit group history.   The brainchild of Olympic swimmer John Moffat, the project gave America’s top artists a Clark Foam blank that they could decorate as they saw fit.  The creativity of Board member Cydney Mandel and the leadership of the Dill brothers were key.  Boards were created by Lita Albuquerque, Laddie John and Guy Dill, Joni Mitchell, Peter Max, and Ed Moses.  But despite a show in the Corcoran Gallery and other locales, it was a horrible fundraiser because the boards were raffled off rather than auctioned off.

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