Friday's Headlines & Surprises: The Drake Two-Step
- Dancing With the Fibber: UC Irvine Chancellor Michael V. Drake has inspired a new dance. We’re calling it the Drake Two-Step, and it goes like this: hire, lie, fire, lie, rehire, wiggle. For a story in today’s Times, Drake admits that he “bungled” the firing last week of Erwin Chemerinsky as dean of the university’s future law school, but he refused to answer a single question on the record about his blatantly inconsistent versions of events. Most noticeably, Drake still won’t explain why he tried to initially blame conservative political pressure for nixing the vocally liberal Chemerinsky after making him an offer. All the chancellor would say is that he regrets all the attention and wants the media to move on now that he’s rehired Chemerinsky. No. The public deserves to know if the conservative-uprising claim was a lie or not. If it wasn’t, who applied the pressured at the public institution? Why would that be a secret? Times reporters found one university regent (unnamed) who said Drake had initially told “a little white lie” by blaming conservatives. Marla Jo Fisher and Gary Robbins at the Reg detailed the applause Drake received yesterday on campus for apologizing.
- OC GOP Backscratching? The county’s Board of Supervisors is set to give Scott Baugh’s Platinum Advisors a lucrative lobbying contract next Tuesday. Here’s how this works: As chairman of the Orange County Republican Party, Baugh helps Republicans win elections to the public-money-dispensing board. Given that this is OC, it’s an all-Republican board. Once elected, the supervisors turn around and give Baugh a $300,000-per-year lobbying contract. Inspiring.
- Laguna Fascists Lose (for now): Despite orders from an incredibly controlling planning commission in Laguna Beach, the public can still fully enjoy the rooftop bar at a popular hotel. This week, the resort city’s council essentially allowed the owners of Casa del Camino to ignore the commission’s desire that only paying hotel guests order cocktails on the spot that has sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and Laguna. [Weekly sleuth Nick Schou married his beautiful wife, Claudia, there a few years back.] According to a report in the Coastline Pilot, public sentiment at a Tuesday public hearing overwhelmingly favored Chris Keller’s hotel. The council ordered the planning commission to process a plan that would formally allow rooftop service for up to 125 people, not including staff. Still, trouble could loom. Mayor Pro Tem Jane Egly agreed with the nannies on the planning commission. She told the crowd that the hotel’s popularity shouldn’t have weight if the business hadn’t crossed every T with city bureaucrats.
- Where You From? Gang tensions inside the Orange County jail system prompted deputies to institute a complete lockdown for the past week, but life inside could return to normal today. Sheriff’s spokesman Damon Micalizzi tells Christopher Goffard at the Times that the extra security precaution was necessary following a Sept. 14 incident between rival gangs at the Theo Lacy Facility in Orange. One inmate was injured. To calm things down, prisoners weren’t allowed to play together in the playroom. "Anything we can take away from them generally keeps them in line," said Micalizzi, who refused to answer Goffard’s questions about which gangs had been clashing. By the way, Goffard is author of the entertaining new novel Snitch Jacket. Check it out. It's a good read featuring OC's underbelly.
- Register: Go Moorlach Go! Earlier this week, veteran reporter Peggy Lowe at the Register disclosed that at the same meeting where county supervisors discussed trimming the perks from a retirement package for sheriff’s deputies, they spiked their own pension plan. Speaking from experience, deputies were quick to yell, “Hypocrisy!” But in another part of the Reg HQ on Grand Avenue, the flap was “a little tempest.” The paper’s editorial writers came out today and urged deputies-union critic Supervisor John Moorlach to remain focused on overturning the county’s deal. Thanks solely to their political power in local elections, deputies now receive a sweetheart deal that allows them to retire comfortably at the age of 50 with retroactive perks. You can see the hand of writer Steven Greenhut in the piece: The deal was not just “bad public policy,” but also—at least in part—“unconstitutional.” This tale is far from over, but a word of advice to Moorlach: Watch for planted narcotics in your vehicle.
- Dana's War Whores: Roll Call reports this week that controversial Blackwater USA, the private security company subsidized to the tune of $600 million annually to play in Iraq, is tied to two former aides to Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Skipped Vietnam Combat Duty). Blackwater? Get it? Cause they want you to know they're spooky. The magazine notes that Blackwater’s lobbyist is Paul Behrends (who also represents Big Oil interests) and that Blackwater’s CEO is Erik Prince, both of whom worked for the self-styled “Surfin’ Congressman” in the '90s. (Hey, that's the same time accused serial child molester Jeffrey Ray Nielsen worked with Rohrabacher.) It’s likely there will be congressional hearings soon on the company’s activities, including allegations that they’ve killed innocent Iraqi citizens. According to Blackwater: The Rise or the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army by Jeremy Scahill, the company paid for Rohrabacher to attend it's grand opening. Afterwards, company officials--whom critics call "war whores"--got lucrative federal contracts. Scahill appears on Countdown with Keith Olbermann at MSNBC today.