San Diego: “Greenmail” Scrubs New Year’s Fireworks

0 January 7, 2010  State & Local Construction, Uncategorized

Sensing that 2010 might be a tough year for Big Labor and their special interest allies in San Diego area, it appears that local union bosses are not in the mood to celebrate.  And they decided to ruin the fun for everyone else too.

Here is an excerpt from Michael M. Rosen’s commentary published in the 12/30 edition of the San Diego News Room:

For almost 20 years, residents of America’s Finest City have enjoyed New Year’s fireworks over San Diego Bay. But not this year, or possibly ever again, thanks to “greenmail” threats by environmental groups.

“Greenmail” is a notorious tactic deployed by activists to hamper plans for development. It works like this: a green or labor organization threatens to sue a developer under one or more of California’s myriad environmental laws and regulations unless the developer agrees to the demands of the group, such as scaling back the size of the project or hiring only union workers. Fearing the great expense and severe delays that prolonged environmental litigation typically entails, the developer reluctantly accedes to the activists’ demands. And the process begins all over again.

In this case, extremist environmental organizations have for years sought to terminate coastal fireworks shows on the ground that the falling debris pollutes the ocean, bay, or what-have-you.

The Encinitas-based Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation (CERF) recently notified the San Diego Port Tenants Association, which stages the annual pyrotechnics show, that the group would sue the port commission unless the association obtained a federal Clean Water Act permit.

But the association, which is essentially a glorified business improvement district for port businesses, lacked the time, money, and even the authority to get the permit by New Year’s. The San Diego Unified Port District is arguably the only entity with standing to obtain authorization, but the district does not put on the show, and its spokesman told the Union-Tribune it had no plans to seek the necessary approval.

With the New Year’s fireworks scratched, the Independence Day pyrotechnics might not be far behind. The recent cancellation “raises doubt about the future of the July 4 fireworks as well,” according to Sharon Cloward, president of the Port Tenants Association. “Fireworks over San Diego Bay may be a thing of the past.”

Marco Gonzalez, an attorney with the Coast Law Group and the founder of CERF, which the law group represents, concurs. He told the U-T’s Logan Jenkins “every single coastal firework display is on the radar screen.”

In this case, the Port Tenants Association called his bluff and scrubbed the show on its own in a move certain to generate a fierce public backlash against CERF and its ilk, who will be held responsible tomorrow night when San Diego Bay falls silent.

This is San Diego’s equivalent of Gaylord Entertainment’s decision to drop its plans to build a convention center complex on Chula Vista’s bayfront a year ago after labor groups sought to extort a sweetheart deal for union workers. Gaylord’s departure triggered an outpouring of public frustration with labor that may well translate into passage of the Fair and Open Competition Ordinance on Chula Vista’s July ballot.

In other words, both the Port Tenants Association and Gaylord refused to be greenmailed. Instead, they changed the game by choosing not to play.

Gonzalez, surely realizing that he overplayed his hand, insists that “people who think we are trying to stop these shows are wrong. We are just trying to make them legal and safe for the environment.” He even contended that the Port Tenants Association “canceled the show on their own, despite the fact that we made it clear that we weren’t going to sue to stop the show.”

Yet Gonzalez—who incidentally is the brother of the Labor Council head Lorena Gonzalez—told Jenkins that his group was “willing to grant a pass for New Year’s” and then compel the appropriate entity to seek a permit for the Fourth of July. In other words, Gonzalez is saying, “yes, we do intend to sue, only not now, but in a few more months instead.” Whatever the timing, CERF is by its own admission hanging a litigious Sword of Damocles over the port’s head to extract concessions.

Gonzalez also frankly acknowledged that he hates pyrotechnics displays, saying “what are fireworks but pretend war?” and claiming they signify “our lack of evolution as a society.” Apparently, he believes all San Diegans should be compelled to adopt his progressive views of the evils of colorful aerial explosions.

For followers of PLA activities, this should sound familiar.  Big Labor used the same tactics in an attempt to pressure Gaylord Hotels into signing a project labor agreement (PLA) on its $1 billion and 2,000-room proposed hotel and convention center in Chula Vista in 2006-2007.

The project would have created over 8,000 jobs.  Gaylord refused to sign a PLA, so Big Labor tied the project up in so much enviornmental red tape that they left southern California for Arizona.

The fireworks are just one more example of Big Labor and their allies running amuck.

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