Spinning Hetch Hetchy

It was no surprise that members of the media were treated to volubly opposing spins last week when the results of a new Governor Schwarzenegger-approved study about the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park were released. The report looked at multiple studies that had been published already on the feasibility of taking down the O’Shaughnessy Dam, an upside-down punch bowl that, in 1923, buried what John Muir called a “mountain temple” under 300 feet of water so as to provide a sparkling-fresh supply of drinking water to San Franciscans. Basically, the new study estimates it will take $3 billion to $10 billion to drain the dam, restore the valley and find new downstream containment for the rushing Tuolumne River. Restore Hetch Hetchy Executive Director Ron Good heralded the study as a confirmation that restoration is feasible and “a major milestone in our long journey to the day restoration begins.” Longtime dam proponent Senator Dianne Feinstein claimed the opposite, saying the report “confirms that dismantling O’Shaughnessy Dam and draining the Hetch Hetchy reservoir are unwarranted and the cost is indefensible.” Opposing spins on the study flew into editors’ e-mails all week. Stay tuned for more to come.

—Melinda Welsh

Battling Blue Diamond abroad

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union has gone, well, international in its effort to bring the union to one of the city’s largest industrial employers.

Gene Esparza, a forklift driver for Sacramento’s Blue Diamond Growers, recently joined a general strike of some 70,000 Koreans—citizens, farmers and union members—to protest a proposed trade pact between South Korea and the United States.

Blue Diamond—the world’s largest nut company—wants South Korea to remove the 8-percent tariff currently applied to almonds imported from Sacramento. In fact, Blue Diamond seeks to have all such tariffs removed worldwide, according to public-affairs director Susan Brauner. That change would decrease costs for Blue Diamond Growers but would not increase pay for Sacramento workers, said Agustin Ramirez, lead organizer for ILWU.

Since 2004, Ramirez and Esparza have led an ILWU organizing drive to represent more than 600 workers at the almond-processing plant. In the spring, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Blue Diamond’s management committed more than 20 violations of U.S. labor law while trying to stop the union.

“I took this trip for everybody at work, especially those who are too scared to speak,” said Esparza. “I want people around the world who eat Blue Diamond almonds to tell the company to respect our right to organize.”

—Seth Sandronsky

Bringing Jack to justice

When Jack Tocco graffitied the notorious “anti-gay” truck in Midtown last month, he was prepared to be cited; he wasn’t prepared to become a local hero. Tocco said that following an SN&R story (see “‘I would do it again,’” SN&R News, June 22) about his spontaneous tagging of a truck emblazoned with anti-gay slogans and Bible verses, he has been approached by countless people telling him that he did something they had always wanted to do. Tocco finds the attention both “heartwarming and embarrassing.”

The act also won him free legal counsel. Local attorney Greg Elvine-Kreis represented him pro bono. During Tocco’s court appearance, members from the local chapter of the Stonewall Democrats sat in the courtroom to show their support.

Ronald Block, the owner of the “truth truck” that Tocco vandalized, was not at the hearing because he was on a cross-country trek with his truck crusading against abortion. Tocco, who had no previous run-ins with the law, said that the changes against him were “basically dropped.” He was required to complete what he calls a 40-page course on “how to be a better citizen in the universe,” which cost $125, an expense members of the Stonewall Democrats covered. Block defended his truck as “a warning of what God says about homosexuals and a warning to those who are promoting it.”

—Rachel Gregg