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Make Like a Tree

Two years after catapulting into the presidency of the Sierra Club, environmental wunderkind Adam Werbach, known for his love of Pez and MTV, is moving on. In a soybean-inked farewell to the club's half-a-million-plus members, the 25-year-old ticks off the requisite list of "special places saved" during his tenure, but says, "most importantly," the average member age has dropped a decade, to 37. Among the reasons for his departure (he'll remain on the club's board of directors), Werbach cites the nasty battle over whether the club should take an anti-immigration stance. Though club members defeated the proposal in a recent vote, the anti-immigration advocates have vowed to press on, and Werbach wants no part of it. "I cannot justify spending another year of my life" fighting over this issue, he writes with characteristic earnestness. "When we fight amongst ourselves the mountains weep."

However, Werbach saves the real skinny on his departure for the second page of the letter, where he reveals that he's launched a "new production company to bring the action and adventure of the wild to TV." Though the show has yet to find a buyer, Werbach, who admits that he watches "too much television," is confident that he has a winning formula. His first series, he told OffBeat, will pit hapless celebrities (aided by you know who) against the environment. First episode: rock climbing at Point Dume with Paula Abdul, which Werbach describes as "an amazing transformation experience" during which "there were definitely points where she questioned whether she could make it to the top." Coming soon to a cable channel near you.

-Sara Catania

Alatorre AgonistesFor some months now, embattled City Councilman Richard Alatorre has claimed that a longtime political rival, Henry Lozano, is using a child-custody dispute to undermine him politically. If that is true, Lozano's strategy is starting to show dividends.

Last month, Lozano's attorneys filed a 54-page sworn statement from Alatorre's former girlfriend and secretary Linda Ward, whose allegations of the councilman's longtime cocaine abuse were splashed on the front page of the Los Angeles Times the following day.

While City Hall was still abuzz over those revelations, Lozano's attorneys were busy digging up allegations of Alatorre trading cocaine for political favors as recently as 1994.

The source behind the new allegations is Beverly Vasquez-Bumgardner, who from 1991 through 1994 worked as executive secretary for one Julian Carrasco, a longtime Alatorre associate who ran a hazardous-waste-removal firm.

According to Vasquez-Bumgardner's declaration, now part of the public record, throughout 1994 the councilman "on many, many occasions" came by to see Carrasco, whom Vasquez-Bumgardner described as an indiscreet cocaine abuser who had to have several reconstructive surgeries on his nose. Alatorre would typically show up around 7:30 a.m. for brief closed-door meetings with Carrasco during which, Vasquez-Bumgardner said, she could hear the two men snorting cocaine. On one occasion, she says, "the councilman exited Mr. Carrasco's office after a cocaine-snorting session and had cocaine all over his nostrils and on his pants. He started to walk out of the office, and I said, 'Richard, you have powder on your pants!' He said, 'Thanks, Beverly' and proceeded to wipe himself down, and then exited the office."

Vasquez-Bumgardner says Carrasco told her that Alatorre had helped him land all his contracts with the MTA and the City of Los Angeles (since 1991 Carrasco's company has had 19 contracts with the MTA and over half a million dollars in City business) and once bragged to her, "Councilman Alatorre will do whatever I tell him to because he needs me."

On another occasion, Vasquez says Alatorre came in "very pissed" and looking for Carrasco, who, Vasquez says, had missed an important meeting regarding an MTA contract. "What the fuck is wrong with you man?" Alatorre hollered. "Why did you miss the meeting - are the drugs getting to your brain?"

In an interview, Alatorre denied that this incident - or any other Vasquez-Bumgardner described - ever took place, and that he answered similar charges when Vasquez-Bumgardner made them in a civil suit she filed against Carrasco in 1994. That suit was dropped when Carrasco and his company filed for bankruptcy. Alatorre also denied using his considerable influence on the MTA Board or the City Council to steer contracts to Carrasco's company. "Anyone can make up stories like this," said Alatorre. "It's done for purely political reasons."

Carrasco could not be reached for comment.

-Sam Gideon Anson

All Power to Rupert!To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Rupert Murdoch has taken $200,000 of the money you gave him when you last went to a Dodgers game or watched a Fox picture and forked it over to the pet Republican-right cause of the moment, the Yes On 226 campaign. The whole point of 226, of course, is to take unions out of the California election process, so that when Murdoch makes his megabucks contributions to troglodyte candidates and causes (he dropped a cool million on the state GOP in 1996), the only group capable of making megabuck contributions to non-troglodyte candidates and causes will not be able to answer back. The thought that what California needs is to shrink its political dialogue down to an unanswered Murdoch monologue had not occurred to us until just now - but if that's a prospect you find pleasing, don't let us stop you: 226 is the prop for you.

-Harold Meyerson


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