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Raindrops Keep Fallin’

We were delighted last week to find ourselves caught in a rain squall on our way to Rupert Murdoch’s Dodger Stadium. OffBeat is part of baseball’s faithful remnant, ready to endure big money, egos and other modern hazards in the service of America’s Favorite Pastime. We have always wanted to be in one of those umbrella brigades you see on TV when summer thunderheads shriek into Fenway or Atlanta. Imagine our disappointment, then, after slogging across acres of parking lot and up several Everests’ worth of staircases, to learn that Murdoch had banned umbrellas from Chavez Ravine. We and the rest of the crowd were told we had to retrace our steps across the rain-slicked expanse to stash our Mary Poppinses, then come back and sit in soggy seats for what turned out to be a one-and-a-half-hour delay.

Once inside, we huddled under the overhang as the organist played jaunty versions of "Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head" and "I Can’t Stop the Rain." (Why do they do that? Do they think we don’t notice it’s raining?) Soaked and shivering, we finally left, "The Rain in Spain" ringing in our ears. (The Dodgers lost to the Rockies, 4-2.) The minions peddling Dodger Dogs said the no-umbrella policy was new to Murdoch, but we wanted confirmation. After being passed from operations to security to the legal department, we caught up with a media-relations representative, who said he’d get back to us in a couple of days. (We’re still waiting.)

A security employee who said he couldn’t give us his name (company policy) did, however, explain the Murdoch line off the record. Umbrellas can be brought into the stadium but not opened, he said. (The ban last week was a mess-up.) "With 50,000 attendance, you can see that if everybody opened their umbrellas all at once, that would present some major problems," the employee explained. Well, no, we don’t see. We find it hard to summon up fear of rampaging Dodger fans shoulder-arming umbrellas. We are worried, though, about Murdoch’s apparent indifference to the little guy as Fox moves to maximize Dodger profits through global brand-name marketing. The latest scenario has Murdoch moving the team to the Coliseum, with Chavez Ravine, which, as you remember, was ethnically cleansed of Latino residents to make way for the Dodgers 40 years ago, reverting to housing or a shopping mall. It’s not Mr. O’Malley’s stadium anymore.

Dump da Dump

 

The proposed Ward Valley nuclear dump is near death, but how much will taxpayers have to shell out to bury it? That’s the big question after U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan’s ruling that the federal government doesn’t have to turn over 1,000 acres of Mojave desert, 19 miles west of the Colorado River, to the state for a radioactive-waste dump for the nuclear industry. US Ecology, which had fought for more than a decade to build and run the dump, said it doesn’t want to appeal Sullivan’s decision, but may if the company doesn’t get what it wants. And that is a government payoff, according to a second lawsuit US Ecology has on file, against Bruce Babbitt and the Department of the Interior, to recover the $50 million it claims to have spent on the dump since 1985, plus lost interest and "lost opportunity" investment revenues. think you are looking at probably in the neighborhood of $300 or $400 million dollars; [that] would have been a normal, successful business return on that kind of investment," Joe Nagel, president of US Ecology, said this week.

Eric Glitzenstein, attorney for Committee To Bridge the Gap, says US Ecology’s financial claims are bogus. "An unethical relationship between Governor Wilson and US Ecology is not a basis for getting their money back," agrees Ward Young of the Bay Area Nuclear Waste Coalition. "There were ample indications of both the project’s illegality and its dangerous impact, and that it should have never gotten off the drawing board." But Nagel says eleventh-hour negotiations between Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan and former Governor Pete Wilson to jam the dump through in the waning days of the Bush administration may have obligated the feds to US Ecology.

Nagel also says he has initiated settlement talks on the buyout issue with Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt and Governor Gray Davis. Among the options: negotiating the sale of US Ecology’s dump license to another company — or repealing the 1980 federal law mandating that California build a dump of its own. Then, Nagel says, the state’s goo can be shipped to US Ecology’s dump in Richland, Washington. What a great idea: US Ecology is responsible for four leaking dumps around the country, including the Richland site, where regulators have discovered elevated levels of tritium (i.e., radioactive hydrogen) in the soil at depths of 85 feet. History note: In 1960, the company began dumping 55-gallon drums of goo near the Farallon Islands, 30 miles west of San Francisco; a quarter of the drums leaked, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Hmm: backroom deals, pollution, legal threats — sounds like a perfect corporate-welfare candidate to us. US Ecology has 60 days from Judge Sullivan’s March 31 decision to file an appeal.

—Michael Collins

Butterfield 8, Where Are You?

 

This Saturday, Westside and South Bay homies become the first telephone users in the state to be forced to dial 11-digit numbers for all their calls. Yes, that includes calls within their own, hallowed 310 area code, as well as in the 424 "overlay" code, which will be handed out to new phone customers starting in July. Overlays are an alternative to the geographic splits that have made greater L.A. the proud owner of a dizzying 10 area codes. The reason for all the phone number changes is the explosion in cell phones, pagers, computer lines and other telecommunications accessories in our little burg, the beeper capital of the world. The whole U.S. is running out of phone numbers, with tony 310 going faster than some of its poor relations, say, 818. But overlays are the wave of the future nationwide. They’ve introduced new jargon into the lexicon, including "permissive dialing period" (the months during which Westsiders were invited but not required to dial 11 digits: Were there any takers?) and "codeholder" (a telecommunications company with rights to sell phone numbers; in the 310, there are 47 codeholders — cell, paging and mobile companies — plus GTE and PacBell). The 310 overlay has also triggered outrage and even panic from some, including L.A. Times columnist Robert Scheer, who assailed its "Orwellian" overtones.

But never fear, a little 911 is on the way from the 310/424 Overlay Education Task Force, an education board made up of telecommunications representatives, which offers these handy hints:

Reprogram your speed-dial and frequently called numbers.

Change your home and office call-forward and auto-dial numbers.

Tell a friend about the changeover.

Reorder business stationery and business cards.

Post a reminder near the phone.

No word on how to get your kindergartner to remember five separate 11-digit number sequences (mom and dad at home and work, plus the nanny). Jeff Mondon, the task-force co-chair and a PacBell senior technical planner, says he’s heard all the complaints, but believes the overlay is better than another split. "In other places, it took a couple of days to get used to it, then it was a non-issue," he says. Get ready: The next step is a 12-digit dialing system, he warns.

That Darn Dorn

 

People in Inglewood complain that the print media haVE abandoned them, and the recent news brownout on the April 6 Inglewood city election proved their point. The media silence wasn’t for lack of campaign story angles: Three days before the balloting, African-American Mayor Roosevelt Dorn held a news conference to blast an election flier that caricatured him and his cronies as a bunch of monkeys. "Don’t let Dorn monkey around with you," the flier said. Dorn charged racism. As of press time, no culprit had been unmasked. The election saw approval of a measure to dramatically slash the mayor’s annual salary from $94,000 — more than many governors — to $19,200, and to lop council salaries from $47,000 to $19,600. The measure was pushed by the firefighters association, which was angry over council decisions to shrink its staff and deny a salary increase. The association was also the force behind several leading council candidates — not allied with Dorn — heading into the June 8 runoff. The vote added up to a stinging setback for the controversial, bombastic Dorn, who was not on the ballot. More fundamentally, it marked a shift in power to professional city administrators — traditionally a more public-employee-friendly group than the council. Dorn did not return calls for comment.

—Eric Pape


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