Don Gray, Special to the Mirror
It might be expected that a national organization with a $4 million annual budget and nearly 50 employees wouldn’t be concerned about a challenge from a handful of rag-tag environmental volunteers.
But when the overall stakes include an election issue, totals over $250 million and the 600-lb. gorilla in the case is Heal the Bay, a group that, in the past at least, has stood for environmental excellence, the waters get a lot murkier.
Upstart environmental group BaySmart.org recently attempted to use a parody of Heal the Bay’s “dead fish” logo to call attention to the fact that Heal the Bay’s support for Proposition V, a Santa Monica measure on the upcoming November ballot, may be…well, a little more self-serving than many would find comfortable.
As BaySmart sees it, Heal the Bay’s acceptance of hundreds of thousands of dollars, and their past partnership on projects with the City of Santa Monica, has made Heal the Bay an unreliable advisor to voters on Prop. V. They feel this is particularly true given that Prop. V is a City Council-generated, and not a voter-driven, measure.
The failure of Heal the Bay to protest the council’s opening of Santa Monica Pier to commercial fishing and cruise ship activities, and Prop. V’s ability to fund those future activities, is further evidence to BaySmart that a fox may now be guarding the environmental hen house. Formerly an “outsider” group, Heal the Bay is now little more than a quasi-governmental organization, BaySmart contends.
“Given their history, there’s little, if any, doubt that Heal the Bay will profit from the passage of ‘V’,” said BaySmart representative Peter Tigler. “And with this being a ‘stealth’ measure, added to the ballot with no resident direction or opportunity for resident comment, only adds to the bad smell.”
So BaySmart turned the Heal the Bay fish logo on its head, literally, X-ed its eyes and sent it floating in a brackish background to make clear their disappointment. They then bought a link on a Santa Monica-based news website that directed readers to their analysis of Prop. V, state measure Prop. 84 and other issues affecting Santa Monica Bay.
Heal the Bay was not amused.
The “fish bone” logo, created by a volunteer some years earlier, was registered as a trademark by the group in 2001. The logo is featured on virtually every product, from t-shirts and tote bags to greeting cards, offered in their online store. They forced the newspaper to pull the plug on the ad.
“I can’t believe they were afraid we would hurt their business,” Tigler, who contracted the newspaper ad, continued, “…but the more attention it attracted, the more people might question their stand on the issue. The watershed management plan is just the kind of thing that Heal the Bay would have protested in the past. No science, no monitoring, no pollution loads, no estimation of efficacy. In fact, Mark Gold, Executive Director of Heal the Bay, levied that exact criticism just a few months ago as an individual, but now his group is pushing the plan. It’s the classic sell-out.”
Earlier this year Heal the Bay “won” a $50,000 grant from Stormwater360, as one of the nation’s worthiest nonprofit organizations “that concentrate on clean water issues.” They were chosen for this honor by the $1.5 billion, Ohio-based CONTECH Construction Products Inc.
Among the products produced by CONTECH? A “variety of stormwater management solutions,” the very same devices they will be looking to push onto the City of Santa Monica if Prop. V passes.