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Time to Change Occupy?

OccupyOC-Irvine, Photo: Dan Chmielewski

This post started as one designed to help OccupyOC-Irvine raise money for things the leaderless organization might need.  And as the reporting progressed, it’s turned into something … different.

I placed an inquiry to Vern Nelson and Greg Diamond, both of whom have prominent roles within the leaderless movement that is OccupyOC-Irvine. I had noticed an Easy-Up and table seeking donations when OccupyOC-Irvine first launched.  My inquiry was pretty simple: how much have you raised and what are you using money for

I also wanted to know if there was a way to contribute to the group online. There isn’t.  The group has no bank account and the only way to contribute is to make a trip and drop cash in the kitty — cash only with the implied “trust us” nod.  But as any Democrat who gave to candidates ripped off by their treasurer Kindee Durkee, I’m reluctant to hand over some green without an idea of what its being used for; even to someone I trust.

Nelson has been particularly critical of our coverage of the OccupyOC movement. I’ve suggested the group needs to solidify its message.  Despite a number of posts here in support of the movement, we’re “supposed” liberals for not marching completely in lock step with full support and unquestioned loyalty to the point where Nelson’s digs remind me of Republicans at their presidential conventions.  From his point of view, any criticism of the movement calls into question one’s political bonafides. 

Nelson always asks when I’m dropping off a donation; my preference is to donate to candidates I support as they are in a position to most effect change instead of 15-20 people sleeping in tents nightly on Irvine City Hall’s lawn.

So using an email address provided by Nelson and some email correspondence with Diamond,  I sent a note a few days ago and received this email from a D’Marie (no last name provided) and the OccupyOC-Irvine crowd is now using Irvine City Hall’s address as their address in her email signature (good luck getting the post office to deliver):

“Forgive me please Dan, would you please explain why you need to know this information? I do not know you as a participant of Occupy Orange County CA, therefore I believe you can understand my hesitation in providing you this information.  The Accounting Committee keeps detailed records of all donations and expenditures by a professional CPA utilizing Quickbooks. If you want more information, please visit it us at our location in front of the Irvine Civic Center, 1 Civic Center Drive, Irvine, CA 92606.”

Nelson immediately likened my queries to questions being raised because I thought there was some sort of fiscal shenanigans going on. Since he brought it up and they won’t share information, I have to wonder if this is a real possibility. Again, “trust us.”

According to Diamond, who attended a meeting with “the village” on Monday night, “I will say that, after last night’s meeting, we have no ‘misappropriations of funds’ problem that I can perceive.  We have some interesting issues to deal with in terms of self-governance, but they’re grounded in a basic sense of mutual trust.  Most of the issues we were working through last night are straight out of Federalist Papers #10; there is absolutely no shame is our facing or addressing them.”

I have asked Diamond how much money the group needs and what the group needs money for.  His response was the money was needed to change the political culture in this country

Fascinating isn’t it?  A group that decries money in politics seeks money to change the political culture.

“As for ‘how much money we’ll need to change our political culture,’ I’ll quote Marlon Brando from The Wild Bunch: ‘Whaddaya got?’ said Diamond.  “The amounts donated have been relatively modest and have been put to good use, such as, I believe, for the rental of our carefully hidden porta-potty.  I also found out that we have a pro bono accountant helping us keep track of income and expenses.”

Occupying Wall Street was inspired.  It took the message of the 99 percent straight to the source of corporate greed and the institutions that nearly crushed the world’s economy, took taxpayer bailout money and paid themselves rich bonuses for financial mismanagement.  The Bank Transfer Day hit Banks where it hurt — in their deposits.  And while $185 billion in transfers to local credit unions is a positive start, the big banks still control $2 trillion (still waiting for a credit union marketing campaign to embrace the OWS movement and make it easy to switch).  The city of Los Angeles was allegedly offering OccupyLA cheap office space and farm land for protesters to move them off the lawn at City Hall; that earned this blistering editorial in the LA Times.

From the editorial:

“If the Occupy L.A. protesters will just leave their tent city at City Hall, officials promise to supply them with offices. And a farm. And a place to live, for the homeless demonstrators who have drifted over to the encampment from skid row. And, er, how about a pony? Would you guys leave if we gave you a pony?

This page has called, more than once, for a creative, negotiated solution to the occupation that doesn’t involve police in riot gear rousting nonviolent protesters, a scene that has played out in too many cities and university campuses for our taste. But giving away taxpayer-supported goodies to placate the group — whose cause, while worthy, isn’t necessarily more noble than many others in the past that haven’t received such generous offers from the city — isn’t quite what we had in mind. And we’re troubled by the political implications for the city, which by giving office space to the Occupy movement seems to be endorsing its aims and agenda.

Diamond again: “If Occupy OC were not cooperating with the City (of Irvine) and police, how long do you think it would take before police overtime expenses alone exceeded the cost of the lawn, let alone expenses from any lawsuits that might emerge if the City handled the protest as poorly as, say, UC Davis or Oakland or Berkeley has?  Allow me to interview you on this point, Dan: how much do you think that the City of Irvine should be prepared to pay to suppress protests?  Should it be willing to pay more than the cost of allowing them?  So far, the City has chosen a course of prudence and thrift.”

Based on the small number of protesters (I drive by daily folks), I doubt there’d be any overtime.  And as far as lawsuits go, sue over what exactly?  There’s a camp out, a march, a rally, maybe 15-50 people show up, and this affects change how exactly?  Knock knock, who’s there? Not many in OC.

If this movement is truly about changing the political culture in this country, then lets move away from camping on the lawn of a City Hall in a city that has been nothing but supportive of the movement, and create a PAC to raise money to support candidates who back politics that benefit the 99 percent.  Shouldn’t Occupy be involved in Voter Registration drives in cities and neighborhoods hard hit by Republican policies?  That’s more productive than standing on a street corner holding a sign.  How about “Occupying” the lobbies of Big Banks, OC’s Republican Congressional delegation offices, or Republican State Senate/Assembly offices, or even the homes of these Republican electeds who vote on legislation that doesn’t help the 99 percent?  Can’t get through to Ed Royce or John Campbell?  Picket their homes.  Has OccupyOC-Irvine publicly supported Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang for Congress?

Nope.  None of that is happening.

Any money you contribute to OccupyOC-Irvine looks like your paying for pizzas and a carefully hidden place for campers to empty their bladders and bowels.  That’s not exactly the change I’m looking for.

It’s time to take this movement to the next level.  It needs leadership.  It needs organization.  Without both, Occupy can’t have an impact it should on the coming elections that are so important to their loftiest of goals.  It’s time to put away the tents and the sleeping bags, roll up the sleeves and get out the walking shoes to knock on doors and register voters.

So let’s see what changes are afoot for Occupy.  We hope its something more than a camp out.


  1. Jeff Gallagher Jeff Gallagher November 25, 2011

    This article presupposes the #Occupy movememt is strictly liberal in makeup, which I disagree with. The people I’ve talked to in Irvine and those I have seen in other cities have shown this to be a pretty diverse group from a across the political spectrum. The conservatives have tried to paint Occupy with a liberal brush because they are embarrased that some of their conservative cousins would demonstrate like this. But, it’s pretty obvious this is more a midstream political issue rather than hard left or right.

    They do need to come to terms with what their message should be, though. The way it is starting to look now, they stand a grave chance of turning into something akin with the French working class, making unreasonable demands that neither left or right will accede to.

  2. cook cook November 25, 2011

    Come on Dan, it’s a tail gate party. Get with the program and party.

    “I have asked Diamond how much money the group needs and what the group needs money for. His response was the money was needed to change the political culture in this country. “

    Wow, I will be interested in seeing the FPPC form 700, since their lawyer had labeled them a PAC. When is it due?

  3. Robert Lauten Robert Lauten November 25, 2011

    Neither Congressmen Ed Royce nor John Campbell nor congressional candidate Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang are anti Wall Street politicians.

  4. Robert Lauten Robert Lauten November 25, 2011

    Birds and taxpayers hate the “Green” congressional candidate Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang.

    Birds hate him.
    Altamont Pass, Tehachapi
    “Altamont’s turbines have since 2008 been tethered four months of every year in an effort to protect migrating birds after environmentalists filed suit. According to the Golden Gate Audubon Society, 75 to 110 Golden Eagles, 380 Burrowing Owls, 300 Red-tailed Hawks, and 333 American Kestrels (falcons) are killed by Altamont turbines annually. A July, 2008 study by the Alameda County Community Development Agency points to 10,000 annual bird deaths from Altamont Pass wind turbines.”

    Taxpayers hate him.
    14000 Abandoned Wind Turbines In The USA
    (See above link)

    Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang in not an independent thinker; he’s only a ‘Parrot’ (pun intended) for the “Global Warming” religion.

  5. Vern Nelson Vern Nelson November 28, 2011

    Oh, just saw this thing now…

    First of all, I never suggested you donate money to Occupy Irvine, Dan. ONE TIME I said “next time you swing by why don’t you bring some food or water” and I was sort of being a smartass because I knew you never would even though you kept saying you supported our goals. But last I’ve seen we’ve got more food and water than we need, in fact we’ve been giving back to the community.

    What else… VOTER REGISTRATION DRIVE. Great idea, Dan! We’ve only been doing exactly that for close to a month now.

    You’re probably unaware of, or just choose not to mention, the FREE FILM FESTIVAL we’ve been putting on for the community at the Irvine United Congregtional Church each Friday, “23 Grievances / 23 Films.” (Maybe Chris has mentioned that, or will. I’m starting to see a difference between you two.)

    You’re probably unaware of, or just choose not to mention, that our roster of inspiring speakers has included Assembly candidate Julio Perez, who spoke not of his candidacy but to our issues and about the importance of unions. Of course that will be remembered on election day, especially if he continues to speak out at Occupy events.

    I know it’s impossible for you to appreciate the nonpartisan nature of the movement, and how it’s trying to not be co-opted (like the Teabaggers were) by a big corrupt old Party that needs a kick in the ass.

    There are many Democrats – including in this County – that are only marginally better for the 99% of us than the republicans are, and I can’t honestly bring myself to lie to my fellow Occupiers and say that’s not so. But the longer we keep our message out there, the more candidates may come to prove themselves worthy of our (unofficial, individual) support.

    And I know you just can’t grasp the importance of what we’re doing, of keeping a constant presence, in a conservative town like yours, in conjunction with the nationwide movement that everybody knows about by now.

    You know, you and Art sound a lot alike; neither of you want this stuff going on in your back yards, and take it somehow as an affront to your cities. Funny all the stuff you have in common…

    • Thania Guardino Thania Guardino December 1, 2011

      I don’t get it.

      First off, I find it ironic that there is a OccupyOC-Irvine considering the city leans more toward the !% than the 99%, but OccupyMovement support isn’t directly related to someone’s I’ll move on.

      Why is it so hard to answer the question? Your answers just remind of me a stereotypical politician.

      I’ll make it easy for you… Just fill in the sentence
      “The money will be used for _______,_______,______.”


      I support the movement and I’d give you money. But not when your giving shady round-about answers that just mimic exactly what we are protesting!

      “The money will be used for future protests to supply water, food, safety supplies, paper for flyers, ink for printing, and any other miscellaneous expenses that come up. But anyone who donates, is welcome to look at our books.” <<<<< That'd be the type of answer organically produced by an Occupy group. And I just thought of that on the spot.

      In fact, I don't even expect a reply unless it's going to resemble some sort of honesty and not some bullshit politician answer.

      In short, good job Dan. Keep asking questions.

      • Vern Nelson Vern Nelson December 1, 2011

        You put it that way, Guardino, and I’ll find out. I’ll be back in a day or two with an answer like that. It’s just Dan comes at people all hostile-like, and they’re all, “Who the hell is this guy, and what the hell is the ‘Liberal OC?'”

  6. Vern Nelson Vern Nelson November 28, 2011

    And to send me a series of e-mails suggesting that something fishy is going on with our money, and when I respond “Are you accusing us of misappropriation of funds?” you come back with, “Well Vern said it, so maybe it’s true!” … is just the height of jackassery.

  7. Kathy Findley Kathy Findley December 1, 2011

    Great piece Dan. While I support the spirit of the “Occupy fill in the blank movement.” It is clear that it is in need of leadership, a clear mission statement, and consistent message. I don’t see you article as just about the Irvine movement, it’s about the movement.

Comments are closed.