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May 27, 2011     The Catalina Islander
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May 27, 2011
 

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Women in need of mercy BY CHARLES M. KELLY Local resident, teacher and Is- lander columnist Christopher Blehm has released in his first novel, "Mer- cy of the Elements." Catalina is as much a character as the ocean and the title character, a 21st century woman named Mercy. This self- published first novel is a good start to a Catalina literary career. The novel doesn't fall neatly into the usually genre pigeon holes--it isn't a romance in the Harlequin im- print sense, it isn't purely a historical novel and it isn't a pirate story. Call it a historical romance without a love story. The message of the novel appears to be that life is hard, but the world is full of treasurers if you have the tenacity to seek them--and the luck to survive the search. The book has two, possibly three plots. In one plot, Ina is a Japanese princess in the late 1500s, fighting to survive. Ina is too strong a woman to see herself as a victim--that descrip- tion would never cross her mind-- but she is in fact a victim of politi- cal and historical events. She soon finds herself caught in a proxy war between Spanish and English priva- teers. (It was the custom of the time for monarchs to "license" pirates to attack the ships of other nations. The "real" pirates were just career criminals. Ironically, the "criminals" practiced one of the earliest forms of democracy. The privateers were soldiers for hire---there was noth- ing romantic, honorable, heroic or democratic about the ships or the missions they carried out.) Ina's efforts to protect herself and a family treasure hidden under a pile of gold isessential to the en- tire novel. Ina's treasure will unify plot elements in the 16th and 21 st centuries. In our time, a woman named Mercy will blame herself for a fatal scuba diving accident in Catalina waters near Ship Rock. Mercy doesn't know it yet, but Ina's treasure waits for her in the waters where a young man lost his life and Mercy herself. Her name is clearly no accident--throughout the novel, as Blehm shifts from once century to another, the two women find themselves in desper- ate need of Mercy. Ina could use some mercy from her fellow hu- man beings, but must depend on her wits and the courage of her servants. Mercy ought to show herself some mercy, but prefers drinking alcohol instead. There's a third plot, about smug- gling, that frankly doesn't fit with the rest of the story. I'm sure Blehm thought it did when he wrote the book. I've tried--and failed--many times to write novels and it is a hard job. Sometimes things work a lot better in your head than they do on the page. Blehm's knowledge of Catalina Island, boating and diving are strengths of the novel. Another strength: Blehm is one of the few men who can write well from the female perspective. Most of us can't and should be discour- aged from trying. One weakness: Mercy and Ina are the only truly sympathetic characters in the book. That said, I wouldn't mind seeing Mercy again. I don't know if Blehm has another story about her in him, but I wouldn't mind finding out if her life is any better when she returns to the boat anchored near Ship Rock. Charles M. Kelly is the assis- tant editor of the Catalina Islander and a certified col- lectibles appraiser who has lectured on the history of 20th century detective fiction. Edison From page 1 4mm acre-feet of reservoir storage to Edison's 1172 acre-feet of reser- voir storage. BWD's current oper- ating expenses are $2.5M. Edison projects its operating expenses for 2011 to be $5.1 million, double BWD. According to Brady, Edison promised the California Public Utility Commission in 1962 when it sought permission to buy the water utility that it would "rehabil- itate" the water system which was "in need of extensive repair and replacement... [including] major plant additions." Brady details Edison's failure to do so, pointing out the small amount Edison spent on capital improvements from 1962 to 2004. Brady questions why a business May 20 through June 2 Shows Nightly at 7:30pm Rated PG-13 For More Information Call 310-510-0179 with annual revenue of $3.4 mil- lion in 2009 would spend $3.1 mil, lion on an unnecessary computer- ized data and control system in view of the fact that Edison oper- ated without one for over 45 years. He reserves his harshest criticism for the $4.7 million Edison spent on replacing Pump House #2. According to Brady, the pump house should have cost between $1.5 million and $1.8 million. Brady notes that the pump house was designed and built by people with little experience in building pump stations. It took 14 months and 8 days (2,470 man days) for Edison engineers to complete an engineering assessment that the 40-plus year old pump house, which was falling down, needed to be replaced. It took 16,000 man- hours, the equivalent of eight engi- neers working full time for a year, to design a pump station housing three pumps. The plans still had 50 percent errors that resulted in $500,000 in change orders. Edison's attempt to sell the wa- ter utility was also scrutinized by NOTICE NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the city of Avalon is seeking can- didates to fill three Vacancies on the Avalon Medical Development Corporation Board of Directors. The term is for three years, expiring on June 30, 2014. Any citizen interested in serving on this Board should pick up an ap- plication at City Hall, 410 Avalon Canyon Road, and return it in person or send.to the City Clerk, PO Box 707, Avalon, CA 90704. The deadline for submitting applications is Friday, June 10, 2011 at 5:00 p.m. Appointments will be made at the June 21,2011 City Council Meeting Denise A. Radde, City Clerk Published: The Catalina Islander, May 27,2011 and June 3, 201 t Brady. He notes that Edison admits it turned down offers to buy the util- ity for its then rate base of about $5 million. Subsequently, $6.8 million in capital improvements were added to Edison's rate base in 2007 and Edison is seeking and additional $12 million in the pending GRC. "What would make the utility saleable would be a much greater Rate Base and a large increase in the metered water revenue." This is exactly what Edison achieved in 2007 and seeks to improve upon by a factor of two in the GRC. With regard to Edison's attempt to collect $3.2 from ratepayers for the 2007 Fire because it had no insurance, Brady concluded: "A water utility acting reasonably carries fire insurance. It is not rea- sonable for a water utility to make ratepayers self-insurers. Edison should look solely to the lawsuit it brought tO recover damages." With regard to Rate Design, Brady recommends an allotment system similar to that used by the Irving Ranch Water District only much simpler. Ratepayers are al- lotted so much water a month de- pending on the ratepayer's circum- stances. For example, the allotment for residences might be based upon the number of bedrooms or the al- lotment for camps might be based upon the average number of camp- ers and staff. Allotments for busi- nesses would be based upon the needs of the business. Ifa ratepayer uses more than the allotment he pays a penalty rate for the extra water. So long as ratepayers use just their al- lotment everyone pays the same rate. "Allocation systems have been well received by ratepayers because they result in equal treatment," said Brady. Brady's full testimony canbe found at fairwaterratescatalina. com. 41 Friday, May 27, 2011 The CATAUNA ISLANDER