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The Catalina Islander
Avalon, California
June 17, 2011     The Catalina Islander
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June 17, 2011

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PACIFIC SPORTS PERMITS DENIED OP/ED BY CHRISTOPHER BLEHM Things heated up quickly when Jack Caress took the podium at the last City Council meeting to ask for permits for the Marathon and Triathlon. Having run the events for the past 15 years, Caress was upset he had been denied by City Manager Steve Hoefs, and down- right angry by the time the coun- cil shot down his appeal 4-1, with Ralph Morrow dissenting. What really happened? According to Caress, P~cific Sports has been a tremendous boon to the community, bringing in thousands of racers, millions of dollars, and giving generously to Avalon Schools. He sees the "good old boys" getting together to tam him out of town, the Chamber of Commerce taking credit for his hard work, and the whole commu- nity suffering when his company and his racers stop visiting. Caress accused the Lions Club of mis- management of funds, saying then MISSING JET SKIER FOUND OFF WEST END OF THE ISLAND A 60-year-old jet skier who was overdue was found tangled in a large clump of kelp near the Island by the U.S. Coast Guard and Baywatch lifeguards Monday, June 13. Two people vacation- ing on Catalina went jet skiing and one retumed earlier than the other. When the second man continued to be absent, the first man called the Coast Guard:at 5:18 p.m., Petty Officer Adam Eggers said. A Coast Guard MH- 65 Dolphin helicopter crew spot- ted the man and the Baywatch boat Isthmus was dispatched to tow him to safety, Eggers said. He returned to Isthmus Cove' at 6:45 p.m. Officials said~ the man was not injured. Hi~. narne:(vas not released. -~?. Avalon Schools Principal Matt Saldana approached him and told him the school was not getting the money from the Lions. Caress said he and Saldana cut the Lions out of the loop and started to give the money to the school directly. He said he gives $10,000 a year, go- ing back eight or nine years. This is all on the record. Caress feels bidding process), with all inter- ested applicants. Caress refused to participate, claiming he was being asked to compete for a job that was already his. The position of the council was that the job was not al- ready his, that the races did not be- long to him, and that he refused to take part in the RFP, and insulted the entire community while mis- the events are his, has al- ready sued the Catalina Island Conservancy, and walked out of the meet- ing looking like the city and the Cham- ber are next. Councilman Ralph Morrow was outraged, feeling that we forced a signif- Chris Blehm Columnist representing his relation- ships in the process. Perhaps the most damning moment in the meeting occurred when Caress said he had an on- going, eight-to-nine year relationship with Avalon Schools, and gave them $10,000 a year for student volunteer work at three events (Marathon, Triath- Ion, Buffalo Run). Coun- cilman Michael Ponce then produced a letter from Avalon Schools stat- icant source of revenue out, never to return. Mayor Bob Kennedy has a dif- ferent take. The Chamber owns the races. Caress was a manager called in to help run the races, who then essentially bullied con- trol and took over. Wayne Griffin remarked, "How can the Chamber provide if we're not asked?" Ken- nedy was incensed with Caress' insults of the Lions, the Conser- vancy, the Chamber, the city man- ager, and the council. You' missed the Island Company (sort of) Jack, but otherwise relieved yourself on every pair of shiny shoes in town, including your own. Recently, the City drafted new ordinances regarding event orga- niiation that give priority to non- profits over profits, and asked for an RFP (request for proposal--a ing that, "Avalon Schools is in no way a sponsoring entity of any past or future Pacific Sports events." Athletic Director Patti Engel further clarified to the Islander, "We have never received $10,000 a year from Pacific Sports. Last year it was $8,900, and each year before it was $7,400." Pacific Sports was essentially using the kids of this community as slave labor. How else could you man aid stations, handle reg- istration, hand out T-shirts, and a hundred other duties, for far less than minimum wage? My research suggests that a for-profit c.ompany using volunteers, and then pocket- ing profit, is a violation of federal law. Ask a lawyer, but considering the age of the volunteers, is that a violation of Child Labor Laws as well? Insurance can to meet ur ever- Products nd Services to meet all your insurance needs Farmers l ielpPoint 24/7 claims service Si hablamos espanol Heather DickerSon License #0758719 That being said, Ralph Mor- row has a good point about busi- ness walking out the door. Fifteen years of success, real success, ver- sus dumping him because the guy has a big mouth. Ralph doesn't think it a coincidence that the new process came to be just about the time the Conservanc~, Chamber, and city decided they were sick of Caress, pun intended. Morrow bluntly implied, and Caress out- right stated, that there was a con- spiracy. It certainly wouldn't be the first time that a business found it difficult to operate here after the town had enough. Easy to accuse, hard to prove. Were we fair to Jack Caress? Google him. The first hit you get, after his own Web site and Linke- din page,, which features, in the first paragraph, "pugnaCious," "oft-maligned," "brinksmanship," "threaten to end his run," "sanction," and then in victory, "forestall the placing of the race and and its permits out to bid." Mr. Caress' comments about the Lions not coming through? About Principal Saldana cutting the Lions out of the loop and go- ing to benevolent Caress? It is a small town, Jack. When reached by the Islander, Matt Saldana said, "Nothing could be further from the truth. I was a member of the Lions at the time! The school organized volunteers. We went and picked up water and cups ... from the Lions! We got paid, the Lions got paid. It was all collaborative." Everyone cooperated. And that,-my friends, is the most unkindest cut of all. We used to cooperate. And we are screwed if we can't figure out how to again. Both the Hawaiians and Chinese are really good at it. Ponce is right, we do have a beautiful island, the real reason people come here to race. Kenne- dy is right, Caress is a jerk. Mor- row is right. Pacific Sports has put on successful events for years. But was he doing right by our kids? And I'm right. We're acting like a tiny version of the NFL, spoiled brats fighting over honor, owner- ship, and profit aplenty, and using the sweat of our community's chil- dren to do it. Christopher Blehm is a regular columnist for the Islander. His new novel, "Mercy of the Elements," is available locally, and on Amazon and Kindle. Avalon Veteran's Memorial Park Purchase a Brick for the Memorial Contact Dave Gardner (310) 510-1484 or write: Avalon Veterans of Foreign Wars P.O. Box 1672 Avalon, Ca 90704 June 17 through June 23 Shows Nightly at 7:30pm Rated PG-13 For More Information Call 310-510-0179 T Call (310 510-0777 today for Auto, Home, Life and Business.