Surfrider Tells Resident To Shut Up - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Opinion

Surfrider Tells Resident To Shut Up

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Posted: Friday, December 6, 2019 12:26 pm

On Oct. 15, 2019, life-long IB resident Leon Benham received a threatening letter from Surfrider warning him to immediately stop expressing his views on the Surfrider-supported so-called Tijuana River Valley (TRV) Stakeholder’s Solution to sewage originating from Mexico. (NOTE: you can read the full text of the letter at This attempted prohibition on public discussion was meant to include “Letters to the Editor,” such as this one. This “cease and desist” letter was signed by Surfrider Chief Operating Officer Michelle Kremer, and cc’d to Surfrider Chief Executive Officer Chad Nelson. Not only do these two individuals not reside in IB or the border area, they do not even reside in San Diego County! This nevertheless did not stop them from trying to keep Mr. Benham quiet about what was happening literally in his own backyard.

The implication that the Surfrider-supported plan has emanated from all “stakeholders” is pure non-sense. Like many special interest groups with pre-determined goals, Surfrider convenes or participates in invitation-only meetings where all pre-vetted participants already more-or-less agree on a final outcome. Then, after the termination of the meetings, lo-and-behold everyone agrees on the solution that the special interest group or groups sought in the first place. Only now, they can disingenuously publicly announce that “all the interested stakeholders now agree.” In the military, the doctrinal term for this is a “psyop;” in New England it’s called a “snow-job.”

What is so important to Mr. Benham such that he will risk the ire of a large, well-funded environmentalist organization like Surfrider? What does he stand to gain? Nothing except preservation of his home and a coastal city he loves. What about Surfrider? What is their problem with a single man exercising his free speech on a matter that gravely and personally concerns him? According to their own letter, one of Surfrider’s primary concerns is money. The letter speaks of “economic interference” and “loss of business.” Surfrider’s 2017 IRS Form 990 filing shows that the two Surfrider members on the letter sent to Mr. Behnam earned a combined total income from the organization of $308,747 that year. In contrast, the four members of Citizens for Coastal Conservancy (C4CC) on the letter – all IB residents- have earned a combined total of $0 in compensation from their organization, for any and all years.

Unfortunately, it would strain credulity to believe that the six-figured-salaried Executive Director of Wildcoast (and IB public official) Sergio Dedina was not at least made aware of, if not actively complicit in, this “shut up” letter sent by Surfrider to a number of IB residents. In public testimony last year before the State Lands Commission, Mayor Dedina referred to the close working relationship Surfrider and Wildcoast share on cross-border pollution. Anyone who has been paying at least passing attention to the activities of Wildcoast and Surfrider know that these groups often act in close concert, to include on the aforementioned “stakeholders” plan. This would be a classic example of an elected official siding with an outside special interest group at the expense of local voters.

In response to the Oct. 15 letter, Mr. Benham sent a professional and respectful letter requesting Ms. Kremer specify what, exactly, he said or wrote with which she took issue. To date, he has not received a response. Since Oct. 15, Mr. Benham has published another letter to the editor, and plans to speak to the public on this topic at the Tijuana River Visitors Center on the evening of Dec. 5.

The people of IB will not be silenced!

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