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Xavier Hermosillo is the President of, a national Crisis Communications, Marketing, and Management firm he founded 23 years ago. He is a former political chief of staff, an award-winning reporter and photographer, and a former radio talk show host and TV commentator in Los Angeles. He has co-founded two publicly-traded companies where he served as a member of the Board of Directors and as the Senior Vice President of Investor Relations and Corporate Communications. He has also served as a Hearing Examiner for the Los Angeles Police Commission on police officer discipline cases, and holds degrees in Administration of Justice and Business and Communications. He can be reached at

October 17, 2005

Let's talk about the Salvation Army, its great work in New Orleans and Houston, its enemies,
sex toys and how California's levees could fail just like they did in the Gulf States.

Along with the Red Cross, Americans have learned there is NO ONE you can depend on more during a disaster than the Salvation Army. Most of us are also well aware that Sally Ann (its nickname in the media world, for the uninitiated) is also well known for setting up the little red kettle stands outside department stores and other retail locations around the holidays so we can drop some change to help them operate.

But in the last few years, one giant retailer has decided it doesn't want to have Sally Ann around because it is a sectarian organization, though disaster victims will tell you they're not preached to in their contacts. That retailer is TARGET, part of the Dayton Hudson chain that also MERVYNS.

Target not only continues its ban on the Salvation Army, but now it is adding sex toy products to its holiday merchandise mix. Target Corporation has quietly told the Salvation Army that it will continue to ban Sally Ann from its 1,351 stores this Christmas season. The Army will not be allowed to place their red kettles in front of Target stores.

Despite increased need caused by the hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Target continues to bar the good people of the Salvation Army. Many observers feel that the ban by Target is a result of pressure put on the company by gay groups and activists who have targeted the Salvation Army for years because of the Army's refusal to recognize their lifestyle. Target is a supporter of various gay, lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, and transgender causes.

While Target contributes to these groups, the company publicly states that they will not contribute to any religious groups, apparently taking the position that gay organizations are worthy of financial support, but Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Greek Orthodox, and other religious organizations are not, even when they act in a nonsectarian fashion during their life-saving relief efforts.

Further showing Target's true colors, I recently heard a report on WTOP Radio in Washington, DC, that Target is one of the national chains that will be carrying a new line of women's products that includes a vibrator. "Elexa" by Trojan spokeswoman Cassandra Johnson says the products will be discreetly packaged and sold in the feminine care aisle. The spokeswoman said on the radio that, "Formerly the domain of sex shops, such products have been brought out of the shadows by popular television shows like 'Sex and the City."

Now I'm the last guy in the world to have a problem with folks using their sex toys when necessary and appropriate, especially in private, but the hypocrisy by Target is rather overwhelming for me.
While Target continues to ban the Salvation Army, competitors such as Wal-Mart are increasing their donations to the Salvation Army and Wal-Mart and others continue to welcome the Army's kettles.

I've decided to become a larger supporter of Wal-Mart as a result of this story. I'm really annoyed that a national chain would continue to pursue such a bonehead strategy that is such a bizarre public relations nightmare. I have just sent an email asking Target to end their ban of the Salvation Army and one to Wal-Mart, thanking them for supporting the Salvation Army.

And I'll be dropping a little extra in the red kettle this year for Sally Ann and the victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Moving on to levees, the recent rains and flooding in the Northeast, specifically New Hampshire should raise concerns among residents in many states, especially in Northern California. Are we a New Orleans type of sitting duck?

Reporters should be asking the governor and the state legislature what has happened to the hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked over the last 20 years for California's levees that have been siphoned off (no pun intended) and used for other projects. This kind of action deserves media scrutiny NOW, not when a levee breaks and it becomes a story of tragedy.

California has about 1,100 miles of levees that run along the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has identified nearly 200 eroded sites that are in desperate need of repair - many of them not far from residential developments sitting in long established designated flood zones.

The Corps will tell you that most of California's levees were originally designed and built to protect agricultural areas from flooding. Often, they were constructed by farmers pushing up dirt with shovels and a wheelbarrow, not taking into consideration the recent surge of sprawling commercial and residential development.

A high magnitude earthquake rumbling along the Delta has the potential of breaching dozens of the aging levees that guard California's primary water transportation hub. Check this out. If the Delta levees fail, the drinking water supply for two thirds of us could be threatened, and the nation's largest source of fruits and vegetables could be destroyed for months, or even years. Can our state and federal economies handle that? I doubt it.

We had an example of this problem already, but media coverage was fairly limited to Northern Cal. On June 23, 2004, the Lower Jones Tract Levee in the Central Valley failed, flooding hundreds of acres and causing $100-million in damage. It took crews about 25 days, working around the clock, to fill the 500-foot breach. The breach sent hundreds of people running to higher ground and left state officials scrambling to protect the water supply for the entire state.

Collapses occur in the fragile Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta levees every few years, and state officials report that a breach could begin with something as simple as an animal burrowing into the levee. That's pretty scary, but why aren't any of you covering this story? Be a good, enterprising reporter and seek out some more facts on this. Don't wait for you editor to assign you a story out of the local newspaper or the L.A. Times. Be a REAL reporter and dig this story out BEFORE the levees break.