Eco Solutions Defeats CalCoastNews’ Anti-SLAPP Motion

Judge rules there’s sufficient evidence to support a “favorable judgment” against CCN

Judge rules there’s sufficient evidence to support a “favorable judgment” against CCN

San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Martin Tangeman cleared the way on December 11 for Charles Tenborg, a respected member of California’s waste management community, to pursue his libel case against CalCoastNews and reporters, Karen Velie and Daniel Blackburn, according to a press release from Mr. Tenborg’s San Luis Obispo-based attorneys, Kerr & Wagstaffe LLP.

Judge Tangeman rejected in full the defendants’ motion to strike the complaint, determining that Mr. Tenborg had shown a “probability of prevailing” on his libel claims.

Mr. Tenborg, an environmental scientist, is the president and CEO of Eco Solutions, which provides waste management services for private and public sector clients, including the City of San Luis Obispo and San Luis Obispo County’s Integrated Waste Management Authority (IWMA). In November 2012, Mr. Tenborg’s attorneys stated that that the defendants published false and highly damaging statements about him and his company.

Although Mr. Tenborg and William Worrell, Manager of the IWMA and author of a college textbook on solid waste management, had spoken with CalCoastNews reporter Ms. Velie at length about the complex state and federal regulatory schemes governing the transport and disposal of hazardous waste, she nonetheless got numerous facts “flat-out wrong,” Mr. Tenborg said, and simply fabricated other statements, publishing them as if they were proven truths.

When Mr. Tenborg pointed out these errors in a December 2012 letter, Ms. Velie and her colleagues refused to publish a retraction. Making matters worse, according to Mr. Tenborg’s attorneys, after its publication, the CalCoastNews story was broadcast in full in a list-serv run by California’s Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery. This republication, the attorneys contend, made the false and defamatory content available to all state and local government employees who deal with hazardous waste, unfairly tarnishing Mr. Tenborg’s reputation before a substantial number of his colleagues and clients.

Mr. Tenborg felt forced to sue. “I could not sit idly by and watch my hard-earned reputation be destroyed by these falsehoods,” he said.

In response, CalCoastNews, Ms. Velie and Mr. Blackburn attempted to use California’s anti-SLAPP law to have the case thrown out of court. On December 11, 2013, the San Luis Obispo Superior Court squarely rejected this effort, ruling that Mr. Tenborg ”establish[ed] that his libel claim [was] legally sufficient and supported by sufficient admissible evidence to support judgment in his favor.”

In court filings, the defendants argued that even if the statements in their article were false, CalCoastNews was nevertheless allowed to report them because they “accurately” reflected statements government officials made at a public meeting more than three years earlier. In making this argument, defendants revealed for the first time that the source for some of the most damaging statements was former City employee Douglas Dowden, who claimed he overheard some of these alleged “facts” from others at a January 2010 meeting.

But sworn testimony provided to the court demonstrated that Mr. Dowden’s (and the defendants’) version of the facts was simply wrong. Others who attended the same meeting declared under oath in court filings that “no one remembered” these statements being made at the meeting and “nobody knew what to make of it.” The person to whom Mr. Dowden specifically attributed the allegations, testified: “I did not make these statements at the January … meeting, or anywhere else, ever.”

In a decisive seven-page ruling, Judge Tangeman wrote the “purpose of the fair reporting privilege is to protect free … expression related to the reporting of public proceedings.” Rejecting the defendants’ claims to the contrary, he noted the privilege only applies when the media fulfills its responsibility to ensure that what happened at a public meeting—“its very substance—is accurately conveyed.”

A licensed hazardous waste hauler, Eco Solutions has operated lawfully within California for many years. The IWMA, which contracts with Eco Solutions to provide related services, has received numerous awards for innovation in hazardous waste management, including Program Excellence Awards in 2011 from both the California EPA and the North American Hazardous Materials Management Association.

Time to Deliver State Water to North County

The water shortage in Northern San Luis Obispo County requires both short- and long-term strategic thinking and an understanding that there are no simple solutions.

mguerreroBy MATTHEW GUERRERO, Oceano Community Services District Board President

The water shortage in Northern San Luis Obispo County requires both short- and long-term strategic thinking and an understanding that there are no simple solutions. There is no single answer that can be the sole solution for the problem. Careful consideration of this situation must include the following three-part analysis.

In 1963 the Board of Supervisors procured 25,000 acre feet of water annually from the California State Water Project for San Luis Obispo County. Since that time, many communities in San Luis Obispo County have chosen to take State Water. The largest participants include Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo, Avila Beach and Avila Valley, Morro Bay, San Miguelito and Oceano. This was an expensive and lengthy process and was a politically charged issue at the time. Many communities declined State Water; some of those communities even voting against taking state water. Those declining delivery of State Water include the communities of Nipomo, Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Cambria, San Simeon, Los Osos, Atascadero and Paso Robles. The communities that purchased the water were responsible for funding the infrastructure for water delivery. This is mainly accomplished via pipeline that runs from the North County through the South County. Currently, of the 25,000 acre feet allocated annually, 9,727 acre feet is reserved by the participating communities. This means that there is a little over 15,000 acre feet that is not yet reserved and presumably available to service the North County.

By way of background, an acre foot of water is a rule of thumb to provide for three homes for a period of one year and is about 326,000 gallons. The contract with the State of California for State Water is a “take or pay” contract. This means that the county pays for the water regardless of whether or not it is used. There are difficulties in bringing State Water to any of the communities not currently participating in the State Water Project, the most notable being delivery. The good news is that the State Water Project already runs through the North County and is located near Highway 46. The bad news is that the pipelines, already engineered and in place, reportedly do not have the capacity to carry as much additional water as is needed for the North County.

The North County would have to pay for the development and infrastructure to deliver the water to where it could be distributed to the citizens and businesses. Engineering and construction of water lines are estimated to range upward of $2 million per mile. For example, currently the City of Paso Robles is working on a water treatment plant for the water they draw from Lake Nacimiento. Paso Robles also draws from Basin wells and Salinas River wells. Paso Robles’ current entitlements from Lake Nacimiento are 4,000 acre feet. This does not include the water pumped by private or commercial property owners who are using well water.

Even bringing State Water to Paso Robles does little short-term good for those who do not have the city infrastructure to deliver it to their property and are still dependent upon wells. It will take years of responsible water management to restore the Basin’s water levels and reducing the threat to private wells. Further, 15,000 acre feet is not enough water, even assuming full delivery, to meet the current needs of the North County. Estimates of the need for water are in the neighborhood of 30,000 acre feet per year. Procuring State Water for the North County only solves about half the problem.

Additionally, State Water is also subject to State Government regulation, and the amount of water actually available for delivery varies from year to year. For example, State Water contractors will often get a percentage of their entitlement, though it can sometimes be supplemented with “drought buffer”. Even with a reduced percentage being delivered, the California State Water Project is considered a reliable source of water. The State Water Project provides supplemental water to approximately 25 million Californians and approximately 750,000 acres of irrigated farmland. Approximately 70% of State Water goes to urban users, with agriculture using the difference.

Since San Luis Obispo County already has procured and paid for these entitlements, State Water should be made available for the residents and businesses in northern San Luis Obispo County.

Paso Robles Sewage Treatment Plant Should Contribute to the Water Basin

The current Paso Robles Sewage Treatment Plant is not compliant with state or federal standards and is being replaced with a new $50 million plant. This plant upgrade is incomplete without the ability to produce recycled water. Currently, the State Water Board exercises general oversight over recycled water projects, including review of Regional Water Board permitting practices, and leads the effort to meet the recycled water use goals. These goals include increasing the use of recycled water in California by 200,000 acre feet per year by 2020 and by an additional 300,000 acre feet per year by 2030. This is to be achieved through the cooperation and collaboration of the State Water Board, the Regional Water Boards, the environmental community, water purveyors, and the operators of publicly owned treatment works. In the future, recycled water will be a critical resource for the state based on a number of factors, including providing a local sustainable supply, a means to reduce energy and carbon footprints, a means of dealing with climate change, the increased pressure due to population growth and drought, and the cost of developing new potable water supplies.

Currently, the Paso Robles plant is permitted to discharge approximately three million gallons of treated effluent into the Salinas River every day. It is a short distance from the discharge plant to the ocean, where the three million gallons of effluent are lost. The new Paso Robles Sanitation Plant should research discharging their three million gallons up the Salinas River so that the discharged effluent can be absorbed into the ground and recharge the water basin. Another viable option, though more expensive, is to treat the effluent to a tertiary level. Tertiary treatment is additional treatment beyond secondary treatment, to which the effluent is already treated. Tertiary treatment can remove more than 99 percent of all the impurities from sewage, producing an effluent that is almost drinking-water quality. If treated to tertiary level, though expensive, this water could be used for crops and irrigation and lessen the demand on the Basin, thus preserving the Basin and protecting the water supply for current and future generations.

According to the California Department of Public Health, regulations are being developed that address groundwater replenishment for aquifers designated as sources of drinking water using recycled water from domestic wastewater sources. In 2011, revised draft regulations were released and workshops were held throughout the state. Once these regulations are adopted, they would replace the existing regulations, which were adopted in 1978. The state is currently developing the remainder of the regulation package. The existing Water Code requires the Department of Public Health to adopt revised groundwater replenishment regulations by December 31, 2013, and regulations for surface water augmentation by December 31, 2016. Nevertheless, proposed projects for groundwater replenishment (and surface water augmentation) continue to move forward. Paso Robles has the opportunity and obligation to protect their valuable water resources.

In fairness, the San Miguel, Shandon and Templeton should join the Paso Robles treatment plant in treating waste water to a level at which it can be reintroduced to the groundwater supply.

Whether recycling water, going to tertiary treatment, or discharging farther up the Salinas River, the possible solutions are expensive, but necessary. The water leaving the North County treatment plants is a resource and should not be literally flushed down the drain.

It Has Proven Necessary to Adjudicate the Basin

Unfortunately the business interests and the urban water users are lining up against each other for access to water. This tension should be avoided as the economic wellbeing of each is inextricably tied to water and to each other. A healthy basin is essential to the continued prosperity and growth of each group. Economic insults to one group will adversely affect the other. This should be addressed through the courts. This will be helpful to the North County to protect and monitor the Basin and the end-users.

Adjudication will mean that the amount of water that can be extracted is defined by court order or stipulation. In basins where each landowner’s right has been defined, groundwater may be managed by agencies that obtain their authority from the Water Code. Depending upon the situation, there may be significant, little or no management.

Not surprisingly, adjudication is an expensive and lengthy process. For example, in South San Luis Obispo County, the Northern Cities Management entered into a stipulated agreement in 2002, after years of litigation. This group continues to issue annual monitoring reports and local elected officials participate in its management and operation. This group provides valuable information to the public and member agencies regarding land and water uses in the basin, the sources of supply to meet those uses and the ground water conditions. Given the large number urban and agricultural users, as well as the basin’s inability to meet the current and foreseeable demand, self-regulation by the users is not proving to be a viable option. The expense to the Pismo Beach, Grover Beach, Arroyo Grande, Nipomo, Oceano, and Santa Maria has reached $20 Million in14 years.

Without court supervision, there may be no remedy for those who wells run dry.

Conclusion

There are no easy answers. Solutions are costly. Economic vitality is at stake. Even if we sustain above-average rainfall for several years in a row, the Paso Robles Basin will not be restored to full health; the problems being experienced right now will be repeated, over and over. Rather than just viewing the condition of the water basin as a tension between commercial and urban interests, we must learn to see it as a problem of supply and demand. There is a deficit. When the Federal Government has a deficit, the Treasury can print more money. We do not have the ability to make more water fall from the sky. This means that we, as a regional community, have to use our resources more wisely and utilize resources that we already have for new purposes. It will be expensive. Funding these projects will cost money and political capital. Failure to do so will cost much more.

Matthew Guerrero is an Attorney at Law and is also the Board Chair of South San Luis Obispo Sanitation District

 

An Open Letter to Karen Velie

Smearing your enemies (without substantiation) amid this personal debacle serves only your historic agenda, and tells the world that you have priority issues while these three children go dirty and disheveled to school.

childBy PAUL EMBRY, Atascadero

I ask you to remember the story of Solomon and the two women who claimed to be the mother of one baby. Solomon suggested that they cut the baby in half, so that the women could split the benefit the baby brought. Only one of the women was satisfied with this arrangement and she, of course, was plainly not the actual mother because she thought of her own well-being before that of the child.

You must look to the children here, and only to the children.

It is they who are being harmed by the separation from their family, whether the removal was justified or not. The usurpation of the situation for leverage in your County /CAPSLO mud-feud is just another slimy stone on the sickening road you and your enemies have built. You are all responsible for the condition of the children at the moment, and instead of thinking of them you and your selfish, self-absorbed group have elected to take your troubles to the streets. Those of us who are not committed to either side ache only for these kids. Those of us who are familiar with CWS are astounded with your hubris, and wonder why, when the CWS nosed into OUR lives – justly or otherwise – it wasn’t news. No amount of bully pulpit invective, whether published on a blog masquerading as a newspaper or broadcast countywide on the local Winchell’s AM Radio segment, is going to help the kids. Claims of conspiracy or collusion will keep your name on people’s lips even as depression and lactose ruin the kids. Smearing your enemies (without substantiation) amid this personal debacle serves only your historic agenda, and tells the world that you have priority issues while these three children go dirty and disheveled to school and reap derision and bullying from their classmates.

Bringing this mess before the general public creates sympathy for you and the kids, yes, but the least amount of forethought from the viewpoint of the children would’ve made you consider that you’ve just given motivation and ammunition to those schoolmates who are teasing and bullying them. Your self-serving nature has outed you and you should be ashamed.

For the sake of your grandchildren I will offer you some advice, but first I will tell you why I think I’m qualified to do so.

The existence of my daughter was announced to me by a CWS social worker, who also informed me that they had taken the child from her mother at birth. For the better part of a year I lived the action plans, classes, unwarranted drug testing, surprise inspections of my home, and all manner of inconvenience and indignity – all because I had committed, in the legalese of the machine, a “failure to protect” the child from the abuses of the mother. Never mind that Roe v. Wade says that what someone does with the baby inside them is nobody’s business; never mind that I had no documented drug or alcohol problem; never mind the lies lawyers and social workers told me. Never mind anything.

They had my child and they had all the power in the world.

I had no news outlet from which to raise the hue and cry; Dave Congalton did not postpone his gallstone surgery to lend me an hour and a half of his soapbox time. Additionally, I worked nights in a bar and lived in a rented room. My life was not adapted to the addition of a baby, and it was all common knowledge to the people at Social Services.

Eight months later, I was given a knowing nod from the judge who had just ordered my child into my custody and CWS out of my life. That nod said to me that she respected my handling of a terrible, terrible situation. I made sure that everyone in the courtroom heard me tell my one-year-old daughter that I don’t intend to buy her another “courtroom dress” until after she has passed the bar. I’m also certain that I’m a better father because of the things I learned complying with my action plan than I would’ve been without having done so.

I’m not saying this to aggrandize myself. I’m telling you why you should listen to me. Further, I have no love of CWS, CAPSLO, lawyers in general, or politicians in totality. If I have a bias in this whatsoever, it is the disdain I have for the blank spot where your blog’s ethics should be, and the fact that I think you must have been sick the day they taught journalism at journalism school.

To begin: I am personally acquainted with a grandmother who just last year was deemed unfit for placement on the grounds of a DUI conviction that had been adjudicated over a decade ago. So it is something that is done. It may or may not be a matter of policy, but it is certainly a matter which enjoys precedent, and thereby cannot be something “cooked-up” to be used solely against you. To claim otherwise is to convolute the process and harm the children.

You may truly believe that they are holding your job against you, but I suggest it is the way in which you do your job that rankles. Perhaps not the crusade itself, precisely, but possibly the fact that you’ve gone crazy, shining the light of the free press on all of the few detractors and left in darkness any who honestly praise and thank CAPSLO. It makes you look self-serving and – if not dishonest – ignorant of the tenets of your profession.

You may truly believe that the mention of the word “attorney” to your grandchild is the reason that your personal contact with them has been suspended, but I suggest it is the introduction of complex concepts and mature matters to young minds that are already distressed.

Confusion is not going to calm anyone, nor is confrontationalism. You should have been explaining to the kids that everything was going to be okay; that they should make the best of a bad situation in the knowledge that the situation won’t last forever. I’m betting that keeping your children up to speed on the hiring or firing of legal staff is not a policy invented just for you. Perhaps it promotes an adversarial feeling between the children and the temporary caregivers. Fool.

When you take to the airwaves and say “I just want to know how they can do this,” you’re not serving anyone’s needs. The switchboard will light up, and the craziness begins. Anyone at social services who might have been moved by sympathy for your kids will be too busy manning the siege engines to do anything else. A real reporter who had a similar question might check the Welfare and Institutions laws that regulate such bodies, as well as the civil, criminal and family codes which pertain to the removal of children and the processes thereafter. Such research, done in time, would’ve enabled your daughter to get her story before the judge in counterpoint to the claims against her; clued you all in to the subtleties of language used by social workers and lawyers and entitled you to any advantage such understanding may provide; removed the mystery surrounding the machinations and protocols of the CWS/Court experience; and provided insight into the rules and guidelines which apply to CWS caseworkers and foster-parents.

This way you could’ve fought wisely. Crowing willy-nilly about perfectly legal “injustices” you’ve suffered doesn’t help you reunite with the children; it merely illustrates that you neglected to fact check before speaking publicly.

You must realize that the Social Worker assigned to your case has great leeway in what she may permit or deny, and that it is his or her recommendations that carry the most weight with the judge. That is because the caseworker is employed to see beyond lie and performance in order to require (by way of the action plan) those things that are genuinely needed by the family – not only for reunification, but also for permanent resolution. It is their job to detect and ignore nonsense; they are the judge’s eyes and ears in your world. Everything they permit or deny must be justifiable and defensible, and if they have a reason to dislike you it’s because you gave them one.

Remember that this agency exists to deal primarily with the worst kind of people, people who will go to great lengths to conceal truths about themselves and their living situations. The caseworker who is not skeptical of everything is either new or not a very good one. If you’re going to allow your cronies to spill her name to the public and make all kinds of specious and scurrilous accusations against her, don’t be surprised when she tells the judge that you seem to be more willing to fight the process than to take the necessary steps for reunification. Don’t be surprised when the judge believes her, especially if she heard it with her own ears along with the rest of us.

You may also believe that your daughter failed her action plan because she couldn’t leave work for a doctor’s appointment, and that could indeed bear some part in it. It’s entirely more likely that some conversation surrounding the missed appointment reflected a continuing oppositional attitude toward the process. Nobody at CWS is going to tell the judge that the circumstances, which led the children into state custody, are changing (or are likely to change) when the principals are participating only grudgingly and seem still inclined to resistance.

These people have already determined that change is necessary in the home. The best thing you can do is maintain an earnest demeanor and ardently comply with their requirements. The caseworker is required to help in any number of ways once you turn the corner and embrace the reunification plan, but most people never figure that out. They, like you, would rather fight the system, inflate themselves, and leave the kids twisting in the wind.

Get a clue, lady, and help your daughter get her kids back. Foster care that is good is very good, and foster care that is bad is often incurable. I encourage you to forget all the craziness you’ve filled your life with and dedicate your time and intentions to your daughter and her re-unification plan. If you’ve a shred of humanity, you should already loathe yourself for the ways you’ve both marginalized and exacerbated the plight of your grandkids and hijacked sympathies intended for them to feed your own demons. Atone.

And the guy on the radio who offered the gift cards who you blew off? He was trying to eliminate any excuse a foster may have for forcing cow’s milk on the child. If the alternative to milk were free, what objection could be raised? He could drop those gift cards off at any social services office with the name of the child and a bit of written explanation and the issue of lactose intolerance would be solved. That this escaped you is representative of the situation as a whole.

Selfish, selfish woman.

Get off your high-horse and urge your daughter to comply. Gleefully. While she’s at it, she could try to get something out of the classes and counseling and therapy. It wouldn’t be such a crime to bring the kids back into a better home than the one they left, would it?

Local Gossip Site Blames Homeless Services for Domestic Dispute

Local gossip site CalCoastNews attempted to make the case that their publisher Karen Velie was once again the victim of a conspiracy spearheaded by the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo.

ccnLocal gossip site CalCoastNews attempted to make the case that their publisher Karen Velie was once again the victim of a conspiracy spearheaded by the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo. Like most of their “Uncovered SLO” reporting, CalCoastNews offered no evidence to substantiate their claims, but the details they did provide were sordid. According to authors Josh Friedman and co-publisher Dan Blackburn, Velie’s grandchildren were forced to spend Thanksgiving in foster homes after they were removed by child protective services.

The mother of those children, Velie’s daughter Cristen Powers, claimed that the children were taken into custody after police arrived at her residence on July 18. Powers claimed she returned home to find her roommates having an argument. Even though the police were called and no report was filed, the article states that police were called. Though no report was filed because no crime was committed, San Luis Obispo County Child Welfare Services removed the three grandchildren from the residence because the house was allegedly “dirty.” According to CalCoastNews, Powers was unable to get her children returned to her because CAPSLO allegedly diagnosed her as “bipolar” and expressed concerns that she was “depressed.” Velie was unable to gain custody of the children allegedly because of her August 31 arrest and her occupation as a journalist. Velie was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. At the time, CalCoastNews blamed County officials for orchestrating her arrest.

In observing confidentiality, San Luis Obispo County Child Welfare Services has declined to comment.

CalCoastNews spoke to former CAPSLO employee Estella Bonds, who stated that the agency’s homeless services director, Dee Torres, “often contacted Child Welfare to report child abuse, sometimes doing so in a retaliatory manner. Some of those contacts resulted in permanent separations of families and eventual adoptions.”However, CalCoastNews has not offered any evidence to indicate that Torres was involved in Velie’s grandchildren being taken into custody. CalCoastNews stated that they were investigating alleged misconduct by Child Welfare workers who worked on behalf of CAPSLO; they strongly implied that Velie’s grandchildren were victims of a retaliatory effort by CAPSLO for their investigation. Then they mentioned District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill, strongly insinuating that he was complicit in the domestic case involving Velie’s grandchildren. However, none of the assertions could be independently verified and CalCoastNews has repeatedly refused to provide evidence for independent review.

CalCoastNews has repeatedly glorified their troubles involving CAPSLO as part of their “Keeping Them Homeless” series and sought donations for their reporting. The website has struggled for credibility and readership after The ROCK and New Times uncovered irregularities, exaggerations and falsehoods in their reporting. CalCoastNews has been the subject of a handful of defamation lawsuits by subjects of their investigations. Despite growing criticism from the community, KVEC 92.0 radio host and former CalCoastNews Contributing Editor Dave Congalton has promoted the site extensively. Callers, who are critical of CalCoastNews’ reporting, have been screened and disconnected from his show. Likewise, CalCoastNews has repeatedly eliminated sharply worded and thorough dissent from their website. Despite their repeated claim that the media has refused to cover their exclusives, CalCoastNews’ reporters have consistently refused to cooperate with local media sources and offer more details into their bombshell claims. CalCoastNews was supplied corrections and demands for retractions, but they refused to update and modify their stories for accuracy and clarity.

CalCoastNews is no stranger to using children as a conduit for their reporting. Earlier this year, CalCoastNews and Velie revealed the names of Torres’ children as it pertained to their reporting of a domestic violence dispute between Torres and her ex-partner Ralph Almirol. At the time initial reports of the domestic despite between Torres and Almirol were published, CalCoastNews’ Editor Bill Loving told Congalton that he would depose Torres’ children to testify should there be a criminal investigation into Torres allegedly stealing gift cards that were donated to homeless services. The ROCK learned that Almirol, who was previously arrested for assaulting Torres, was using CalCoastNews as a way to regain custody of the daughter he had with her, and that CalCoastNews was aware of that tactic. CalCoastNews initially refused to disclose Almirol’s criminal background.

CalCoastNews was also involved in dispute between former Los Osos Community Services Director Maria Kelly and her ex-husband Shaun Kelly. Mr. Kelly approached CalCoastNews with allegations involving his children’s alleged drug use in hopes that he would gain full custody of his children. CalCoastNews published the accusations that portrayed the children as drug users; that their drug usage was enabled by Kelly’s boyfriend, SLO County Public Works Director Paavo Ogren. Though they vowed to continue their investigation into the accusations, CalCoastNews never revisited them.

Throughout their investigations, CalCoastNews has been largely unsuccessful in verifying their accusations, even though they claim independent investigations by state and federal agencies were launched because of their reporting. Despite their shortfalls, CalCoastNews continues to rally their anonymous, bombastic fanbase and launch repeated attempts to elevate themselves in the minds of socially and politically minded residents.

CalCoastNews e-mails their articles to thousands of local readers. Readers regularly comment on CalCoastNews, issuing anonymously penned threats against the targets. As a result of their reporting, CalCoastNews has incited threats of violence and intimidation against critics and targets alike. The site has created a factional environment in San Luis Obispo County, dividing residents between the libertarian-minded, anti-corruption crusaders and weary local officials whose lives and reputations are turned upside down.