EXTREME JEOPARDY

That’s the dire situation the County finds itself in as supervisor candidate Lynn Compton borrows from the Tea Party playbook in her manic attempt to unseat incumbent Caren Ray in the 4th district race that could tilt the balance of power on the SLO Board of Supervisors to the extreme right.

Lynn Compton
Lynn Compton

By AARON OCHS and ED OCHS

District 4 Supervisor candidate Lynn Compton embraces the midterm election madness that has consumed the country from coast to coast. Like the federal midterm races, elements of extremism have permeated an already heated political climate on a local level. Voices of extremism—which the voter majority has traditionally dismissed as fringe—now reverberate the loudest in District 4. With Compton’s brash and aggressive tactics in tow, the far right is waging war against the moderate Democrat voter majority with the intent to reshape the board and the direction of the county.

Deploying extreme tactics to win elections is nothing new in national or local politics, but the rise of extremism in county politics has reached new and alarming levels in the past several years. Nowhere is that extremism more evident than in the crucial District 4 Supervisor race—representing Arroyo Grande, Nipomo and Oceano—between newcomer, agri-businesswoman Compton and Gov. Brown-appointed incumbent, Caren Ray.

The County faces challenging issues like the drought, dwindling water supplies, oil companies seeking increased access by rail, drilling and fracking, and the current and future needs of SLO’s large homeless population. There’s a lot at stake for county taxpayers. Yet a burgeoning network of extremists have joined forces to assist Compton while, at the same time, undermining the clear severity of local issues.

Gov. Brown did Ray no great favor when he appointed her to fill the seat on the County Board of Supervisors. The seat was vacated by the untimely death of popular conservative Republican Paul Teixeira, but he knew what he was doing.

Ray, a registered Democrat, served as councilwoman for the city of Arroyo Grande from 2010 to 2013 and had been a modern world history teacher at Santa Maria High School since 2007. Before her tenure as councilwoman, Ray served on the Arroyo Grande Planning Commission from 2005 to 2010. Ray was vocal in extending the emergency ordinance in Paso Robles, which prevented further planting of vineyards in the Paso Robles groundwater basin. Before she was appointed, the Board of Supervisors were deadlocked, failing to obtain the four vote majority required for a moratorium extension. Since the drought began to adversely impact the entire state, Gov. Brown has supported local water conservation measures. Brown recognized the record-setting depletion of the Paso Robles groundwater basin, as evidenced by signing Assembly Bill 2453 into law. Authored by conservative Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, AB 2453 was designed to establish the governance structure and authority of a water district in Paso Robles. The district would be responsible for managing the basin and taking proactive measures to conserve water.

Compton, who has sided with forces to oppose long-term management of the Paso Robles groundwater basin, wasted no time jumping into campaign mode. Just two days after Ray was officially sworn in, Compton held her kick-off party in Nipomo. Compton told news sources that she had every intention to enter the race after she sought the governor’s appointment. Compton told reporters that she waited to announce her candidacy in respect to Teixeira’s family.

Despite seeking the appointment, Compton later dismissed any legitimacy associated with the appointment process. Compton told the New Times’ Jono Kinkade, “It should be the people that decide, not the governor, with no disrespect to the governor.”

Three months after Gov. Brown selected Ray over Compton, Compton launched her campaign on that basis alone, without any platform, and that non-platform has continued to consist largely of charges, irrelevancies, assumptions and suppositions. Her often-stated support for property rights, less government, fewer taxes, and her abhorrence of rules and regulations that she claims cripple small businesses is eerily reminiscent of Tea Party strategies. Compton has not officially declared herself a Tea Party candidate. Despite resonating strongly in the national polls during the 2010 midterm elections, Tea Party relevance within the political landscape has sharply diminished. Any admission of toting Tea Party principles could risk offending some voters who might otherwise vote for her if they didn’t know her hard right-leaning bent.

Network of Supporters

Like a comet, Compton’s basically burst of nowhere, and she would probably prefer it stay that way at least until Election Day, but one look at the Compton campaign and who’s endorsing her raises a row of red flags on her candidacy.

The Republican Party chose Compton early on and threw their weight behind her as a viable candidate, which the successful businesswoman and attractive mother of two surely is; however, this isn’t your father’s Republican Party. Despite Compton using the Reagan namesake to tout her conservative values, the party she belongs to has swung to the right of her presidential icon. Though Ronald Reagan’s adopted son Michael Reagan keynoted a Compton fundraiser in February, the Republican Party of 2014 has veered so far to the right that if Ronald Reagan was president today, he’d been thrown out for raising taxes more than 10 times. During his presidency, Reagan also raised the debt ceiling 18 times.

Compton’s supporters display a long list of conspiracy theorists, right-wing extremists and thinly-veiled corporate interests. Hiding behind her many contributors, Compton is safely tucked in the back pocket of the current Republican establishment as they seize this golden opportunity to get control of the powerful Board of Supervisors, which, as they see it, the left has controlled too long. Though the late Teixeira tended to vote independently, it is doubtful that Compton, who often invokes Teixeira’s name to appeal to his voters, will do the same given her heavily partisan campaign pulled from the pages of the Tea Party playbook.

Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising public support for Compton comes from a handful of political lobbies clearly on the lunatic fringe, including Agenda 21 conspiracy theorists.

The “Agenda 21” conspiracy group, whose members believe that liberals are working with the United Nations to take away their property rights and personal liberties, preach weekly at Board of Supervisors meetings.

Agenda 21 conspiracy theorists, such as San Luis Obispo resident Laura Mordaunt, have sharply criticized District 2 Supervisor Bruce Gibson and District 3 Supervisor Adam Hill for allegedly bargaining with the United Nations to erode the rights and liberties of citizens. Mordaunt referred to the alleged attempt of subversion by Democrats on the board as “domestic terrorism” on March 6, 2013. Local residents attending South County events have witnessed Mordaunt and other Compton supporters—donning Compton t-shirts—videotaping known Ray supporters and following them in their cars. Residents have informed law enforcement. Mordaunt’s videos, photos and letters to the editor are prominently featured on Compton’s website.

Mordaunt is not the only Agenda 21 conspiracy theorist to be featured by Compton’s campaign.

Former Republican congresswoman and Compton supporter Andrea Seastrand has appeared before the Board of Supervisors to criticize the supervisors on several occasions. Last year, Seastrand accused supervisors of being complicit in a conspiracy to keep CalCoastNews co-publisher Karen Velie’s grandchildren in foster care as retaliation for the site’s investigative reporting. In September, Seastrand criticized Ray for voting to “weaken” Proposition 13. On February 11, four of the supervisors—with the noted exception of District 5 Supervisor Debbie Arnold—noted to approve their legislative platform. A portion of the platform sought a sales tax increase in SLO County’s unincorporated areas. Compton supporters point to a portion of the platform which reads, “Should a Constitutional amendment be proposed for the 2014 ballot that would authorize local agencies to raise taxes with a 55% approval threshold [instead of a two-thirds majority vote, as required by Proposition 13], seek inclusion in that amendment for counties to raise a tax in the unincorporated area only.” However, the platform merely anticipated a potential challenge to Prohibition 13, and offered to only advocate for an increase of tax in the unincorporated area. There was no endorsement, implied or otherwise, to “weaken” Proposition 13.

Additionally, Seastrand and the Compton campaign erroneously claimed that Ray and supervisors voted to increase sales tax in unincorporated areas. Compton wrongly concluded that the approved platform would place “a hit on property taxes,” when the portion dealt solely with sales tax. The platform stated nothing about weakening Proposition 13 homeowner protections statewide, as Seastrand and Compton supporters have claimed.

Despite Compton clearly misunderstanding the verbiage of the legislative platform, property rights advocates Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association rushed to endorse her and her interpretation. Ironically, the HJTA, a right-wing lobby, supported a significant modification to the Proposition 218 assessment for the Los Osos wastewater project in 2007. Traditionally, the HJTA supported Prop 218 property tax assessments that were approved by a two-thirds majority. Instead, the HJTA worked with then-Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee to undermine the two-thirds vote by allowing only a select group of homeowners to approve a tax that arguably benefited the entire community of Los Osos. The assessment was ultimately approved under duress by homeowners by a significant margin, although the margin touted by the County was embellished.

Claims that Ray sought to weaken Proposition 13 were echoed exclusively on controversial tabloid website CalCoastNews.

The website has echoed claims about Ray since she became a councilwoman for Arroyo Grande in 2010. The website accused her of having a “harried, secret life” as a former member of the SLO Hash House Harriers, a local chapter of an international running club. The story originated from CalCoastNews contributor Kevin P. Rice, who previously ran an unsuccessful campaign for a seat on the San Luis Obispo City Council. Rice, a vocal, sometimes inflammatory supporter of Compton’s campaign, was assigned by CalCoastNews to track Ray’s movements. In July 2013, Rice was seen taking photos of Ray as she met with Supervisor Hill at a coffee shop in San Luis Obispo. In an email dated July 26, 2013, Supervisor Hill told the Grover Beach City Council that Rice had “stalked” him throughout the morning of July 23. Rice denied the claims. Mired with stalking accusations from Hill and supporters of Oceano Dunes dust regulations, Rice has continued his one-sided campaign of sandbagging Ray on a myriad of issues on CalCoastNews, though he’s received ample criticism for being obsessed with the supervisor at the expense of the facts.

CalCoastNews boasts a heavy right-wing presence, featuring fringe personalities like Rice while shamelessly publishing right-wing propaganda and failing to disclose their affiliations to Tea Party groups. CalCoastNews and writer Josh Friedman have promoted their work within the North County Tea Party. Acting as a conduit for Tea Party principles and ideologies, the site has attacked Democrats such as supervisors Hill, Gibson and Ray under the guise of investigative journalism. However, the site has mostly deferred to unsubstantiated allegations from anonymous sources.

The site has sharply criticized and targeted supporters of Ray while publishing a series of misleading articles about her.

Supporters contend that CalCoastNews’ Karen Velie personally threatened to expose Ray supporters over stealing campaign signs without offering any evidence to back her claims. Shortly after filing with the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) against the Compton campaign on May 20, Ray supporter Ed Eby received a call from Velie, who told Eby that she had photos, implicating him in theft of Compton yard signs. Eby recalled the phone conversation with Velie. “Since I have never touched a Compton sign, I demanded she show me the photos,” Eby wrote on CalCoastNews on June 2. “She then backed off and said the photos didn’t clearly show they were Compton signs. Of course not. It didn’t happen.”

Velie has reportedly harassed other Ray supporters, accusing them of sign thievery: a common theme on CalCoastNews. But when supporters demanded to know where she heard the accusations from, Velie replied, “Compton told me.”

Another related supporter of Compton in this dubious network is the Arroyo Grande Police Officers Association, which is part of the ongoing independent investigation involving Arroyo Grande City Manager Steve Adams and Community Development Director Teresa McClish. The Association, whose role in the investigation and credibility have been questioned as a result of their adversarial relationship with Adams during heated contract negotiations with the city, has collaborated with CalCoastNews to help force Adams’ termination, unseat AG Mayor Tony Ferrara in the coming election, and replace him with a write-in candidate that the website is also promoting. Adams was forced to resign amid a string of allegations, although he denied any sexual misconduct took place in the late-night encounter with police in City Hall—as promoted but, as usual, unsubstantiated by CalCoastNews.

Compton will not be alone philosophically if she wins the seat. Supervisor Debbie Arnold, a sister property rights advocate from North County, voted consistently against a Paso Robles Water District. Compton has drawn considerable financial support from North County vineyard owners such as Cindy Steinbeck of Steinbeck Vineyards, who is leading the lawsuit against the county and any sort of groundwater management in North County, plus another suit to try to stop the urgency ordinance, and Steinbeck expects Compton to fight recently-enacted legislation establishing the district, which will attempt to equitably regulate how much water is allotted to vineyard operators, property owners and businesses. Vintners have a huge interest in controlling the Board of Supervisors and avoiding water regulation of any kind. Arnold has aligned with Compton, while fellow Republican supervisor Frank Mecham has for the most part stayed neutral on crucial water issues.

In an interesting regional angle with a national footnote, Kevin McCarthy, the new majority whip in the House of Representatives, representing District 23—Bakersfield, Kern and Tulare in the Central Valley—has donated $1,000 to Compton’s campaign. Why? Because this election is all about taking over the BOS, and Compton fits the GOP’s current right-wing leadership profile.

Other large contributors reflect Compton’s array of reactionary supporters. H.D. Perrett, who tried to secede from the county, to be annexed by Santa Barbara so he could develop his land—which would have been a huge loss of tax dollars both for the county and the schools—has contributed $5,000. Etta Watterfield, a Tea Party conservative who ran against Katcho Achadjian for Assembly, and attacked him in the same way Compton has attacked Ray, especially on Proposition 13, a Howard Jarvis/Republican protectorate, has along with her husband contributed well over $10,000. The conservative Lincoln Club kicked in $5,000. Wing luminaries Matt Kokkonen, Ed Waage and Jeanne Helphenstine have also chipped in. The Republican Party has dropped $16,000 on her, but her biggest contributor so far has been Lynn Compton, propping up her campaign with over $42,000 in loans to herself, in addition to tens of thousands in in-kind donations, after having earlier failed to report the campaign expense of painting cars and trucks in her business fleet with her image, and spending $20,000 on deceptive “slate mailers” to every home in the district. This fiscal conservative has over-spent and gone into debt in her campaign to win the seat at any cost, outspending Ray in a landslide.

The Manchurian Candidate

While Compton enjoys legitimate support in the rural, unincorporated areas of the 4th district and in hardcore Republican circles, sooner or later she must face the fact that some of her supporters represent the most radical elements in the county and will hurt any attempt by her to build consensus on the board. So far, however, Compton shows no interest in consensus building. Her arrogance, combative style of non-diplomacy and Tea Party roots ensure she will only be the candidate for some of the people, sharing none of Ray’s crossover appeal to the broader community.

Unlike Ray, an experienced community leader, Compton has never served in the community on any level. She has made an appearance at the Board of Supervisors a few times for public comment and left before the board deliberated or voted. To fill the void, Compton has resorted to anger—anger that Gov. Brown didn’t have the decency to replace a Republican with a Republican, but instead chose a moderate Democrat; anger at Ray for usurping that seat, for her voting record and for taking donations from developers; anger mirrored and fomented at every turn by CalCoastNews to drive their feverish hate campaigns against Ray, Hill, Gibson, Torres, Ferrara, and other politicians, public figures, allies or family that get in the way of their extreme right-wing political agenda whose face is now Lynn Compton.

Backed by a coterie of right-wing extremists, Compton makes a compelling candidate for her base and presents a nice front. Attractive, well-spoken, assertive, Compton basically burst of nowhere, from the private sector, and that works well for her. She has no record, no government service and, apart from her own business and corporate life, no real leadership experience. At the same time, she is curiously robotic, as if she’s a contestant on “Jeopardy,” rather than a candidate for higher office. At least Sarah Palin was the Mayor of Wasilla before becoming Governor. And like Palin, what she believes—and doesn’t believe, like climate change, solar energy and air control—disqualify her from office. She has stated that SLO needs to loosen land-use policies to be more like Bakersfield, and that the problem in Oceano was “the Hispanics, and all the problems that go with that”—comments that are inherently dangerous to the advancement of serious public debate on issues vitally important to the future of the district, county and country.

Because she is “fresh out of Compton” with no track record to critique, voters know little about her closely-held views other than what’s in the neatly-scrubbed sketch offered on her website. However, each day more people discover that Compton’s business, Valley Farm Supply Inc., as homey as it sounds, is actually a wholesaler of environmentally dangerous pesticides and fertilizers, that she’s worked for pharmaceutical giants Monsanto, Pfizer and Merck, and is owned by Big Ag, Big Oil and Big Chemical, which is why she’s against water-protection regulations and ambiguous about her support for the Phillip 66 rail project in Nipomo. And more people are realizing that she’s not looking out for the little guy, no matter what she claims in her bitter, belligerent effort to win. The real question is, given her Manchurian candidacy, lack of substance and well-armed attack campaign, given what’s at stake in gallons of water lost and budgets for vital services slashed, how concerned should the taxpayers of the 4th district and the county be if Compton and her supporters get hold of the BOS?

Compton has a brief video on her website:

It announces: “In the life of every winner… There comes a moment of truth… Heroes will rise… Stars will fall… Let’s win one for the Gipper with Lynn.”

If stars fall when this hero rises, they should be very concerned.

#

 

'Torn Fabric'

During ex parte comments by commissioners at the June 11 Coastal Commission hearing in Marina del Rey — which resulted in a Coastal Development Permit unanimously granted to the Los Osos Wastewater Project — Commissioner Mary Shallenberger disclosed that the day before the hearing she had met with San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Gibson, County Counsels Jensen and McNulty, and County Public Works Director Ogren.

During ex parte comments by commissioners at the June 11 Coastal Commission hearing in Marina del Rey — which resulted in a Coastal Development Permit unanimously granted to the Los Osos Wastewater Project — Commissioner Mary Shallenberger disclosed that the day before the hearing she had met with San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Gibson, County Counsels Jensen and McNulty, and County Public Works Director Ogren.

She said in part:

“We ended on a discussion about costs where they said that they had brought the project costs as low as they possibly could, including some very low-interest loans. Supervisor Gibson said he worried that the civil fabric, as he put it, has been pulled apart in the community and that he is committed to healing this as they go forward, and talking even perhaps (about) getting some crews together to actually dig sewer lines into houses with people who couldn’t afford to do it themselves.”

Do you honestly believe Supervisor Gibson loses sleep over the torn “civil fabric” in Los Osos? If he was really worried about it he would have given Los Osos a less expensive project, like he promised, but, no, he couldn’t do that. It had to be the most expensive or bust. Vacuum collection didn’t vacuum the town of homeowners like gravity will, and while STEP is cheaper it doesn’t displace enough homeowners. Only MWH gravity could do the big cleansing job the County wanted done.

As with George Bush and Iraq, Gibson can’t heal what he broke in Los Osos. Someone else will have to do that. After all, it was Gibson who pulled apart the “civil fabric” in Los Osos, and he clearly doesn’t know how to fix it. Remember the disrespect he heaped on Retired Judge Martha Goldin, seawater intrusion analyst Keith Wimer, and Los Osos public commenters, in general, who tried and failed to make their points with him? The doctor with no bedside manner is a former geophysicist who once worked for big oil. The scientist willing to sacrifice so many to build a sewer is clinically disconnected from true human values and can’t be trusted. He has proven this again and again.

So what makes him even think or imagine he can heal this open wound when on April 7, 2009, he broke his Prop 218 promise to voters and unilaterally dropped STEP collection and with it any alternative to far more expensive gravity collection — 70% of the cost of the project – simply because his favored technology couldn’t stand up to a very basic apples-to-apples cost-competition with cheaper STEP, or any other much-cheaper alternative technology? So it had to go, and with it the last and only chance for affordability. STEP was never in the picture, except for a cameo death scene near the end, and Gibson knows that better than anyone because he co-wrote the script.

How can Gibson, the sewer dealer, heal the 4,500 selected homeowners in the low-lying “Prohibition Zone” – but not in the wealthy highlands of Cabrillo Estates – to pay $300 to $400 a month for a $200 million sewer to fix a discredited “nitrate level” issue that will take 30 or 40 years to show any difference, if ever? As far as addressing the seawater intrusion crisis in the endangered Los Osos water basin, Wimer called the County’s project “worthless.”

So what exactly is one to make of Gibson’s heart-rending plan of “getting some crews together” to help poor homeowners in Los Osos, volunteers to dig laterals for hook-ups to his outrageously unaffordable sewer project? Step up to the mike and cut to the chase, Supervisor: Who saves and how much?

Until he offers real details it’s appears he is merely talking his way around the perimeter of yet another ill-conceived, ill-timed government pork project that will wipe out thousands at a low point in the collapsed economy. Apparently, a pipedigger’s dream is all he has to sell to a desperate community at this point, because he has no answers to the lethal trap he’s sprung, a trap built with no way out. To offer such a weak, shallow suggestion is worse than saying nothing at all. Of course, Gibson and Ogren were feeding the company line to willing Coastal Commissioner Shallenberger, and she was passing it along to us, the audience, as ex parte communications. There was a purpose to it all.

So what are you going to do now, Supervisor Gibson, continue to play politics with the lives of thousands, just like you’ve always done, or put a big chunk of those federal stimulus dollars directly into the bank accounts of PZ homeowners to help them pay what will be the biggest sewer bill in the U.S.? Everything else is just talk, and Los Ososans now know firsthand exactly how much your promises are worth.

From his fruited perch in the rolling hills of rural Cayucos, miles from the epicenter of human devastation in Los Osos, far from the pickup trucks and U-hauls, the bully behind the big sewer practically no one can afford now wants to play healer.

You’ve sure got a lot of nerve, Supervisor Gibson, I’ll grant you that.

— Ed Ochs 

The Benefits of the Decentralized Option

How a Decentralized Wastewater Treatment System for Los Osos offers more for less and solves the water supply problem

By PIO LOMBARDO

The Decentralized Wastewater Management Option for Los Osos would consist of a number of communal neighborhood systems serving all existing developed properties and build-out by complete wastewater collection, treatment and dispersal systems.
    
The number of communal/neighborhood systems is to be determined. Each system would serve different neighborhoods that could be represented by a homeowners association or the CSD. It is not unreasonable, nor does it cause management difficulties, for there to be 25+/- neighborhood systems.
    
The Decentralized Wastewater Management Option would produce reusable water complying with CA Title 22 standards for unrestricted water reuse. Use of the untreated wastewater for residential landscape irrigation—which represents approximately 50% of the Los Osos water use—would solve the water supply imbalance in Los Osos that has caused saltwater intrusion and thereby endangering the community’s groundwater water supply, as well as reducing in half on average, Los Ososean’s water supply costs. No other proposed wastewater solution meets the necessary performance criteria to restore the community’s water supply.
    
The Decentralized Wastewater Option would consist of a number of communal wastewater systems that would total the wastewater design flow of 1.2+/- MGD. Each communal system would consist of the following components:

Collection

– Septic Tank Effluent Collection System – maximizing the use of gravity (i.e. STEG) and using pumps (STEP) when necessary. Placing STEPs everywhere is an unnecessary expense and energy use.

– House Connection – all work associated with connecting an existing house’s septic system to the communal/neighborhood system is included. There are no additional costs to be borne by the homeowner.

Treatment

– Recirculating Media Filters for Advanced Secondary Treatment
– NitrexTM system for nitrogen removal – which could have emergent wetlands if desired
– isinfection with UV-Ozone that additionally treats for the emerging contaminants

Reuse/Dispersal

– Primarily by returning the treated wastewater to the individual properties generating wastewater, for drip/landscape irrigation. Additional drainfields would be provided for “excess” treated effluent that is not disposed of via drip irrigation to individual wastewater generating properties. Drip irrigation is a year-round activity and not subject to seasonal issues associated with surface land application, i.e. spray irrigation as proposed by others. Connection between communal systems for effluent reuse/dispersal would occur to address wastewater production-reuse/dispersal imbalances in communal areas.

Siting

Sufficient undeveloped land exists throughout the community to site the needed communal wastewater treatment facilities. At each of the communal treatment sites, virtually all wastewater treatment facilities would be below ground. With appropriate landscaping, the communal systems could be an open space amenity in the community and/or sites for solar collectors to reduce energy costs.

Operation & Maintenance

Operation and maintenance of the communal wastewater systems is simple, requiring little operator attention. Current comparable facilities operate with monthly visits. Monitoring requirements will require simple sampling. Electrical needs are predominately to operate small pumps that operate intermittently. No chemicals are needed. There is little sludge production in the treatment system. Odor issues are mitigated as there is no sludge processing and natural passive soil filters are used for purifying air venting of treatment processes.  

Benefits of the Decentralized Option:
1. Cost competitive – less costly
    Some centralized wastewater systems costs are eliminated or traded for more productive/valued uses, such as:
a. Elimination of force main to treatment plant
b. Dispersal system and land costs are traded for a water reuse/drip irrigation system that lowers property owners’ water supply costs by 50% +/- on average. This feature should also increase property values.
c. Eliminates the saltwater intrusion problem and restores the sustainability of the community’s water supply. It is noted that landscape irrigation is 50% of water use in Los Osos, and is the major cause of saltwater intrusion.
d. Eliminates centralized sludge treatment, usually a major source of odors and costs. Sludge generated will be predominately septage (septic tank pumping), which can be treated by simple subsurface land application or disposal at an existing centralized wastewater treatment facility.
e. Using the unit costs in the Los Osos Wastewater Project Viable Project Alternatives Fine Screening Analysis (FSA) and our experience for items not included in the FSA, the Decentralized Wastewater Option is cost competitive with the centralized options and with the reuse component, provides more for less.
f. GUARANTEED PRICE – the capital and annual operation costs will be guaranteed
2. Implementation Speed – the communal system modularity enables the project to be easily segmented and the individual communal systems can be implemented quickly.  
3. Environmental Benefits
a. Low energy use – low carbon footprint with use of solar collectors possible
b. No chemicals needed
c. Working within existing developed area, thereby eliminating impacts on new sites
d. Treated wastewater must be re-used for landscape irrigation for a sustainable community. The decentralized option is the only solution proposing this approach.
e. Treats emerging contaminants
4. Technical Issues
a. Gravity septic tank effluent collection systems do not have the infiltration problems of conventional systems.
b. Treatment processes are all low-energy use systems.
5. Financing
a. Private financing is available
6. Affordability
a. The decentralized option addresses both wastewater and supply issues and thereby eliminates unknown future costs associated with addressing the water supply salt water intrusion problem.
b. Reduces water supply costs by 50%. Consequently, future water supply escalation costs will not be as severe. Also, the value of reuse increases as water supply costs increase.
c. Least cost option for capital and annual Operation & Maintenance costs. Due to low energy use, no chemicals and simple operations, impacts of future inflation are reduced.
7. Groundwater Recharge/Reuse
a. The decentralized option is the only option that solves water supply imbalance at no additional cost.
8. Sustainability
a. Uses passive low-energy system
b. Avoids unnecessary pumping with out of town facility and unnecessary STEP units
c. Restores community’s water supply

Pio Lombardo is President of Lombardo Associates, Inc. of Malibu, Calif., and Boston, Mass., has completed a system in Malibu identical to what he is proposing for Los Osos, has been the Engineer of Record for $200+ million of innovative wastewater systems a number of which have involved installation of septic tank effluent collection systems in existing communities and design build-build-finance-operate, receiving engineering excellence awards, is the author of numerous USEPA Manuals on “Innovative Wastewater Management” and is a nationally recognized expert on decentralized wastewater systems. He has 35 years experience in decentralized wastewater management and his decentralized proposal for Los Osos is up for consideration by the County as a candidate for the Los Osos project. He can be reached at 866-964-2924, at Pio@LombardoAssociates.com, or through www.LombardoAssociates.com.

Well Schooled on Los Osos

A Cal Poly Environmental Engineering student’s unique eye-view of the Great Sewer Debate

 

A Cal Poly Environmental Engineering student’s unique eye-view of the Great Sewer Debate

 

By D. CAMERON RIPLEY

As a student, I have the luxury of reading wastewater engineering textbooks and using them as sound and conservative engineering information without allowing politics to influence the outcome. In commenting on the Los Osos wastewater treatment dilemma, I want to focus on the facts.
    In March 2007, the latest textbook on water reuse issues, technologies, and applications was released. The title of the textbook is “Water Reuse.” Dana Ripley’s design (STEP collection/treatment/storage/reuse) for a wastewater treatment system for housing developments and small communities is published in the textbook, the same design he is proposing for Los Osos. 
    The collection systems portion of the book describes gravity collection as having a high installation cost and “issues with nonwatertight joints and damaged sections result in potentially high volumes of inflow and infiltration, or exfiltration…which may result in groundwater or surface water contamination.” In the same paragraph, it comments on STEP collection by saying “flexible plastic piping is much less likely to leak…and can be installed easily by directional drilling that results in minimal disturbance to property and roads.”
    “Water Reuse” was authored by the top wastewater professionals in the world, including Prof. George Tchobanoglous. “Water Reuse” is considered the bible for wastewater management systems by engineers and will be a valuable textbook for undergraduate and graduate students in the field of environmental engineering. 
    Also cited numerous times in “Water Reuse” is Bahman Sheikh, a consultant on the Ripley Pacific Team, who is world renowned as a water reuse specialist. Dr. Sheikh was the lead in the first large-scale study designed to investigate the health risks and other effects of irrigation with reclaimed water on food crops that included raw-eaten vegetables. The study was conducted in Monterey County, which is under the same RWQCB jurisdiction as Los Osos. Similar to Los Osos, Monterey County’s intensive groundwater withdrawal resulted in depletion of groundwater levels and seawater intrusion. Dr. Sheikh’s research work for the Monterey Regional Water Pollution Control Agency is considered a milestone for water reuse projects and studies.
    In the textbook, “Small and Decentralized Wastewater Management Systems,” also co-authored by Prof. Tchobanoglous, gravity collection is regarded as an obsolete technology in the “not-so-distant future.”  The textbook was published nine years ago.  The name “gravity collection” creates a large popular misconception that the collection system is all gravity under all conditions. Gravity collection, especially in topographic conditions similar to those in Los Osos, requires lift stations that have pumps lifting sewage to a high point and then gravity feeding it to a lower point in elevation. This process is expected to be repeated about 20 times in Los Osos, if gravity collection is finally selected. These lift stations are extremely energy-intensive compared to the many small pumps used in STEP collection.
    At the Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibition Conference (WEFTEC) in October 2006, Metcalf & Eddy Inc. engineers presented their evaluation document on membrane bioreactor (MBR) technology. The title of the evaluation is “Energy Usage & Control at a MBR Facility.” The engineers consider MBR treatment use on facilities of 15 mgd and more. The community of Los Osos requires a treatment facility suited for 1 mgd. The evaluation continued to say, “as utility agencies consider MBR treatment, they may tend to overlook its high energy requirements for its obvious benefits. MBR facilities require a high commitment of energy, and are often the most energy-intensive biological treatment process.”
    Broderson leach fields continue to be a topic of discussion for the TAC meetings I attend. The vendor intending to manufacture the plastic chambers for the Broderson leach field did so for another community in Wyoming with about the same size effluent disposal site. According to the vendor, the basic footprint is the same for both. Different soil characteristics change the way plastic chambers are installed, within a limited range of the application flow rates. So, the same amount of treated effluent would be applied to about the same effective width and length of soil area. Under design specifications, the vendor cited the flow rate as 45,000 gpd for the Wyoming leach field. The Tri-W/MBR/Broderson design intended 810,000 gpd. Even at half the flow, 405,000 gpd far exceeds what is specified. The Broderson design relied on an unrealistically high infiltration rate due to the use of the 1981, “EPA Process Design Manual for Land Treatment of Municipal Wastewater.” The EPA 1980 or EPA 2002 manuals for application rate determinations for either leach fields or infiltrator chambers are the necessary manuals required to assess the proper infiltration rate.
    There were more, other than those stated above, practical reasons for why the Tri-W project was halted. There were major engineering errors in the design of the system. Just to name a few; it did not account for a reverse osmosis component required to meet discharge requirements (DHS, Title 22), it did not account for cement in construction costs, and the final project report was not stamped by a licensed engineer.
    I cannot speak on behalf of Los Osos citizens for the last 30 years, but I can for the last five. My experience with Los Osos citizens has been intriguing. They are a knowledgeable and well-educated community that deserves an affordable and sustainable wastewater treatment system.

 

Sewer Scam!

How did Los Osos get here from there, from a shimmering vision of ponds to the oncoming locomotive of an industrial-strength centralized sewer, the most expensive per capita in US history?

How did Los Osos get here from there, from a shimmering vision of ponds to the oncoming locomotive of an industrial-strength centralized sewer, the most expensive per capita in US history?

Ever since the CSD opened in January 1999, Los Osos has been embroiled in a conflict filled with confusion and turmoil. Here is one view of some the key events and facts that led Los Osos to the County takeover in January 2007 and to the brink of the Prop 218 vote designed to lead to a “mandated” centralized gravity collection sewer. This chronology is not meant to be comprehensive, but it is still important that Los Osos residents and the County, for that matter, gain a deeper understanding what has happened—and still is happening—in Los Osos, and why.

In 1975 the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (CCRWQCB) created the Central Coast Basin Plan. It contained a number of observations and suggestions to help assure a safe, healthy water basin for Los Osos.

Included in the Plan:1) Conduct a survey of the entire Los Osos groundwater basin, 2) Determine high ground water levels that need to be pumped down and do so, 3) Survey all on-site sewer systems (septic tanks) in Los Osos to determine which units are sound, which require repairs and which require replacement, 4) Create an On-Site Sewer Maintenance Ordinance, 5) Determine if and where Cluster Plants are necessary and install them.

The County never followed through. Instead, they quietly began to move towards a central sewer. In 1982 they contracted the engineering firm Brown & Caldwell to install temporary groundwater monitoring wells at various locations in Los Osos. These wells had a legal life span of approximately one year or less.

On August 17, 1982, Brown & Caldwell issued their Preliminary Study Conclusions to the County Engineering Department: 1) No coliform found (no human bacteria.) 2) “…no apparent distinction between the character of groundwater from shallow versus deep wells.” 3) “Groundwater samples do NOT show characteristics attributable to seawater.” 4) “Groundwater samples, even those containing high nitrate concentrations, DO NOT exhibit chemical characteristics attributable to septic tank effluent…TDS and nitrates alone are NOT sufficient to link groundwater degradation with septic tanks.” 5) “We have NOT yet been able to establish the source of the high nitrate concentrations…we have NOT been able to link high nitrate with septic tank effluent.”

The County-ordered study of the Los Osos groundwater showed that there was NO evidence of nitrate contamination from our on-site sewer systems, yet they continued to say we needed a central sewer.

In 1983, the RWQCB issued Resolution 83-12 that state (“WHEREAS”): “The Regional Board recognizes increased difficulties in financing and affording major public works systems, such as sewage collection, transport, treatment and disposal projects; and (“WHEREAS”): properly planned and installed individual on-site sewage disposal systems can provide satisfactory wastewater treatment and disposal at a minimal cost; and, community on-site sewage disposal; and (“WHEREAS”): guidelines are needed for community on-site sewage disposal systems.”

Then on the same day the RWQCB issued Resolution 83-13 that said a selected area of Los Osos to be known as the Prohibition Zone (PZ) had to stop using their on-site sewers by 1988. The PZ boundaries were drawn by a RWQCB member, George Rathmill, who lived in Cabrillo Estates. Cabrillo Estates and Bay View Heights were excluded. Resolution 83-13 opened the door to the Prohibition Zone and what would follow.

The fact that the PZ was created without any proper science made no difference to the RWQCB, the County and eventually to the original CSD. There was an agenda and it didn’t have anything to do with our water, our on-site sewers (septics) or a safe future for Los Osos.

The fact that our on-site sewers were NOT polluting was even acknowledged by RWCQB executive director Roger Briggs in a December 14, 1984 internal memo to his then superiors, B. Leonard and K. Jones. Briggs states, “Groundwater analysis in Tables 2 & 3 do NOT indicate human bacterial contamination except in poorly constructed monitoring wells…Frank (DeMarco) inspected these wells last week with Percy (Garcia) and agrees there is a potential for contamination from surface runoff.”

Note: These wells were illegal by the time this memo was written. Under the law, the RWQCB was “mandated” to have the County seal them in concrete or bring them up to California Water Well Standards. They did nothing. Each day they remained open was a felony.

Despite a building moratorium to protect the water quality and supply, the County and RWQCB allowed over 1,140 homes to be built in the PZ, permitting those homes that actually created the density the RWQCB would later use to issue CDOs to homeowners for not building a sewer on schedule. At the same time, the construction blatantly violated the discharge prohibition to control pollution. The new construction created 25% more homes in the PZ. The reason for building those homes? To generate more property tax revenues to pay for a big centralized plant—to control pollution.

In 1990 the County began to quietly inch closer to a central sewer in Los Osos without seeking the consent of 51% (or more) of Los Osos voters as prescribed by California Water Codes 22170-22175. This Code makes it clear that the community being affected must be asked if it even wants a central sewer. We were never asked.

In 1992, the County quietly applied for an SRF Loan for $47 million dollars and received “tentative approval.” They did this in violation of California Water Code 13416 that requires a 51% voter approval to enter into an SRF Construction Loan with the State Water Board. This was never done.

In 1993 the County established the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) and hired Black & Veatch to conduct a groundwater study. Black & Veatch Waste Scientific & Technology Corporation was sub-contracted.

In a September 20, 1993 letter from Black & Veatch to Percy Garcia, Water Quality Manager for SLO, they stated the following: “Approximately 98% of the nitrogen detected in the soil is immobile organic-nitrogen. Less than 1% was detected as nitrate-nitrogen. Organic nitrate-nitrogen concentrations are higher at a depth between 1 and 5 feet beneath sites covered with native landscaped vegetation than the same depth beneath septic system sites. Vegetation due to mineralization.”

They also said, “Nitrate concentrations are higher in the groundwater than in the unsaturated zones beneath the sites which suggests that additional nitrate-nitrogen is migrating laterally from off-site sources.” (NOT from septics)

In 1994, the County released their “Los Osos/Baywood Park Nitrogen Study” prepared by TAC. It was entitled, “Los Osos Soil and Groundwater Nitrogen Study.” Two key committee members, both highly qualified experts, were Los Osos’ own Dr. Tom Ruehr and Wade Brimm.

The Study showed that, “At the lowest sampling depth, which was well above the groundwater, there was at two out of three sites a lower concentration of nitrate in the leachate than in the groundwater itself. This is strong evidence that the nitrate is not actually reaching the groundwater.”

It also stated, “The data from all three (test) sites support the conclusion that de-nitrification occurs below the leach pits and leach fields. The increase and subsequent decrease in the nitrate N/chloride ratios at all three sites support the conclusion for nitrification followed by de-nitrification.”

The Study concluded there is NO evidence that Los Osos on-site sewers are polluting the Bay or anywhere else and further supports the fact that Los Osos does NOT need a central sewer system.

The facts were further enfor
ced when three scientists from the USEPA, Dr. Kreissel and two associates, came to Los Osos and conducted groundwater tests. Dr. Kreissel also concluded that Los Osos does NOT need a central sewer.

Despite the facts, the County and the RWQCB accelerated their efforts to force the central sewer on Los Osos. The grassroots movement was born. Its organizers included Pandora Nash-Karner, Stan Gustafson, Gordon Hensley, Rose Bowker, Frank Freiler, Sylvia Smith and a number of other people who are currently involved in the effort.

On June 11, 1997, three leaders of the grassroots movement sent a desperate cry for help to then Governor Wilson. They stated in part, “If a sewer is built, 1) “Economic impact would devastate our community, 2) 50%, if not more of this community may be forced to sell their homes and move because of the high costs of the sewer, 3) These costs would essentially rob young families from providing pre-school, scouting, gymnastics or little league, 4) Older residents will be at risk of having inadequate resources for daily living. 5) Individual property costs as high as $145-$200 monthly, 6) Nitrate levels may not change for 45 years if at all.”

They further stated, “We thought it was State of California policy for water quality to be “consistent with the state goal of providing decent homes and suitable living environment for every Californian” (California Water Code Section 13412).” They concluded by saying, “Older residents will be at risk of having inadequate resources for daily living.”

Included with their plea to the Governor were cost comparisons between County estimates and what the letter writers stated as the “actual costs.” Cost of central sewer: County, $49 million. Letter Writers, $71.5 million. Residents to pay: County, $45 per month. Letter Writers, $145 –200 per month.

In 2001, the CSD said the central sewer would cost $87 million; actual, $200 million. The CSD said residents would pay $103 per month; actual, $200–$300 per month.

Two of the three men who signed the letter to the Governor were: Stan Gustafson and Gordon Hensley. Gustafson left town in mid-May of 2006. Hensley is a leader with Joyce Albright of Taxpayers Watch.

By late 1997, it seemed the County had finally backed away from the central sewer. Credit for this faux victory was given to the leaders of the grassroots effort, opening the door for their ascension to the position of local power and full implementation of their agenda. To do this they needed to create the CSD and become its Directors.

November 1998. A majority of votes created the LOCSD and elected Pandora Nash-Karner, Stan Gustafson, Gordon Hensley, Sylvia Smith and Rose Bowker as Directors. Their campaign battle cry had been “Better, Cheaper, Faster.”

The community had been told by the candidates (aka “Team Los Osos”) they would implement a ponding system that would do the job more effectively and would be “Better, Cheaper, Faster.” We believed them.

What we didn’t know was they had been told by the RWQCB that it was so flawed it would never be approved. Despite this, the new Board made a great public show around their flawed ponding system while at the same time finalized their strategy with Briggs to force the unaffordable, unneeded central sewer on Los Osos. This was key to their success.

The CSD and RWQCB had to find a way to neutralize community anger and interference. In late 1999 they did this by planting the seed camouflaged behind a 19-word declaration: “The Regional Water Quality Control Board has MANDATED that Los Osos build a sewer. Los Osos has no choice!”

“Mandated. No choice.” The community was helpless. Community anger focused on the RWQCB. To make it even more convincing and increase support, two RWQCB employees came to CSD public meeting and echoed the “mandated central sewer.”

Then the CSD quickly assured the community they would work hard to keep costs down, secure grants and a low-interest loan.

It’s very interesting to note that in a January 23, 1998 letter from Briggs to Nash-Karner, Briggs states, “It is not our policy, nor do we have the authority to specify the method of compliance.” Briggs was well aware that California Water Code 13360 strictly forbids the State and Regional Water Boards and the courts from “mandating” ANY SOLUTIONS. So were the CSD Board and their GM, Bruce Buel.

Nash-Karner and the original Board knew 10 months before voters created the LOCSD that the RWQCB could not “mandate” any solutions.

January 2001. This was a crucial time for the old CSD board. They were aware that if they failed to pull off this next coup it would be all over before it began. They scheduled an Assessment District vote for June and launched their campaign. Working in tandem was the Nash-Karner-led group calling themselves, “Vote Yes For the Sewer.”

For months leading up to the vote, Los Osos was bombarded with mailers from the “Vote Yes” group and “Messages” from the CSD, all filled with mis-information, distortions, and topped off with threats specifically meant to influence the vote.

For example they told the community that if the vote failed there would be “no SRF loan,” the County would take over and build a more expensive project, that individual residents would be fined as much as $10,000, the CSD would be fined $10,000 per day, and would be bankrupt within two weeks.

They also said if the vote failed the CSD would not be able to apply for the low-interest SRF loan. In another mailing they said if the vote failed they would lose the loan. Did they have a loan or not? The main theme throughout all the mailing from both entities remained the “mandated” sewer and “Los Osos has no choice.”

Their campaign worked. More than half the voters did not even vote because they saw no point. Of the 3,500 or so who voted only 650 voted “No.” The CSD, Shirley Bianchi and crew rejoiced and cheered.

It was later discovered that approximately 1,352 votes were controlled by 27 people, all of whom, with one exception, voted “Yes.” Many were part of the same group. It was also discovered that many people who voted “Yes” did so because they were afraid of the (non-existent) fines and losing a low-interest loan.

With this ill-gained victory the old CSD quickly moved to the next step, which was supposedly to complete the application for the SRF loan. In January 2002, Bruce Buel announced that the CSD has received approval for a $65.4 million dollar loan.

California Water Code 13416 required the CSD to secure 51% or more voter approval to enter into an SRF Construction Loan with the State Water Board. They did not do this. When later challenged the standard Buel/Bowker/Gustafson replies were, “The June 2001 vote satisfied that requirement.” It did not.

In April 2002, the “Total Recall” movement to remove all five Directors was announced. In May, the petition gathering began. Once again the Nash-Karner campaign went into full throttle and the CSD retreated into a defensive posture.

During this time a great deal of hard copy evidence began to surface that exposed and revealed a considerable amount of dubious activity and stripped away many of their protective barriers.

California Water Codes and the Federal Clean Water Act both state that before issuing and selling obligation bonds, a 2/3rds voter approval is necessary. State and federal laws also require that “…the project chosen must be affordable.”

These and other legal requirements were publicly exposed during the 2002 “Total Recall” effort. The CSD and the RWQCB finally admitted they had fabricated about the central sewer being “mandated” by the RWQCB.

They shrugged off the voter rights by stating that the June 2001 Assessment District vote satisfied all of those requirements and more. It did not. But
that didn’t stop them. They believed they were impervious to legal prosecution.

In just 19 words, they shifted community heat off themselves and directed our anger and frustration against the all-powerful RWQCB. It was intended to clear the way for the old CSD and Bruce Buel to go full speed ahead in their plan.

There was just one problem. Under California Water Code 13360, it is ILLEGAL for the State or Regional Water Boards and the Courts to specify ANY method of compliance. There was NEVER a “mandated sewer” by the RWQCB. It was thrust upon Los Osos by the old CSD in a pre-arranged agreement with RWQCB executive director Briggs.

Despite a few voices confronting the old Board at public meetings and debunking the “mandated sewer,” they continued to tell the community that the RWQCB was forcing them to build the central sewer, that they “had no choice.”

In 2001 a grassroots effort filed a federal lawsuit against the CSD that would have stopped the project dead in its tracks. If in fact the RWQCB had “mandated that Los Osos build a sewer” and the CSD were looking for a safe way out without a backlash, this was it. All they had to do was NOT oppose the suit.

However, the CSD hired a large law firm from Sacramento that allegedly had the “right connections” in the federal courts. The CSD squandered more than $130,000. taxpayer dollars to quash the suit. They were successful. It was never allowed to be heard.

Finally in 2005 another recall effort to remove the three remaining Directors succeeded, but the debate was not over. The recalled Directors and allies regrouped under the banner of Taxpayers Watch, launched a wave of paralyzing lawsuits and worked with the RWQCB to levy fines against the Board and issue CDOs to individuals with the intent to bankrupt, dissolve the CSD—and impose a centralized sewer with a park at the Tri-W site in the middle of town.

The dissolution failed. The LOCSD lives, barely breathing perhaps, but still alive.

Compiled by Budd Sanford

Ret. Judge Goldin on the RWQCB: ‘The Most Incredible Kangaroo Court I’ve Ever Observed’

Forty-plus years of experience in the law did not prepare Martha Goldin for the travesty of justice she witnessed at the RWQCB’s Jan. 22 CDO hearing.

Forty-plus years of experience in the law did not prepare Martha Goldin for the travesty of justice she witnessed at the RWQCB’s Jan. 22 CDO hearing.

If retired Judge Martha Goldin was still sitting on the bench today, this is what one might hear her rule on the Regional Water Board’s CDOs against individual Los Osos homeowners:
    “I’d heard about the CDOs and the proceedings before the water board,” Mrs. Goldin addressed the Feb. 1 LOCSD meeting at the Community Center. “I was curious to see for myself exactly what was going on, so a week and a half ago I attended the water board meeting and hearing on one of the CDOs.
    “Calling it a hearing is gracing it with something it is not,” said Mrs. Goldin in biting tones from the podium. “Nobody on the board heard at all. It is the most incredible kangaroo court I have ever observed in my life.
    “There is no process. There is no notice—it changes from minute to minute, from day to day, from one notice to another. There is no opportunity for people who have been accused to present a case—15 minutes. The water board sits as first the accuser, they bring the proceedings. Then they sit as the judge. Then they sit as the jury, and then they sit, supposedly, as the body that will remedy the situation, but instead as the executioner.”
    Mrs. Goldin has the credentials to speak. She served as a judge of the Superior Court for 16 years. Prior to that, as required by law, she was an attorney—for 17 years. She retired from the bench in 1996, and remained active as a judge until the end of last year.
    She added: “And they have the gall to sit there and say, ‘Well we never said somebody would have to move out of their house.’ Yet if there is no sewer built by 2011, the drop-dead date—‘Thou shall not use water.’ I think this is 2007… Try living in your house without using your water…
   “Folks, get with it. Find out about the CDOs and become part of the total community of Los Osos to help solve a very serious problem of which the water board, regrettably, seems to be part of the problem, instead of part of the solution.”

If McClatchy Ever Gets Wind of This…

The Tribune is a dying newspaper, and on Thursday, Sept. 24, readers were given yet another ugly example why the Tribune is hell-bent on hastening its own demise. If McClatchy ever gets wind of the Trib’s latest bad joke on its readers, if money is the bottom line, Trib Publisher Bruce Ray will probably be fired. Somehow, Ray forgot he was hired to raise revenues, not reduce them more. Who needs another $100,000-a-year publisher to run the paper deeper into the ground when former publisher Chip Visci did that so well?

The Tribune is a dying newspaper, and on Thursday, Sept. 24, readers were given yet another ugly example why the Tribune is hell-bent on hastening its own demise. If McClatchy ever gets wind of the Trib’s latest bad joke on its readers, if money is the bottom line, Trib Publisher Bruce Ray will probably be fired. Somehow, Ray forgot he was hired to raise revenues, not reduce them more. Who needs another $100,000-a-year publisher to run the paper deeper into the ground when former publisher Chip Visci did that so well?

Millions in debt – because their real estate cash cow went to the slaughter house along with the economy – the Tribune still finds the arrogance to hurl one of its termite-ridden “brickbats” at former LOCSD president Lisa Schicker for filing a 1000-plus page complaint against MWH for bid-rigging and Public Works Director Paavo Ogren for conflict of interest, continuing its long-standing, failed, costly policy of seeking profit in slime and punishment.
Most readers sickened of the Trib’s crumby news product long ago. For years they have solely represented the Regional Water Board and County against Los Osos, reporting on command. When the steep decline in Trib revenues and even steeper climb in debt suggested the Trib should regroup around the tenets of basic journalism, it found it lacked the leadership to guide that return, for leadership that was never required at the Trib as long as the paper was making money.

Mocking readers was something they could get away with during the good times, when real estate was king, the ad dollars were flowing, and ripping Los Osos for not having a gold-plated MWH sewer was sport for the County’s proxies at the Trib. Apparently unknown to Trib’s clueless management, public flogging went out centuries ago, these aren’t the easy-money good times anymore, and the gravy train doesn’t pass the Trib’s way as often as it used to, does it Mr. Ray?

Today, adrift without captain or compass, the corrupt message bellowed by the Trib is nothing more than the last hurrah of a dinosaur newspaper sinking in the tar pit of inevitable change it has neither the wisdom nor talent to escape. The Trib has nowhere to go but down, yet laughs at Los Osos on the precipice. Ironically, the Trib, on McClatchy’s chopping block, and thousands of illegally-taxed Los Osos homeowners, families and friends on the County’s chopping block are all marked for extinction, even as the Trib acts blind to the facts of its own mortality.

The first casualty of war is the truth, and how the Tribune has covered the Los Osos sewer wars over the years is textbook testimony to the awful cost of sacrificing the truth and to the pain and sorrow the Trib has long heaped on the community of Los Osos. For this alone the Tribune should be shut down and turned into a homeless shelter, where it might serve some useful purpose to the communities it has failed.

Thousands of Los Ososans will be booted out of Los Osos by Gibson, Ogren, MWH, their stooges and their expensive Trojan Sewer — and the Tribune thinks it’s a hoot because the County flipped the guilty a get-out-of-jail free card, which clears the way for MWH to build the most expensive sewer per capita in U.S. history … in this local depression inside of a national recession! It’s unthinkable, unconscionable and un-American, and Los Ososans know the truth even though it’s never printed in the Trib.

Part of the blame, if blame there be, goes to the rapidly declining fortunes of the American newspaper industry and its impact on the quality of the news we receive in 2009. Again, the Trib is a perfect mirror reflecting the harrowing freefall of newspapers and journalism standards in general in America. Whereas the second half of the 20th century saw at least two newspapers thriving in most major cities, by the dawn of the new millennium one-newspaper cities and towns were commonplace across the country, with many cutting back staff and downsizing to look more attractive for any potential buyers foolish enough to invest in print, while some towns are now entirely paperless, forced to give up the price of print for something called the Internet.

That’s the position the Trib – and its battered readers – find themselves in today, having to put up with the Worst Newspaper in the World until it finally, mercifully, turns to dust. It’s almost there. Without any competition to force them to improve, the Trib has grown wickedly complacent, stale and useless. Wobbling on its last legs, its death rattle can’t come fast enough for the community of Los Osos.

But what about Lisa Schicker, who filed the complaint that County Counsel Warren Jensen and the Board of Supervisors found completely without merit or substance, raising not a single eyebrow from one word or one line in is entire 1000-plus pages? Maybe Jensen just didn’t like how the story ends… for him.

It’s a remarkable accomplishment in itself, reading that many pages and finding each and every page as good as blank. It is a mind-boggling example of the BOS not finding anything they weren’t looking for in the first place – a common characteristic of cover-ups. They don’t mind if people notice, as long as they don’t get caught, and they feel extremely confident that won’t happen on their turf, not with the high barbed-wire fence against free speech put up by the repressive Gibson and the weak, bloodless board he controls.

Like many whistleblowers, Schicker may suffer the indignities of being right but unable to prove it. Her scattered, attorney-less presentation probably contributed to the ease and totality of its dismissal. However, the Tribune editorial tried to label her an unhinged rumor-monger, and most Los Ososans know Schicker’s vast complaint was no lie. Schicker knew what was coming when she filed. The County wasn’t going to investigate itself, certainly not for conflict of interest for which Jensen, Gibson and Ogren are officially, legally complicit and presently unaccountable. It’s tragic that at this point there is no one innocent in authority left standing in County government with the guts to challenge them.

The Trib accomplished what it set out to do with its spiteful editorial – discredit Schicker and taint her volume of evidence for any future court test. And, screamed the Trib, stop any further investigation of MWH and Ogren. Nothing must stand in the way of the approaching megasewer and the gravy train right behind it.

That’s why, in corrupt San Luis Obispo County, the Trib will keep publishing pro-County propaganda until it’s either sold or folds, the guilty are always rewarded, and Los Osos whistleblowers with truth on their side do their shopping at Ralphs very late at night.

— Ed Ochs

Los Osos Sustainability Group: Leading the Fight to Save the Basin

According to the water re-use reduction targets in the volunteer group’s Basin Management Plan, the goal is to have each household use 33% less water, effectively reducing the monthly usage rates while aggressively reducing the effects of saltwater intrusion. “[Saltwater intrusion] is much worse than people think,” says the group’s Keith Wimer. “We have a serious problem that can’t be avoided any longer—and the [County’s wastewater] project has got to address it.”

To read the rest of the article, view it on The Razor and post comments.

Los Osos is …“Chinatown”

Asked to reveal the deep, dark secret behind the long-running and strange goings-on inside the Los Osos sewer saga, a few owls in Los Osos have been known to whisper “Chinatown.” “Chinatown” screenwriter Robert Towne sheds light on more than a few historical points in common between LA of the early 1930s and Los Osos today, starting with the water, who owns it, how much it’s really worth – and land grabs. Los Ososans should read Towne’s comments and then see how many chilling similarities they can come up with…

By ED OCHS

Asked to reveal the deep, dark secret behind the long-running and strange goings-on inside the Los Osos sewer saga, a few owls in Los Osos have been known to whisper “Chinatown.” Now, “Chinatown” screenwriter Robert Towne sheds light on more than a few historical points in common between LA of the early 1930s and Los Osos today, starting with the water, who owns it, how much it’s really worth – and land grabs. Los Ososans should read Towne’s comments and then see how many chilling similarities they can come up with…

Screenwriter Robert Towne’s Oscar-winning script for “Chinatown” (1974), according to Wikipedia, was “set in Los Angeles in the 1930s and inspired by the historical disputes over land and water rights that had raged in southern California during the 1910s and ’20s, in which William Mulholland (“Hollis Mulwray” in the movie) acted on behalf of Los Angeles interests to secure water rights in the Owens Valley.”

Starring Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway and John Huston, “Chinatown” is a story within a story: Mulholland’s historic quest for new water to fuel LA’s rapid growth in the early 1930s, and how the rich got richer forming a real estate syndicate to buy up near-worthless San Fernando Valley land, just before diverted water greened the Valley into an agricultural oasis that would turn into tract homes for millions — and fortunes for a few.

Here, excerpted from the DVD “Cadillac Desert: Water and the Transformation of Nature” is Robert Towne talking about “Mulholland’s Dream,” interspersed with key dialogue from “Chinatown” (which “Cadillac Desert” filmmakers call “bad, contorted history … but powerful myth”). Towne’s comments are in bold. Movie scenes are in italics:

You could make a case for this being this incestuous cabal of hidden Jonathan Club, California club oligarchy, Old Boy’s WASP network – no Jews, dogs, blacks, Mexicans allowed.

Jake Gittes: There are going to be a lot of irate citizens when they find out that they’re paying for water they’re not going to get.”

Noah Cross: Aw that’s all taken care of. See, Mr. Gittes, either you bring the water to LA or you bring LA to the water.

What (Cross) simply meant was that you would bring the water to where you want to bring it and call that place LA. And therefore you could get Los Angeles taxpayers to pay — what in effect was a cabal of real estate spectators – to have the city pay millions of dollars for them to pump water down to land that was not in fact part of the city and then cause them to vote that as part of the city, and thereby increase the value of that land, which they had purchased and held, a thousand fold. So they were causing one city in effect to pay them to develop another city and then say, well, it’s really the same city.

Jake: They’re conning LA into building it, but the water’s not going to go to LA, it’s coming right here (to the San Fernando Valley).

Evelyn Mulwray: What?

Jake: Everything you can see, everything around us. I was at the Hall of Records today.

The original title for “Chinatown,” I actually was going to call it “Water and Power,” because that’s what it was. Water was power, it was money, and those who knew how to manipulate it, much more adroitly than anybody could ever manipulate a stock market, could make money off of it. And you could see it. It was a palpable thing, running through your movie, like a river of greed.

Jake: Do you have any idea what this land would be worth with a steady water supply? About $30 million more than they paid for it.

As Jean Renoir said, everyone has his reasons, and I’m sure (Mulholland) had his reasons and he justified it, because he had to. I can see how it would have been very easy to get carried away by powerful men saying, “See what you can do for the city”… you know… “What a great man you’ll be.”

Jake: Why are you doing it? How much better can you eat? What can you buy that you can’t already afford?

Cross: The future, Mr. Gittes, the future!

And the crime that he committed in the name of the future, against the future, is really the history in California, here in LA, I mean it’s just the supreme irony.

Cross: See, Mr. Gittes, most people never have to face the fact, at the right time, in the right place, they are capable of anything!

Sometimes there’s some monsters that they can’t figure out how to punish them, so they actually sort of reward them. Mulholland’s name is on the scene route of the city (Mulholland Drive), and criminals’ names are on plaques as city founders, rather than in jail where they belonged.


The Mystery of “Chinatown”:
When Jake was a young police officer on the beat in LA’s Chinatown, he once tried to protect a woman, but she died as a direct result of his intervention. This made Jake cynical and apathetic. Years later, Jake again tries to protect a woman, Evelyn Mulwray, and once again, she is killed as a direct result of his intervention. Never forgetting what happened to him before, Jake finds no consolation in the final irony of a former colleague’s advice, “Forget it, Jake; it’s Chinatown.”

LA “Chinatown” Rogues Gallery Then:
Mayor Fred Eaton; Businessmen Henry E. Huntington and Moses Sherman; Los Angeles Times Publishers Harrison Gray Otis and Harry Chandler.

Los Osos “Chinatown” Rogues Gallery Now: Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee; Regional Water Board Chairman Jeffrey Young and Executive Director Roger Briggs; Board Supervisors Bruce Gibson and Jim Patterson; Public Works Director Paavo Ogren; Former Public Works Director Noel King; Former Supervisor Shirley Bianchi; County Counsel Warren Jensen; Assistant County Administrator Gail Wilcox; former LOCSD director Pandora Nash-Karner and recalled directors Stan Gustafson, Richard LeGros and Gordon Hensley; current LOCSD board member Maria Kelly; Carollo Engineering’s Lou Carella; Wallace Group President/former County Public Works Director John Wallace and LOCSD District Engineer Rob Miller; Tribune Publisher Bruce Ray and VP Sandra Duerr; global engineering conglomerate Montgomery Watson Harza (MWH).

Los Osos is not alone. There are more “Chinatowns” in California and all across America.

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Thanks to Ann Calhoun and Susan Shaw for pointing the way to “Chinatown” in Los Osos.

Los Osos Citizen’s Anecdote Cuts to the Heart of Sewer Debate

‘We’re going to make a sewer system so expensive that it would drive the riff-raff out of town.’

‘We’re going to make a sewer system so expensive that it would drive the riff-raff out of town.’

During Public Comment at the April 30th Planning Commission hearing, Los Osos resident Jack Hunter spoke about the issue of cost and illustrated his point with a personal anecdote. He told a story about a former neighbor’s cheerful explanation of the benefits of building a big-city megasewer in Los Osos that few could afford. Following is a transcription of Mr. Hunter’s comments telling the tale:

“The elephant in the room that’s not being addressed… is the cost,” Hunter prefaced his remarks.

“I moved to Los Osos in the early ’90s and rented for several years. I had a neighbor there and we became acquaintances and then I bought my own house in another part of the town. I did not see that neighbor again for many years until just a couple of years ago. I don’t believe he understood that I was still living in Los Osos and so I asked him how the rental business was going. He told me that he had sold most of his rentals and I asked him if he had retired. He said, ‘No, no, I’m just preparing for what’s to come.’”

“So I asked what that was and he says, ‘Well, we’re going to make a sewer system so expensive that it would drive the riff-raff out of town. The beauty of it, he said, is they’ll all be forced to sell at the same time because of the price of – not just the sewer but – the water that will be priced upwards as well. That will put all their properties on the market at the same time. That will reduce the price. ‘We’ll buy those properties for a sum, we’ll scrape those cottages, we’ll recombine the lots and we’ll build mansions for the L.A. and San Francisco equity refugees.’”

“He was very proud of how it was all going to work,” Hunter recalled.

“I was shocked, of course, because I realized I only have a middle-class job. I’m part of the riff-raff,” he concluded.