Here is the e-mail I sent to the League of Women Voters in San Luis Obispo:
Dear Directors of The League of Women Voters of San Luis Obispo:
I am writing you on behalf of several concerned residents of Los Osos regarding an incident that occurred at the October 13 Candidates Forum in Los Osos sponsored by the League of Women Voters.
Minutes before the debate was about to begin, the League’s host, holding a letter she did not read, said she had received an “unusual request.” Without identifying who the letter was from or reading it or discussing it previously with the candidates, she announced that the League would honor this “unusual request” to disqualify the Los Osos Wastewater Project from audience-participation questions since the project was now within the jurisdiction of the County.
Not only was the audience, as well as at least three of the candidates, surprised by this last-minute announcement and decision by the League, but they also found it unfair since (1) it significantly altered the landscape of the debate by changing the boundaries, (2) the candidates were not told it would be off limits and were “thrown off” since they came prepared to address this candidate-defining issue, and (3) the County does not have official legal jurisdiction over the Los Osos Wastewater Project until the Board of Supervisors votes to accept the project, which they have not.
Though the text of Assembly Bill AB 2701, as it was written under Legislative Counsel’s Digest, clearly authorizes “the County of San Luis Obispo to undertake any efforts necessary to construct and operate a wastewater collection and treatment system to meet the needs of the Los Osos Community Services District,” the Los Osos Community Services District retains the right to advocate the criteria necessary to build a proper wastewater collection and treatment system for Los Osos residents, and the Los Osos Community Services District did not relinquish their advocacy role.
We civil residents of Los Osos would feel greatly assured that the integrity of the Forum was not compromised by the “unusual request” if you could inform us as to when the letter was written, the author and contents of the letter, and why the letter was injected into the debate at literally the last minute and not discussed beforehand with the candidates themselves to see if they agreed on the substance and direction of the letter.
I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
Updated October 17, 2008 at 2:11 PM
Here is a response issued by President of the LWV in San Luis Obispo, Ann Garfinkel:
Dear Mr. Ochs,
Thank you for contacting the League of Women Voters of San Luis Obispo County concerning the candidates forum held on 10/13/2008. Please let me clarify the events of the evening.
The moderator did not receive any letter, hence read no letter. The paper in her hands contained her opening remarks.
Prior to the forum the candidates were advised of the sewer construction question exclusion, and the reasons for same. The selection and construction of the sewer project is under the jurisdiction of the County Board of Supervisors, not the Community Services District. The community will have time to address these issues when the survey is mailed to all residents.
Candidates were told explicitly that the exclusion did not apply to them. They were free to address the sewer issue.
One question from the audience was asked of the candidates regarding the sewer: “Do you agree with ‘county process’ for choosing and building a wastewater treatment system?”
The answers given ranged from strong support to support with qualifications. Each candidate could have gone into more detail during closing statements.
I hope this answers your questions. Thank you again for contacting the League of Women Voters.
Ann M Garfinkel
A follow-up response will be issued by 8:00 PM PST.