Here is the speech that I gave at the SLO County Board of Supervisors meeting today:
Members of the board:
Last Tuesday, during public comment on the Los Osos update, a member of the community said, “Los Osos is about making hard choices,” but there is a problem with that. We did not make these hard choices. People, who live outside the Prohibition Zone, have decided for us, leaving us within the PZ to make some very life-altering sacrifices when we start paying for the sewer.
These hard choices have been made consistently by a unanimous five to nothing vote by previous and current board members. All of you have shown an unequivocal lack of intellectual curiosity to question the staff reports. All of you have failed to acknowledge or grasp the reasons for public outcry.
Instead, some of you have questioned people’s anger and then arriving at the conclusion that people are simply issuing personal attacks. Some of you have been quick to condemn public comment instead of questioning the authenticity of the words spoken by homeowners who feel they have been wronged, swept under the rug, discriminated against, and segregated in the PZ by a thin, antiquated line.
This is shameful.
The lives of thousands of people will be upended by decisions easily made by this tax-and-spend board. The people of Los Osos cannot afford to stand idly by and become victims of negligent decisions made by the same rubber stamping process that has failed us time and time again here and all across America.
We cannot afford to wait and hope for the best when there has been no clear indication that the best is yet to come.
In January, during this historic economic recession, 598,000 jobs nationwide were lost and the unemployment rate rose to 7.6%. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that the job losses were “large and widespread.” At this moment, monthly rates as large as four hundred dollars for a sewer would be catastrophic for Los Osos including those who are out of the job. It’s easy for you members of the board to impose this burden on us, but take a good look around you. People are hurting—but not by their own choice. You have contributed to their pain when you chose to turn your backs on them.
Ed Ochs also delivered a speech:
In October 2007 Los Osos voted the County a blank check to build a sewer. Now, at this time of historic economic decline, with state and local governments strapped for cash and cutting back, it would be fiscally irresponsible of this Board to fill in that check with the highest possible amount.
In that Prop 218 vote the homeowners of Los Osos were given a clear choice – whether to be fined out of their homes by the rogue Regional Water Board (for County-permitted septic tanks) or taxed out of their homes by the revenue-hungry County bureaucracy. This is a “choice,” in essence, between being shot or hung. Pick one, the results are both the same: Being taxed out of your home is “Eminent Domain by Taxation.”
“Eminent Domain by Taxation” was the subject of a Senate Judicial Committee hearing in Washington that acknowledged that the average citizen couldn’t afford the cost of attorneys to fight to keep their homes. As a result, when government agencies break the law, commit fraud and felonies, they get away with it because people can’t afford an attorney to fight the government and force them to follow the law.
The Senate Judicial Committee went so far as to propose a “kitty” to help homeowners with court costs should this be the case. In Los Osos’ case, the linchpin of “Eminent Domain by Taxation” is building a public works project few can afford, that forces thousands to leave by taxing them out of their homes.
The sewer tax is a terribly unfair tax, and homeowners don’t need a big tax bill for a big sewer when a more cost-effective project can do the same job. If you run government like a business, it doesn’t make sense to see it any other way, unless the County insists on working only with Montgomery/Watson/Halliburton.
Los Osos homeowners have no idea that their average monthly sewer bill could hit $400 a month or more. When Dave Congalton asked Chairman Gibson and Public Works Director Ogren on the air on the 218 campaign trail: “Is $25,000 the total amount each homeowner would pay for the County sewer in the “Prohibition Zone”? — they replied yes. NOT TRUE!
First, homeowners will need a loan just for the hookup itself, which could run up to $10,000, and that could add another $150 on to the bill, even before they start paying off the $25,000 assessment. And there are so many extra costs not being talked about that do not appear in any County brochure — O&M, mandatory retrofitting, probable imported water, more 218s, repairs, fines, more fines. Few people can get loans now.
There really is no more powerful, no more painful example in America today of “Eminent Domain by Taxation,” of government turning against the people, than what’s going on in Los Osos right now.