California Coastal Commission’s Response to the LOWWP

The California Coastal Commission issued a response to the County regarding the LOWWP on March 25th. The document was released today.

Click here to download it. You must have Adobe Reader in order to view the file (PDF).

EDIT (5: 19 PM PST): The CCC writes in their summary on page 2, “… our primary recommendation is that an approvable build project […] must be modified to provide for tertiary treatment so that any spray field area used for the project that is in or affects agricultural land or uses can continue to be used for agricultural purposes and production (with or without the spraying).” The keyword here is tertiary treatment, which is something the Tri-W site offers as an all-in-one.

On page 3: “The project must be sited and designed in a manner that respects significant public visual resources and public recreational opportunities.” This comment indirectly appeals to Tri-W because the previous project was the only project that included public recreational opportunities as a part of the design.

On page 4: “In other words, a tertiary project may make better sense to be sited closer to or in town at the Tri-W site…”

There’s the knockout punch to County’s “preferred” alternatives. Looks like history is going to repeat itself.

Like Clockwork, County Announces Gravity as Best Solution

The Tribune released a viewpoint from John Waddell and John Diodati announcing the best solution for Los Osos: gravity collection.

While the County reaches a milestone by formally announcing gravity, this viewpoint also represents the failures of the post-recall board and what they could have done to reduce the amount of time to construct a wastewater project.

What are your thoughts?

Los Osos Community Survey Analysis

In case you haven’t been reading the recent comments made on Ann Calhoun’s blog, Ed and I have revved up our commentary and there has been a very fascinating — but at times tiresome — discourse.

I want to talk about the LOWWP Community Survey first.

On page 3 under Introduction, the purpose of the survey was provided:

The purpose of this Community Advisory Survey is twofold: 1) to allow all members associated with the community (property owners, renters, absentee landlords, commercial interests, those in the Prohibition Zone and those outside the Prohibition Zone) to have an equal opportunity to voice their opinions in a systematic way about key factors, and 2) to provide County Supervisors and other decision makers with specific measures of community members’ values, preferences, interests and concerns with regard to the final project description.

While I think it’s a good idea to get input from the community inside (Assessment Group) and outside the PZ (Not Assessment Group), I think the outcome of the survey is muddied by surveys completed by those outside the Prohibition Zone. They’re not affected financially by the sewer — but perhaps emotionally given the 30-year build-up of exasperation of not having a wastewater project. Hence, we see written comments like, “Just get it done already!” 43% of survey respondents have owned or rented property in Los Osos for 20+ years.

The county has been hesitant in terms of relieving the burden on PZ homeowners by having everyone in the district pay. I don’t believe those outside the Prohibition Zone should be able to have their opinions counted until the County decides to have every homeowner in the district pay. The logic is incredibly simple, but this pertains to the principle of the matter. Given that only 610 surveys were mailed to those outside the Prohibition Zone, the results would have not varied differently if those surveys weren’t counted.

I think the community survey analysis done by Opinion Studies was thorough and insightful overall. The problem is that the County had made a “judgment call” in 2006 after AB2701 was passed to pursue a gravity collection system. By the looks of the survey, even if the community united behind STEP/STEG, the County would keep going with the project that they prefer.

The survey also shows that people are tired of waiting and they are united behind a common solution — and that’s good. That’s progress.

Ed Responds to Letters to the Editor in the Trib on his Viewpoint

Letter No. 1:

“Regarding Ed Ochs’ concern (Viewpoint, March 20) about the sewer tax that will be too costly to homeowners: Ed, you’re a little late to the party.

The entire project will cost more than anyone wants. Not that many years ago, it could have been completed with almost no cost whatsoever to Los Osos residents, thanks to significantly more financial resources (including grants), coupled with substantially less cost and inflation back then — talk about a missed opportunity.

Government did not turn against the people. Rather, residents turned against residents, Los Osos Community Services District board members worked against fellow board members, finally causing the county to step in and take it over. It will get done because it has to get done, but we’ll be paying far more, over a much longer period of time than it could have been. Let’s still look for grants, but also move forward before it worsens.”

Lee Ferrero

Lee:

I may be late for “the party,” as you describe it, but better late than never, and it’s never been later for Los Osos. It certainly ain’t no party.

While it’s true that LOCSD board members were “working against fellow CSD members,” it was for a just political cause, in my opinion. I’m opposed to Tri-W. I’m guessing you are pro-Tri-W? That the recalled board circumvented a 218 vote and proceeded with bids almost 50% over estimates, prior to a community referendum, was more the handiwork of a rogue CSD than a functional authority. They and the project needed to be stopped. Richard definitely wouldn’t agree with this raw assessment. That’s OK. We agree not to agree.

The post-recall board claim they stopped Tri-W, but that’s not quite accurate. It was the State that stopped the project when it determined it would not restart the old project without a 218 to secure the loan, which the State clearly recognized they failed to do first time around (having lost that loan to bankruptcy). The post-recall board then lost the project through a combination of bad advice, which they cultivated and accepted, their own mismanagement, conflicts of interest, and, yes, former recalled board members now “working against fellow CSD members” to undermine the board. Chuck, Lisa and Julie definitely wouldn’t agree with the first part of this raw assessment.

While you say, rightfully so, that the project “will cost more than anyone wants,” it doesn’t appear to expensive enough for some Taxpayers Watch supporters. To a man (and woman), they remain stone silent on the issue of affordability, even as true costs to homeowners slowly come to light and they realize, like you said, that costs will be “more than anyone wants,” or, I have to add here, more than they will be able to afford.

Sure, we’ll get a sewer, but don’t count on grants. They’ll be a drop in the ocean for any homeowner. If you’re worried about cost, you’re looking at fixing the wrong end of the problem. If you really want to pay less, petition the County to build a less expensive project, one that fits the community’s budget, one that Los Osos can actually afford. The County’s fix for the problem is to break the bank and the backs of PZ homeowners in the process. The County’s cure of destroying a community to build a sewer is far worse than the claimed disease of pollution, but here it comes anyway, even if it kills us.

Ed

Letter No. 2

“I was dismayed by Ed Ochs’ Viewpoint in the March 20 Tribune. His cost estimates for the sewer are not based on any facts. For one, we voted to assess ourselves $25,000 per dwelling, not a blank check.

And $10,000 to hook up to a sewer? Where did that figure come from? The actual cost per month is closer to $250, and much less for those who pay their assessment up front.

Please, enough with the foolish, fallacious fear-mongering.”

Judith Reilly

Judith:

Fact: The 218 authorized a blank check to the County that will be filled in at the end, years from now.

You will probably be in a home by then, and since you don’t have a clue what’s going on around you in your own community, I doubt you will know the difference.

What percentage of homeowners in Los Osos do you imagine will pay the full assessment of $25,000 up front? 1%?

I see you still have a tough time reading what’s written. Assuming a homeowner can even get a loan for the lateral hook-up and septic tank decommissioning/pumping/inspection, that loan stretched over 10 years, with interest, “could run up to $10,000.”

The only aspect of my evaluation that is “foolish” is the part of the community that voted “yes” for a blank-check… What is “fallacious” is your false claim of $250 a month… and the “fear-mongering” was executed by the RWQCB to get the 218 passed.

If the true end-cost to each homeowner is $250 a month, as you claim, then Gibson/Paavo should have no trouble publicly “capping” the project at $250 by signing a contract with Los Osos for that amount — the County pays the difference.

To prove you no fool, I look forward to that announcement at the next Board of Supervisors meeting.

Ed

Stop with the “Obama is a socialist!” e-mails

I’ve been getting quite a few e-mails from an elderly couple who has reservations about President Barack Obama — and not the healthy kind of reservations either.

Okay, I understand. Barack Obama’s handling of the financial situation is questionable, I get it, but to say he’s using “socialist strategies” to “manufacture the crisis” is a bit far-fetched.

Here is a point-counterpoint analysis of the article written by Andrea Lafferty, or I’d like to refer to her as the lady with the shiny tin-foil hat.

The radical left (which President Obama was part of as a community organizer in Chicago), devised a strategy back in 1966 to bring about orchestrated crises to be used to socialize our nation.

In the mid-80s, Barack Obama worked as a director for the Developing Communities Project (DCP), a church-based community organization from the south side of Chicago. According to other conservative blogs, the “radical left” socialist agenda tie-in supposedly comes from a man named Jerry Kellman, who supposedly was the one who called Barack Obama to recruit him to this group. Kellman was rumored on the conservative blog circuit to be a protege of Marxist organizer Saul Alinsky. Therefore, it had to be true! Barack Obama is a follower of Maxism and socialism!

Wrong. The “guilt by association” arguments are often weak and provide no proof like this argument.

In 1966, two socialist professors at Columbia University named Richard Andrew Cloward and Frances Fox Piven published an article in The Nation that outlined how to manufacturer crises for socialist objectives.

Cloward and Piven were inspired by Marxist organizer Saul Alinsky, who used community organizing in Chicago to bring about social change. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was mentored by Alinsky and learned political tactics from him. Barack Hussein Obama worked for Alinsky-created groups in Chicago. He also learned Alinsky tactics.

To manufacture a crises is to create a crisis that did not exist before. On January 20th, Barack Obama undoubtedly inherited this financial crisis from the Bush administration. None of his own personal policies or initiatives created the crisis that we are all familiar with now. Again, it goes back to the whole “guilt by association” argument, which has become a more twisted form of Kevin Bacon’s Six Degrees of Separation.

The author of the article brought up Saul Alinsky. The article presumes that:

  • Saul Alinsky has been a part of (or played a big role in) community organizing in Chicago. The author does not cite any specific groups other than ACORN. There is no way of knowing if ACORN applied “socialist techniques.” These are only unverified claims. There is no connection to Alinsky and ACORN.
  • Richard Andrew Cloward and Frances Fox Piven published an article on how to manufacture a crisis to promote “socialist objectives.” This was called the Cloward-Piven Strategy, which is actually real. To establish a guaranteed national income, the Democrats would have to use a financial crisis as a means of pushing through federal relief to help the poor. The strategy was limited to that of welfare reform, but Barack Obama has yet to reform the welfare system. Instead, Obama cut taxes for 95% of middle-class families and increasing taxes to individuals and couples making more than $200,000 a year, thus effectively reverting tax cuts to those from the Clinton administration. He did not and has not guaranteed income.
  • Cloward and Piven were influenced by Alinsky so therefore Barack Obama, being a member of a community organized “founded” by Alinsky principles, is actively applying the Cloward-Piven Strategy as a means of advancing the socialist agenda. Really? Should I even bother responding to this?

Then the article goes downhill, revealing a laundry list of claims ranging from Obama’s mother being an athiest who “embraced” Marxist ideology and his mentor in high school being a “black Marxist.” The list goes on and on. And, oh yeah, Reverend Jeremiah Wright is also part of the Black Liberation and Barack Obama is completely in on it. Please.

I find it disheartening that people exploit the Internet for being such a vast resource to distribute unsubstantiated propaganda. There are claims piled on top of other claims. I’ve seen people on FactCheck.org read the claims line by line, trying to refute what’s essentially personal opinion, but the web of deception is so complex, that it would take a lifetime to untangle it all. People need to realize that there will always be information that is not accessible and it’s called motive. People tend to isolate motive as a statement of fact. “He or she knew about this so then that happened.” “Barack Obama was a community organizer who belonged to a group that practiced Alinsky’s beliefs, therefore he’s using Cloward-Piven strategy to advance the socialist agenda.” You lost me.

But people read this and because they don’t have the time of day to sit down and dissect the information, they conveniently start to believe it. It’s really not their fault, though. The opinion is so complex, that it overloads the mind. The complexity is too difficult to analyze, but it’s too easy to accept it.

Conservatives and right wing fanatics are very good at playing these mind games. I’ve never seen anything like it. Just reading the article for the first time made my head spin. I’m sure the leftists are also very skilled, but to see so much fear presiding over reality is dangerous. In our society, people are having a harder time separating fact from fiction and as some of us get older, some of us become more receptive to baseless opinion. The rise of the blogging movement have given some people some uncanny power to wield baseless opinion as a weapon to mobilize the fearful masses.

So please stop sending me these e-mails about how Obama is going to turn us into a socialist nation. I don’t want to make any more blog articles like this one out of exasperation.

Viewpoint: Osos sewer tax is too costly for homeowners

Ed has a viewpoint published in the Friday edition of The Tribune. You can also find the article on their web site by clicking here.

In the October 2007 vote on Proposition 218, 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 the Board of Supervisors to fill in that check with the highest possible amount.

In that controversial Proposition 218 vote, the homeowners of Los Osos were given a clear choice — whether to be fined out of their homes by the state Regional Water Board (for county-permitted septic tanks) or taxed out of their homes by the revenue-hungry county bureaucracy.

This is basically the “choice” between being shot or hung. Pick either 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 U.S. Senate Judiciary 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 and 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 Judiciary 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 that few can afford and 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 builders Montgomery Watson Harza.

Los Osos homeowners have no idea that, in some cases, their monthly sewer bill could hit $400 a month or more. When radio host Dave Congalton asked Board of Supervisors Chairman Bruce Gibson and county Public Works Director Paavo Ogren on the air during the campaign on Proposition 218: “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 may need a loan just for the hookup itself, which could run up to $10,000. That could add another $150 to $250 to the bill (depending on the length of the loan) right off the bat, 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 — operations and maintenance, mandatory retrofitting, probable imported water, repairs, and fines and more fines. Few people can get loans now. What will they do?

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.

Ed Ochs is editor and publisher of The Rock at www.rockofthecoast.com.

To Speak or Not to Speak

Earlier yesterday, I met with Richard LeGros and we discussed a variety of issues, but one of the issues pertained to effectiveness when dealing with government officials. Sitting in his living room — which had windows overlooking the panoramic views of Los Osos — he gave me advice on how to improve my game. He placed an emphasis on meeting with community leaders and representatives in person instead of speaking at the podium. I admitted to him that it felt good to speak publicly but that’s not the paramount reason for why I speak.

LeGros made some interesting points. “I couldn’t find anything I disagreed with in terms of your last speech,” he told me, “But it isn’t something that the [Board of Supervisors] hasn’t heard before.” It boils down to needless repetition, but his argument limits the communication to that of the board. Sure, you’re addressing the board, but everything you’re saying is documented in the minutes, broadcasted in video and audio (local channel access) and they also stream their meetings. Essentially, there’s a larger audience out there that’s observing the meetings.

On that note, a good question to ask is, “What’s the point of speaking to an audience that may or may not listen to what you’re saying?” Whether they agree or disagree with you, there will always be someone listening. To speak in public is to deliver a message, a tone that can build productive momentum. Ideally, people would take that momentum to deliver a strong message to the powers that be. People could take that momentum and commit to action that could influence administrative decisions.

Public speaking is and always will always predominantly be a means of effectively conveying information to a group of people.

LeGros said that speaking to your representatives in person is more effective. The problem with that is the audience is limited to representatives. The message is only presented behind closed doors. The people who are being represented by the people that the speaker is talking to are excluded from a conversation that needs to take place. To be effective to the government, the audience at large must witness the message being conveyed. The audience will then familiarize themselves with the message regardless of whether government officials heard that argument before.

The problem with a lot of public speaking that I’ve seen is that the speakers presented their message ad nauseum while only addressing the board. When it comes to the SLO County Board of Supervisor meetings, for instance, people often have the habit of repeating words, catch phrases and sentences that were drawn out by them previously.

The effectiveness of public speaking is to provide a fresh angle or perspective to the subject matter. If the speaker lapses into the same rhetoric, that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t speak or that they, as a whole, are ineffective. In actuality, it should be the opposite. People should continue speaking until their words become more fluid, more proficient and concise. Evolution within one’s speech will encourage people to listen to you.

LeGros seemed to link public speaking to advocates who are more focused on talk than committing to action. He has a point. In terms of the Los Osos wastewater project issue, a lot of people come up to the podium and they present their opinion and walk away without following up. By getting in touch with the people that make the decisions, that is a commitment to action. You may say, “Well, the County isn’t listening to me, so why should I care?” Theoretically, if you carry your message to your representatives and elaborate so that it goes ‘beyond the pale’ of tedium, when you present your message to the public, your representatives will naturally be more receptive. They’ll realize that you don’t hide behind your rhetoric.

I think the people of Los Osos should rise up and speak, but on the same coin, it’s best that you communicate with the County and go through the diplomatic channels. Instead of demanding answers, ask how you can help so that the situation is more in your favor. Doing this will not dilute your cause.

Message from County: It Was Gravity All Along

I attended Bruce Gibson’s office hours over at Sea Pines in Los Osos. Right away, one thing that got my attention was how attentive the County was when listening to people. Paavo Ogren also attended and I noticed how skilled he is when it comes to speaking extemporaneously regarding the Los Osos wastewater project, however he doesn’t seem to get to the point and answer people’s questions directly most of the time.

We met in the banquet room and the tables were formed in a U-shape with four seats per table and two tables per side. There were more old faces than new ones. A resident from Vista Del Oro came to the office hours and inquired about some of the history behind the LOWWP. Paavo Ogren did most of the talking while Gibson sat, relieved that he didn’t have to recall any specifics. He found it easier to talk about vacation ordinances and his trip to Davis, Sacramento and D.C. with our taxpayer money than the sewer situation itself.

Al Barrow attended the meeting and provided an engineer’s report summarizing the benefits of Orenco STEP/STEG, which consisted of information already known and repeated ad nauseum. His statements would later be cancelled out by Don Bearden who brought up the problems with STEP/STEG — information that was also presented ad nauseum. I honestly did not see the benefit of both of them being there if they cancel each other out.

After waiting for about an hour, I finally had a chance to speak. I asked Bruce and Paavo, “When did you know that gravity collection was the only appropriate solution for Los Osos?” and to paraphrase Paavo’s response, gravity was pre-determined from the beginning of the process. I said that the process seemed to be a bit disingenous given that they’re already made up their mind on what kind of project they want. Paavo was saying that STEP/STEG is a good system but not applicable to Los Osos. However, the whole screening/vetting process has unveiled new twists and turns such as the Tonini site so anything is possible — just don’t expect Paavo to “bet on” STEP/STEG as it being the project they decide to build.

When Gibson talked about the community survey showing preference to gravity, that sort of “Gotcha!” attitude prompted me to follow up on a question on the survey that was a bit biased in my opinion. Question #21 reads, “How much savings over a Gravity System would a STEP/STEG system have to provide to make it worthwhile?” and Bob Semonsen, who served as a member of TAC, boldly (and rudely) interjected in disagreement, saying that the question I cited was actually biased toward STEP/STEG.

The problem is that the question treats STEP/STEG like a burden and the questions attempt to remedy that burden so you have options that mention savings, but what good is that when you have one of the options that says, “Prefer Gravity, not interested in STEP/STEG at any cost.” The question starts with, “How much savings…?” so it doesn’t exactly set the foundation so that the answer to that question would be a preference of collection treatment. When you have the County leaning heavily toward gravity, those who pay attention to what the County is doing will choose the option that appears to be the only viable option to the County to begin with.

Kim Jong-Ill was the only candidate running for leader of North Korea so it’s no surprise that he wins the election unanimously by 100% with 100% approval following a 100% turnout. Sure, the results of the community survey wasn’t unanimous, but the the momentum behind gravity collection is undeniable.

I think that Paavo assumed that I’m a STEP/STEG proponent. To be completely honest, I’m a proponent of a system that works, a system that is affordable, a system that is not built on hype and unrealistic expectations. It’s so easy to say, “Look, gravity has been tried and true all across the United States especially California and it’s the easiest to start and get going,” but when that system doesn’t have sealed pipes (that could cause exfiltration, leakage and pollution of the groundwater) and requires constant maintenance (which will further add to the costs), that makes me wonder if this is a worthy investment for Los Osos. When the sewer is built, I don’t want the community to face the scenario that there is more pollution of the groundwater due to these problems and then we have to pick up the tab. I don’t think that’s fair.

I’m critical of the process because I want it to be done right. The answers provided today by Paavo were comprehensive and it gave me perspective, but at the same time, those answers fell short of providing any substantive reassurance to me.

There needs to be a greater push for lowering the cost and I’m grateful that the County is aggressively seeking funding for Los Osos. We do need a sewer but we also need a sewer that doesn’t force those — who would actually benefit from it and should benefit from it — out of town.

Los Osos: Getting Stronger When Focused

I just wanted to make a quick note because this got my attention for the past couple of weeks.

For as long as I lived in Los Osos, I had a one-track mind arguing that other people had a one-track mind. As soon as I started looking at all of the options for Los Osos in terms of wastewater treatment, it became clear to me that people will gladly accept those who keep an open mind. The idea of togetherness has become a very appealing factor and people with unique ideologies have come together to make progress.

The people of Los Osos first need to understand that they are not wastewater experts, but if they want to get their hands dirty, they need to focus on the finer details instead of placing faith in those who have relied on ambiguous, repetitive rhetoric to carry their message across.

I’m not a wastewater expert. I don’t want to be one. However, I am interested in the process because I want Los Osos homeowners to have a sustainable, affordable system and will not settle for anything less. If you see me coming to the podium, sharply criticizing backers of the process, that does not mean that I’m “anti-sewer” or that I’m simply filling the room with hot air. I’m speaking primarily because I feel tthat the missing element in creating the change we need is the conservation that the people need to have with the county. Public meetings only summarize decisions without any extensive reasoning. Public meetings do not create dialogue.

As the people of Los Osos are starting to mature and unite behind the solutions that they deem to be appropriate for their community, the County has yet to observe that trend and be as warm and receptive as the community.

I formally asked to meet with Supervisor Bruce Gibson over the issues I had with the Los Osos wastewater project. At the moment, he’s declined to meet with me in person and had offered to schedule a phone call. I’m not someone whose concerns can be eased by one phone conversation. However, I can understand that my reputation precedes me given that The ROCK had been a very vocal critic of the County staff and process including Gibson. With that in consideration, I must emphasize that we’re in this together and we have to put our prejudices aside in order to make the process work effectively.

I’ve had a lot of fun talking to people who have once turned away from me and now I’m very receptive to their ideas. On that note, I feel that Los Osos has earned a passing grade in diplomatic communication and I’m happy to be a part of it.

SLO County BOS Speech Transcripts (3/3/09)

Here are the transcripts of the speeches made on March 3rd.

From Aaron (full version):

This tax-and-spend board could really use a lesson in the art of transparency from President Obama. The County is hiding the real costs.

Recovery.gov has been an unprecedented effort in giving the American people a look at how their taxpayer money is being distributed according to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Approximately $144 billion dollars is going to state and local fiscal relief. Why don’t Los Osos taxpayers get a line by line accounting of how the last million dollars of Los Osos money was allocated to a lobby firm. People got up at Public Comment and asked, but no answer was given by this Board. That’s not transparency. The problem with some stimulus dollars is that a good chunk of this money is going to bureaucracies who have not been transparent – or willing to invite taxpayers into the decision-making process.

Multiple direct mailings and public meetings do not demonstrate transparency. The nature-themed, glossy stock brochures only explain the steps that need to be taken, backed with unverified statistical data that are meant to reinforce authority and unquestioned power.

These beautifully assembled mailings, including the February 19th Project Status Reports, consist of decisions made by the county, but not why they made those decisions. There is no documented second opinion except for TAC pro/con analysis. TAC has shown substantial preference to gravity collection. This was made apparent in TAC chairman Bill Garfinkel’s recent, less-than-transparent Tribune viewpoint.

Public meetings never attempt to resolve – or at least respond to – myriad, public disputes. Instead comments from the board are limited to, “Sir, your time is up” and “Next speaker please,” but rarely a question is raised or response that’s issued. That infrequency ultimately undermines the County’s guiding principle of hearing what the community has to say. When you fail to address concerns from the public, it shows that you do not understand the project enough to give an answer. The board’s only expertise seems to be saying “Yes!” to the staff reports.

The town hall meetings were more or less a verbal read-through of the mailings. Any additional questions made by the public were screened so the only questions addressed sounded more favorable to the process.

With a lack of transparency, one has to wonder if this board is shilling for special interests like Montgomery Watson-Harza. This dark tunnel of a process is eroding the public’s trust in government. Some find this process satisfactory and transparent because it fits their agenda, regardless of the cost, but in reality, we need to reform the system that allows these special interests to buy County opinion and we should never allow the County to be bought.

From Ed (full version):

Good afternoon, Supervisors, I’m Ed Ochs from Los Osos here with your Monthly Update on the Los Osos Wastewater Project from the viewpoint of thousands of people in Los Osos who will be pushed out of their homes by the County’s pork-lined project.

The results of the Community Survey are in and you have failed the affordability test. When asked WHY you absolutely refuse to build a sewer Los Osos can afford, the only answer we ever get back is “BECAUSE” — because Assemblyman Blakeslee passed a law that SAYS SO … because Regional Water Board Chairman Young IMAGINES SO … because Public Works Director Ogren and his staff REPORT SO … because Supervisor Gibson and his Merry Board NOD SO … and because Tri-W TAC Chairman Willy Garfinkel SWEARS it’s the ONLY way to go — and SO it’s SO. And that’s why.

Debating the predetermined wrong technology that has already been decided on in advance is a waste of time, and those who think they can change the board’s mind are missing the fact that the train has already left the station on the choice of technology, and the name of that train is the “Gravity Express.”

Even before the County considered taking on the project and before the legislation was even passed into law, the County’s Gail Wilcox wrote a June 2006 memo to this Board on options for county involvement. In that memo, Wilcox presented strategies that included comments such as “will need sole-source contracting to proceed quickly” and “conventional gravity collection; essentially as designed” using “conventional technologies.” And, “consider whether existing collection system contractors can resume work, thereby minimizing existing payment disputes.”

Gravity for Los Osos has long been a foregone conclusion. The County has never really considered inexpensive systems like vacuum, which would certainly be an acceptable compromise between gravity and STEP and costs one-third less. That’s affordability. All that was ignored because for some strange, unspoken reason it HAS to be Carollo and Montgomery/Watson/Halliburton – for the top-dollar project, over-inflated gravity. So the $6 or 7$ million dollars already spent by this Board and charged to PZ homeowners has been a complete waste of public funds. Apparently, entertainment isn’t cheap. Long-running dog-and-pony shows to dazzle homeowners into submission cost more than launching a major Broadway musical.

Speaking of show business and trusting the process.

P.T. Barnum of Barnum & Bailey Circus fame hung a huge sign in the circus that read: THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS!!! An arrow pointed to a door.

Expecting to see some fantastic new creature, many an unsuspecting patron who didn’t know “EGRESS” was just another word for “EXIT,” went through the door and found themselves out on the street!!!

The “PROCESS” is just another word for “EXIT” and many an unsuspecting Los Osos homeowner will find themselves out on the street when they can’t afford the County sewer.

Moral of the story: It is later than it’s ever been for Los Osos. Soon there be nowhere for Los Osos residents to go but out.

Commentary:

Given how controversial and time-consuming the Los Osos Wastewater Project update is, there should have been a notice on the agenda that allowed the public to have a presentation for the maximum of two minutes per speaker. I was a little tongue-tied given that I had previously timed my speech at two minutes and 30 seconds. I had already compressed as much detail as I possibly could within the speech, but the late-minute notice took its toll on my delivery.

The meeting was packed mostly with people who were more in step with Garfinkel’s perspective. I drew that conclusion as soon as Ed spoke. There was a collective sign in the room followed with an exasperated, “Oh boy…”

Everyone said what I expected them to say. I noticed that Bruce Gibson and Jim Patterson did address what I mentioned earlier when I talked about how they rarely replied or addressed any public disputes. I still feel that the BOS is not technically informed about the process as far as casting any reasonable doubt on the process based on comments made by the public.