This is my speech when I spoke during general public comment at the LOCSD meeting on July 2nd:
Everyone should be heard when it comes to the County wastewater project, but I urge people to not be willingly ignorant by hastily pushing for this process to move forward without looking at its most critical underlying issues.
On Monday, at the first of two-day Planning Commission meetings, Maria Kelly made some statements that were perplexing. Ms. Kelly questioned Dana Ripley’s “intentions” and the “incredible level of interest and information” he offers in light of “potential financial benefits” he could gain, as well as the impact on multi-family homes and businesses if his suggestions were considered. Ms. Kelly went on to say that there are other experts that may come with a “different bias.” In conclusion, Kelly spoke about how the PC has spent a great deal of time speaking to Ripley, who offers “one opinion, one story, one bias.”
Ms. Kelly, your campaign was supported by people who had “one opinion, one story, one bias” that heavily leaned toward conventional gravity collection. Clearly you are in support of the County, which has held “one opinion, one story and one bias” toward gravity. You also overlook the fact that the County will also financially benefit from the design and construction of the gravity-based wastewater system through administrative fees that keep the lights on in Public Works. To criticize Ripley for seeking some sort of financial benefit is a moot point when the County would be reaping their financial benefits from this project. Everyone gets paid who works on the project.
Finally, you talked about other experts that may provide some additional information that has a different bias compared to Ripley. Who are they and where have they been all this time? If there were independent experts that had a significantly different viewpoint, they would have shown up sooner or later. But they haven’t, so you don’t have much of a case there.
I question your intentions, Ms. Kelly. You have a lot of these concerns about STEP/STEG when you said to Chair Sarah Christie in ex parte communications that all the technologies presented were feasible. However, you expressed “concerns” about vacuum. Now you have “concerns” with Ripley. Why did you contradict yourself?
So far, you haven’t mentioned MWH in any of your speeches. MWH has been a part of district affairs in Los Osos for several years longer than Ripley has, and MWH has enjoyed financial benefits from Los Osos contracts that are in litigation, yet you seem eager to pave the way for MWH — and say nothing about who really benefits.
A couple of weeks ago, Leon Goldin said, “You can’t serve two masters,” but to this day, you continue to serve only one: the County. Start serving the community now.
After I spoke, Marshall Ochylski made the comment that my comments of her “personal opinion” are unnecessary, but when she spoke at the Planning Commission, she did not say whether she was speaking as a citizen of the community of Los Osos or as a board director of the LOCSD. You can’t say for sure if she was providing a personal opinion after listening to her speech in its entirety. She should have made her position a lot clearer on that point.
On a related note…
Earlier, the LOCSD talked — at great length — about strategic planning and how to properly utilize the facilitator to move administrative decisions forward while dealing with board members with strongly held, but opposing opinions. Ms. Kelly was the one who pushed for more involvement with the facilitator at the cost of roughly $7,200 of the district’s money, but she never once mentioned the reasons for intervention. Where was the communication breakdown? Where and when did things fall apart? Did the board ever try to reconcile in the areas of disagreement prior to committing themselves to this kind of strategic planning?
Ms. Kelly said in many different ways, “We need this so we can get this process to move forward,” but I interpret her statements to mean something else. Ever since Kelly and Ochylski were sworn in, there was a point that created the need to mediate and have some third-party intervention. Using this logic, I can also make the educated guess that problems did not manifest to the point that it required third-party invention before Kelly and Ochylski became board members. I can also see that their willingness to drop $7,200 to mitigate the situation also shows an unwillingness to talk to each other face to face. There’s also an unwillingness to state their positions to the public clearly enough for the public to help mitigate the conflict.
Discussion of the strategic planning ended with the following premise: it’s not about whether or not people disagree, but it’s about the process moving along so that it isn’t stonewalled by people’s strongly held opinions.
Let’s modify this premise.
The LOCSD is a group of five individuals who were elected to serve the community by regulating our town’s utilities. Two new board members come along and we find ourselves in disagreement over processes that need to take shape. Instead of holding office hours or setting up a table at Farmer’s Market as a means of opening the discussions up to the public at large, they would rather pay — with our taxpayer money — to have an elongated therapy session with every individual board member. Is that really fair to us, the homeowner? I don’t think so.
If you feel the need to pay $7,200 of taxpayer money to improve communications with other members of your governing body, then you probably shouldn’t have run for office.