On May 22, Celebrate Los Osos (CLO) is sponsoring the Back Bay Music Festival, which will have BBQ, beer, wine and free music — all for supposedly a good cause. Proceeds from the event will go toward beautification projects in Los Osos and Baywood Park. Months ago, I wrote an article about this volunteer organization and how the people involved have done more harm than good for people living in the Prohibition Zone. I’ve personally asked the founders of this volunteer organization to set up a fund for residents who would be unable to afford the upcoming sewer. There was no response. However, there was a response by founder Pandora Nash-Karner, which included public relations-inspired expressions like “spirit of volunteerism” and lines like, “Volunteering is the most fundamental act of citizenship and philanthropy in our society.”
Volunteering is the undertaking of responsibility. That responsibility is suppose to drive us to make our communities better for everyone. You can take a shovel, dig a hole, plant a tree in the middle of a busy intersection and “beautify” a town, but that will never undo the pain and suffering of thousands of homeowners who have fallen victim to the politics created by the people doing the digging. You can pave a boardwalk from one part of town to another and brag about it excessively to boost your political credentials, but that will never wipe away the self-inflicted shame of telling someone that they don’t matter because they didn’t do as much community service as you have (i.e. planting a tree).
After they have been scrutinized on The Razor, some people — including volunteers of CLO — have asked me, “What have you done for us lately?” in a vain attempt to establish a contrast between my altruistic efforts and theirs as the ultimate “Gotcha!” rebuttal. Apparently for some people, attending board meetings counts as “community service.” Who knew?
Community service is exactly what it sounds like. By performing community service, you’re helping the community — not to further your ambitions and indulgences. You volunteer because you simply want to help your friends, neighbors and community members. It’s not something to halfheartedly brag about as a means of elevating yourself over others. Community service isn’t meant to be used as a tool to replenish moral standing. And most importantly, community service should not be used as a flimsy charade to mask your crimes, poor judgments and prejudices.
In an e-mail to The Razor on October 23 of last year, Pandora Nash-Karner wrote, “We’re not just about the sewer issue.” The crippling legacy Nash-Karner left behind has caused thousands of residents to associate her likeness to the sewer and her irate, costly damnation of a community she once represented.
In the town of Los Osos, we have seen Nash-Karner non-profit organizations like Save the Dream and Celebrate Los Osos come and go. All of these organizations are given names that are fancy, beautified euphemisms for bad behavior and an unrelenting desire to remove the “riff-raff.”
Los Osos resident Jack Hunter shared an anecdote about at a Board of Supervisors meeting on April 30, 2009. Hunter talked about a former neighbor who spoke enthusiastically about benefiting from the plight of homeowners in the Prohibition Zone. Hunter’s former neighbor reportedly told him (likely paraphrased), “We’re going to make a sewer system so expensive that it would drive the riff-raff out of town. The beauty of it 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.”
That neighbor was Leon Van Beurden, head of Bay Osos Brokers and one of the largest sponsors of Celebrate Los Osos. As a director of the Kiwanis Club of Los Osos, Van Beurden has advocated the banishment of members and guests who’ve opposed past and present wastewater treatment projects.
The Kiwanis Club’s past president, Peter Starlings, is also a major sponsor of Celebrate Los Osos. In early 2005, Starlings instructed all the realtors working at his business (Johnson Starlings & Associates) to inform potential buyers that the total cost of the sewer assessment was only $4,000. This was used as a means of luring clients into using his realtors and services. Starlings also attended the hearings that challenged the legality of Measure B. At one hearing in October 2005, Starlings told the then-recalled Los Osos Community Services District President Stan Gustafson that “the district and the people supporting the recall [nearly 3,500 people] deserve to fail.”
Century 21 Hometown Reality’s Jerry Gregory, another leading sponsor of Celebrate Los Osos, joined Nash-Karner in 2005 to chide the district for the recall and to advocate enforcement action for Prohibition Zone residents.
Several of the sponsors are realtors who would significantly benefit from the elimination of the “riff-raff.” Neither of these men have apologized for their words and actions — and there’s no reason to expect them to, but you can expect them to plant some trees and pretend that nothing ever happened.
Though they aren’t sponsors, many of CLO’s volunteers such as Joyce Albright, Don Bearden, Jan DiLeo, Sharon Fredericks, Bill Garfinkel, Jan Harper, Maria Kelly, Alon Perlman, Bob Semenson and Lynette Tornatzky have widened the political divide in Los Osos by taking all the steps necessary to ensure social and economic turmoil for residents (the “riff-raff”) who will likely be taxed out of their homes. These people may plant trees, redesign a road medium and pave a boardwalk, but they want you to fail. They want you to recognize their efforts as a way of justifying their resentment for you.
The most well-known supporters of the County’s $165 million (and rising) wastewater project belong to organizations like Celebrate Los Osos, which — on the surface — appear to have laudable goals. They want to “beautify” the town while — as of May 10 — there are 72 foreclosures in Los Osos. Water rates are increasing (such as the proposed rate hikes by Golden State Water, which include a 48% increase in the monthly water bill for 2011). In California, 13% of the labor force is unemployed and the rate is rising. The monthly sewer costs without financing are expected to go beyond the initial rate of $250/month. Seawater intrusion remains a critical threat to the groundwater basin. The town remains as divided as ever. Thank you, Celebrate Los Osos.
– Aaron Ochs