To be blunt, no PZ homeowner in their right mind should accept a sewer bill of $200+ a month that supports the County’s runaway $165 million and rising sewer project. It’s really a no-brainer. So go ahead, write your letter protesting the ordinance.
What will a winning protest accomplish? Probably nothing, but that’s not the point.
The point is, the County’s “Rates & Charges Ordinance,” now on a 45-day clock of approval, locks PZ homeowners into paying $200 a month for a megasewer that most can’t afford, especially in this ravaged economy. The County’s proposed sewer bill is three times too much for at least 60% of PZ homeowners in the disadvantaged community of Los Osos. Pass these rates and thousands of fixed, low- and no-income residents – the true disadvantaged — will be forced to move. For these people, including many seniors, retirees and disabled, there will be no help coming. Only the upper middle class and the wealthy will be spared, so there is no equality here as to who pays the biggest price here when the price is your home.
The ordinance states in Section 7D:
Penalties for Non-Payment of Sewer Service Charges – Lien Whenever a delinquency occurs for non-payment of sewer service charges, a penalty of ten (10) percent attaches to the charges, and for each month that any portion of the charges remains delinquent, a further penalty of one and one-half (1 – ½) percent of the unpaid charge is added.
And what happens after a homeowner doesn’t pay for many months or can’t pay at all anymore? In time, with a lien on the home, the County has the legal right to seize that house and sell it at auction. And don’t think they won’t – it’s recently happened elsewhere.
To trust the County that $200 a month is a fair price to pay for sewer service is misplaced trust; to imagine it won’t increase is intoxication. Unless you’ve been hiding in a cave for the past three and a half years, you know that the County’s track record for integrity since they took over the project is zero. What credibility could they possibly have left? They have lied consistently, denied cheaper alternatives and competitive bidding, and acted negligently and maliciously to protect MWH. They voted as a bloc to renege on the bedrock promises of the crucial Prop 218 vote of fall 2007, obviously made only to secure the vote (prominent California attorneys called that vote illegal), and now offer another Prop 218 that forces this already assessed group of homeowners within the district to absorb the $27 million shortfall of $27 million from unassessed undeveloped properties – with no guarantee that any future Prop 218 on undeveloped properties, if held, will ever pass. P.S. There isn’t enough of a water supply on hand to build anyway, so would why they ever vote to pay?
The point is, based on the County’s blatant corruption of the public trust, PZ homeowners should be under absolutely no illusions as to the intent of the County or how far they will go to push the project through. Therefore, there is no reason to believe that the County feels any legal or moral obligation to fully disclose information relevant to this 218 that they perceive as potentially undermining their goals. One way they’ve done that in the past is to limit or omit key information that later comes to light and changes the whole picture in hindsight. You can bet on that happening here, too. When it comes to SLO County, what you don’t know can hurt you, and they aim to lay a big hurt of epic proportions on Los Osos.
Bottom line, the “Rate & Charges Ordinance” supports an illegal project that is totally unaffordable, and which is manifested in the unaffordable sewer bill that will destroy Los Osos as we’ve known it.
Send the “Rates & Charges Ordinance” back to the drawing boards. It won’t change the monthly $200+ or the core gravity project — PZ homeowners have hell to pay for the County’s $164 million boondoggle — but it will send a message that it is still the wrong project as the wrong price.
And the message is not without “teeth.” A rejection of the “Rates & Charges Ordinance” could have more serious implications for the County than for the under-the-gun community of Los Osos. The County would have a harder time obtaining interim agency financing to continue pushing the project at an accelerated pace, and it would temporarily suspend the SRF application process requiring rates & charges be in place before finalizing SRF loans and interest rates, which Public Works’ Will Clemens said do not apply to lowering the monthly sewer bill anyway, quite the opposite.
PZ homeowners, this is your last chance to say “no” to this outrageously expensive and unnecessary public works project foisted on an officially “disadvantaged community” in the grip of deep recession. At the same time, the “Rates & Charges Ordinance” is not a true referendum on the sewer because it is a protest-by-letter, not a straight “yes” or “no” vote, and the 50%-plus-one of PZ homeowners standard is a high enough firewall to withstand almost any organized campaign against it, especially in generally indifferent Los Osos, where 30% of the community didn’t respond to the first “blank check” 218 vote on their pocketbooks, and the chances of waging a successful protest vote are the same as skiing up Mt. Everest — backwards.
But ask yourself: Without the electioneering and coercion by the Regional Water Board, knowing what you know now about the County’s black hole of integrity and trustworthiness, and given a chance to do that vote over, how would you have voted for the first Prop 218? If you voted “no” then, protest now. If you voted “yes” the first time around, protest “no” now, because now you know what will happen to you if you vote “yes.”
Supporting the “Rates & Charges Ordinance” that underwrites the megasewer is only supporting the County’s scam, and as the price of the sewer climbs higher and higher over the years through cost overruns, stoppages and emergencies, repairs, and later, depreciation and replacement, who do you think is going to be paying for all that? Not Gibson. Not Paavo. You, the Los Osos homeowner unfortunate enough to have fallen into the man-made trap of the “Prohibition Zone.”
And as a bonus for them, after rates & charges pass, the County won’t ever again have to seek your approval for money to keep the sewer going and fix whatever breaks. Never.
It will all be charged to your sewer bill, your one-way ticket to a lifetime of debt.
— Ed Ochs
HOW TO PROTEST: Submit a Written Protest. If you oppose the proposed sewer service charge, your protest must be submitted in writing to be considered, even if you plan to attend the public hearing. If written protests are submitted by landowners of a majority of the affected parcels, the proposed sewer service charges cannot be imposed. Electronic mail protests will not be formally considered in calculating a majority protest. Protests must contain a description of the property, including the parcel number. Please indicate that it is the sewer service charge that you are protesting. Landowners may mail or deliver their written protests to the County at County Clerk/Recorder’s Office, Attn: Clerk of the Board, 1055 Monterey St. Suite D120, San Luis Obispo, CA 93408 in a manner that ensures receipt by the County no later than the close of the public hearing on December 14, 2010. Landowners may also present or withdraw written protests at the hearing on December 14, 2010. Only those written protests that are actually received by the County prior to the close of the December 14, 2010 hearing will be considered. If you agree with the need for the proposed sewer service charges, no action on your part is required. If landowners of a majority of the parcels upon which the sewer service charges are proposed for imposition submit written protests on a timely basis, then the Board of Supervisors will not be able impose the proposed sewer service charge ordinance.