Leadership Needed in Los Osos


“I don’t need to prove myself to these directors. I am better qualified than all who are currently seated.”

This is one of many examples of inept leadership in Los Osos.

The note you see above was delivered to the Los Osos Community Services District by resident Tom Salmon at some point in February. This note was part of an application to fill a vacancy on the LOCSD. Mr. Salmon and three others were vying for a seat vacated by David Vogel, who moved to a home in Los Osos that was just outside the district boundaries.

Mr. Salmon offered a very simple reason as to why he was applying for the vacant seat. He wrote, “Due to the lack of transparency, honesty, trustworthyness [sic] that is clearly lacking on the board.” Interesting, isn’t it? Mr. Salmon’s reasoning for serving sounds a lot like an incomplete thought. He applied because there are things the board “clearly” lacks, but what’s clearly lacking for Mr. Salmon is coherence.

To his credit, Mr. Salmon explained what he meant by his statement in an op-ed that was forwarded to us. The retired engineer was irate over the fact that the LOCSD scheduled a special meeting to appoint a new director during a “family dinner hour.” The meeting, as Mr. Salmon pointed out, was scheduled between two County-led community forums that discussed the current status of the Los Osos wastewater project. Mr. Salmon correctly stated that the special meeting was originally slated for March 6, but the schedule changed without much notice.

From having a revolving door of personnel to sudden meeting schedule changes, the LOCSD is not known for their consistency.  But when Mr. Salmon offers no constructive input in his application other than telling the board, “I am better qualified than all who are currently seated.”

Mr. Salmon was actually one of four applicants who sought the vacant seat. There was Kurt Rightmyer, a former magazine assistant editor and elementary school teacher. Then there was Jon-Erik G. Storm, an attorney who practices law in Los Osos and formerly served on the district’s Finance Advisory Committee.

And then there was this guy.


That’s Lou Tornatzky. Nothing says “Vote for me!” better than putting on a gas mask and staring into the camera with a soulless gaze. There are words to the right of his photo that read, “A startled look at a small community that outdoes anything outrageous I saw living in big, bad, Los Angeles for fifty-five years, short of murder.”

Not remotely creepy.

The photo is taken from a blog that is regularly maintained by his wife, Lynette Tornatzky. Titled “Los Osos Sewer Saga,” the blog is focused solely on the Los Osos wastewater project and wastewater in general. A quick glance at the blog content shows that Mrs. Tornatzky is completely elated — not at all “startled” — that the project is underway. Mrs. Tornatzky has posted updates that were already posted on the County’s website. She’s posted photos of trips she and her husband made to other wastewater project facilities. She’s told readers to listen to sounds of flushing toilets so they can “recover their inner-child” (whatever that means). She occasionally spots sewers that are briefly shown in popular movies. She’s even provided a holiday shopping guide for the “sewer-obsessed.” Between random sexual references to sewer pipes and referring to construction equipment as “hunks,” Mrs. Tornatzky has set the bar very high for weirdness.

I recommend wearing a hazmat suit before reading her blog. In case you forgot, after reading it, it’s important to take a long, cold shower while shivering in a fetal position.

But as it turns out, her husband is just as obsessed as she is.

“One of the reasons that we chose to buy in Los Osos (beside the weather) was to witness, and be part of, a long overdue community improvement project — the wastewater treatment project,” wrote Mr. Tornatzky in his LOCSD seat application. Mr. Tornatzky stated that he in his wife were “involved” in “various ways,” and that his wife got more involved after he became a tenured professor at the Cal Poly Orfalea College of Business. He later went on to write that he had a “long-standing interest in working in any way that makes sense to heal the wounds of the wastewater project.”

Interestingly enough, Mr. Tornatzky left out of his resume that he was head of ReCreate Los Osos: a non-profit organization originally founded by members of the Los Osos Community Advisory Council. LOCSD Director Marshall Ochylski, who served as the group’s principal attorney while they filed for 501(c)(3) incorporation status, was one of the directors who voted on Mr. Tornatzky’s LOCSD application. Ochylski reportedly did not go on the record to disclose his involvement with Mr. Tornatzky, but he has previously appointed Mrs. Tornatzky to advisory committee positions without disclosure. At the time, Ochylski responded to that factoid by saying that he had no obligation to disclose since he received no remuneration for services rendered as attorney.

Mrs. Tornatzky denied being involved in board activities except to say that served as a “volunteer” of the group and nothing more.

Though they were fixated on the idea that their group would be a way for people to heal from the rifts caused by the wastewater project, the Tornatzkys were complicit in creating many of those rifts through cyber-harrassment and stalking of residents who were outspoken in their opposition to the current wastewater project.

To this day, Mrs. Tornatzky continues to police, berate and intimidate sewer opponents under her own name on several sites. Mr. Tornatzky, on the other hand, is conveniently nowhere to be found.

Despite having a long, detailed resume that showcased his expertise in social and organizational aspects of technological innovation, Mr. Tornatzky’s feverish embrace of the sewer is what he will be remembered for. He effectively sacrificed his credentials (perfectly legitimate, I’m sure) for an obsession on something that most residents want to move on from. In other words, his resume is meaningless. Any leadership qualities he possesses for local government will forever be bent by his family’s irrational obsession.

Fortunately, the LOCSD made the right choice in appointing Mr. Storm to the board.

Political predispositions and pretentiousness from people like Mr. Salmon and Mr. Tornatzky showcase a serious problem that has plagued Los Osos for decades. The town lacks level-headed, constructive leadership. People we see appearing before County Board of Supervisors every Tuesday morning are not leaders. People who argue endlessly about Los Osos’ past and fling their daily fix of digitally penned insults are not leaders.  The fact that these people fail to recognize and reflect on their ridiculousness is a testament to their inability to lead.

They may think they’re leaders, but more than $180 million later their relevance is subjugated by the County’s stoical willingness to move forward. Los Osos should be moving forward too.

But Los Osos won’t be going anywhere if we continue to see the same people jockeying for power; the same people who tell us how they’re better, smarter and more obsessed than everyone else.