The Tired, Ongoing Los Osos Sewer War

I’ve been reluctant to discuss the Los Osos wastewater project since I retired from writing columns about it a little over a year ago.

The project is now estimated at $173 million, which is a lot, but it’s being paid for with a myriad of loans and grants. Of course, Los Osos residents are going to be paying for the rates and charges, including operations and maintenance (O&M) costs. The sewer project is on a lot of people’s minds, but rarely will people come out and express an opinion about it. Essentially Los Osos has advanced so far in collection system construction, it would be financially cumbersome for homeowners to somehow stop the project, reverse course, and reanalyze the alternatives.

Even so, there are some residents who appear at San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors meetings every Tuesday morning. For the sake of full disclosure: I dedicated many of my columns to the preservation of their right to speak at these meetings. There was always a kernel of truth to what they were saying. But over time, the repetition has, in many ways, diluted their overarching message. Now, constructive dialogue and solutions are conveniently left out of their comments and there’s truly no intrinsic benefit to being present at these meetings.

Similarly, I don’t see a benefit to wielding a fanatic disdain for those speakers. The narrative constructed by the sewer fanatics is that the people you see appear every Tuesday have no right to speak for they are “obstructionists” who are trying to stop the sewer at all costs, and in the process of their so-called obstructionism, their activism cost the community millions of dollars. Repetitive opinions don’t cost anything except a couple of minutes worth of hot air from individuals who pledge their allegiance to the microphone more than the residents they claim they represent.

It is a futile undertaking to psychoanalyze the Los Osos sewer debate because, for all intents and purposes, the debate is no longer viable in the face of construction progress that’s been made. There will always be an issue that people will come up and market it to their dwindling followers as the silver bullet that halts the sewer, but no fruit is borne from their labor.

I’ve received e-mails from Los Osos residents who forward to me the latest strategy to take down the “nefarious forces,” as in the same so-called nefarious forces that supposedly orchestrated the “kidnapping” of CalCoastNews’ co-publisher Karen Velie‘s grandchildren. The debate has transformed into an ambiguous-but-somehow-irrefutable conspiracy theory, and the dots are connected by former Los Osos Community Services District director Julie Tacker. When she’s not engaging in microscopic, tattle-tale activism that does nothing to reform the municipalities that opposes her personal agenda, Tacker regularly delivers an opiate of false hope to residents — and that opiate is forwarded to me.

It’s no longer a debate. It’s a game, and it’s a game that I refuse to play. Will the conversation ever steer to a direction that can help close the community rift? Not likely, but if anyone has any ideas, I’d like to hear them.

The Lasting Tragedy of PZLDF

Gail Briggs McPherson

UPDATED (11/17): The rehearing petition has been denied.

UPDATED (11/14): Citizens for Clean Water filed a rehearing petition on Wednesday. More details to come… [Source: Los Osos Sewer Saga]

On October 25, Los Osos’ Citizens for Clean Water (the organization formerly known as the Prohibition Zone Legal Defense Fund) filed for voluntary dismissal of their seemingly never-ending appeal against the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (CCRWQCB). It’s unclear why CCW filed for voluntary dismissal, but it’s clear that Los Osos sewer construction is underway. Because the group is no longer a 501(c)(3) non-profit, and doesn’t appear to be operating under any other group’s 501(c)(3), they will have to pay the water board’s legal expenses.

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Los Osos: Wild in the Streets

Lou prepares for war

“We forgot, though, that sewer opponents are nothing if not wily.”

The Tribune wrote that in their “Bouquets and Brickbats” editorial on Friday, March 2. The Tribune, which is notorious for publishing their disdain of Los Osos sewer critics, achieved a new low, even by their already non-existent standards. The “sewer opponents” are “nothing” and “wily.”

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Ogren Investigation a PR Disaster

General Grant leads the Uncivil War.

UPDATE (9:50 AM): Jim Grant has issued a response to his timing of the report’s release. He tells Razor Online, “As I publicly stated Tuesday before making my statement, I had originally intended to report out after closed session in the afternoon but after thinking about it I thought it more appropriate to report out during the Public Comment period in the morning.  There were a number Los Osos residents that were in attendance that are interested in the wastewater project and I knew they would be interested in my review and evaluation of the alleged conflict of interest.  I also stated that, if needed, I would repeat my comments in the afternoon.”

When San Luis Obispo County Administrator Jim Grant dismissed the conflict of interest allegations involving Public Works Director Paavo Ogren and former LOCSD director Maria Kelly, there was outrage from members of the public who waited until the afternoon to speak on the issue. In an e-mail written to The Tribune sent on September 30, Grant told the newspaper, “It is my intention to report out after closed session.” Instead, Grant presented his findings in the morning after Los Osos residents had already provided public comment. Some have said Grant did this as an attempt to thwart protests in the afternoon.

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Ogren Investigation Falls Short

Time to tie the knot?

San Luis Obispo County Administrator Jim Grant has thoroughly dismissed the allegations of conflict of interest between Public Works Director Paavo Ogren and former Los Osos Community Services District director Maria Kelly as having “no factual basis” during the morning portion of Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. Grant listed each facet of the investigation that he focused on, and stated unequivocally that Ogren was cleared of conflict of interest on all allegations raised by the local media.

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‘Ring Paavo’s Doorbell’ — One Year Later

Is anybody home?

On October 13, 2010, I wrote an article titled “Get The Facts: Ring Paavo’s Doorbell,” which was understandably controversial. The controversy reached a fever pitch when I took on local radio host Dave Congalton, who wrote an article about it. Since then, I spent time objectively analyzing the overall job performance of the County, and their responsiveness to concerns surrounding the Los Osos wastewater project.

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The County’s Manchurian Sewer Candidate

Though she had no power or authority over the Los Osos wastewater project during her tenure on the board, former Los Osos Community Services Director Maria Kelly may have promoted the Los Osos wastewater project on her boyfriend’s — County Public Works’ Paavo Ogren — behalf through election campaigning, word-of-mouth at various community events, and progressive board action that allowed a controversial contractor to participate in the wastewater project. Given the seemingly lopsided results of the Proposition 218 assessment and the community survey, the County of San Luis Obispo benefited from her free marketing.

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Blakeslee’s Seismic Contradiction

Only seven miles to Los Osos

Not since Hurricane Katrina have a few politicians toyed so dangerously with the lives of thousands.

Recently, State Sen. Sam Blakeslee fought hard for a suspension of the relicensing of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant until “a myriad of questions regarding the seismic setting at the facility are answered.” Blakeslee rode the headlines from Japan to headlines in the U.S.

Yet Blakeslee has remained silent on asking for a suspension of engineering contracts on the nearby Los Osos Wastewater Project, less than eight miles away from the nuclear facility, until a parallel liquefaction study for Los Osos can be completed prior to engineering the sewer project. Any major earthquake in the area is likely to affect both Diablo Canyon and Los Osos.

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