Calhoun's Can(n)s for Sept 27, 2014
There's never a wrong time to do the right thing.
Former RWQCB Chairman, Jeffery Young, wasn't man enough to show up. He left it to Vice Chair, Dr. Monica Hunter, to do the right thing: Vote (which was unanimous) to rescind 45 CDO's and APOLOGIZE to The Los Osos 45 and to the community for the cruel and pointlessly ridiculous "Mad Hatter Tea Party and Torequemada's Auto de Fe Trial," inflicted on them by the previous Regional Water Quality Control Board.
Dr. Hunter had recused herself when the mad "trial" was underway because she lives in Los Osos and so had a conflict of interest on that proceeding. Which was a shame because she alone apparently knew what the rest of that Board refused to know: They had swallowed a false Kool-Aid narrative about the community, carefully fed to them by the former Chief of Staff, a furious, incompetent and equally uninformed Roger Briggs, and his clockwork second-in-command, Harvey Packard. This false narrative was that Los Osos was some kind of Dogpatch filled with urine-swilling "Anti-Sewer Obstructionist" scofflaws.
Naturally, urine-swilling scofflaws, whose only sin was voting to move a sewer plant out of town, needed punishment in order to bring them to heel. And what better way to do that than singling out 45 hapless residents, very publicly slap a Cease and Desist Order on their homes, put them through a ridiculous "trial," threaten their homes, and disrupt their lives, in a little piece of illegal electioneering which would, as then-Chairman Young brazenly put it from the dais, get the community to "vote the right way."
The Mad Hatter Trials were reported on here and the whole sewer debacle thoroughly documented on Ron Crawford's blog at www.sewerwatch.blogspot.com so there's no need to rehash the insanity. Except to note how these unfair CDOs on only 45 people serves as a window into how looney the Regional Board's policies and procedures had become.
Unlike everyone else in the PZ, The Los Osos 45 were required to pay big bucks to inspect and pump their tanks every three years (despite expert testimony that unnecessary pumping made wastewater discharges worse, not better, and despite the fact that nobody else in town had a similar burden.), send that report to the Board and notify the Board if the property was sold. So, clearly the Board was trying to make some sort of vague "scientific" connection between "water quality" and pumping and inspecting a septic tank on a piece of property that would justify that CDO.
But here's the kicker. The CDO's were put on an individual, not on the property. If a CDO recipient sells their house, the CDO goes away. Poof! A new family moves in. Same house, same tank, same leach field, same discharge, but no CDO, no expensive pumping, no reporting, nothing.
This, of course, is pointless incompetent bureaucracy run amok. And has been the operating methods of the Regional Board from day one. Under Chairman Young's leadership, the Board chose to ignore science, ignore practical reason, ignore common sense and instead allowed frustration, anger, misinformation and their own incompetence and ignorance to lead them into a farce -- "The Mad Hatter Tea Party Trial" -- a piece of lunacy that would have been genuinely funny had not the consequences to 45 real people and the community been so wasteful and so harmful.
And now, here it was, the final chapter in this epic piece of embarrassment and ex-chairman Young didn't have the guts to even show up. But Dr. Hunter did and she alone had the courage and decency to acknowledge and apologize to those 45 and to the community as a whole. The apology was too late, but it was no small thing.
Except to our newspaper of record. Two days after the meeting the Tribune carried not one word about the vote, or about the apology. Nothing. Not a surprise, seeing as how they, like the Board, had already swallowed that same false narrative about Los Osos and became water-carriers for the Board. And now, when the community finally received an apology --an acknowledgement by the Vice Chair that The 45 and the community had been wronged by the Water Board -- the community won't read about it in the Tribune.
While deliberately blinding yourself, silencing your critics and burying your mistakes is par for the course for bureaucrats and Boards, for a newspaper, it's inexcusable.
So, congratulations to The Los Osos 45. While the community (and the Tribune) have forgotten you, Dr. Hunter did not. While the apology was too late in coming, it did finally arrive and that in itself is no small thing.