At the Sewer’s Edge
Calhoun’s Can(n)ons has to be “put to bed” before the Great Sewer Election results will be finally tallied, so as I write this I do not know what those results will be. But here are some things I still do not know, and some things I do:
--I know the present sewer plan is the wrong plan in the wrong place at the wrong price for all the wrong reasons. But I do not know the real reason why the CSD Board majority clings to the Tri-W site with such single-minded ferocity. Using a sewer plant in order to get park land while sticking only the ratepayers with the bill is simply unfair. And telling me an industrial-sized sewer plant must remain in the middle of town because the community desperately needs to have a Tot Lot next to it is like peeing on my shoes and telling me it’s raining.
-- I know the present plant will not allow build-out without (a) imported water, (b) will not cure salt water intrusion in the lower aquifer, and (c) will cost the community a bundle with constantly rising Operation & Maintenance costs, among other things. A project with such big “deferred” costs and unsolved problems waiting in the wings is a pig-in-a-poke project. We’ll see if the community will buy it.
--I still do not know why on earth the CSD repeatedly refused to prepare two or three sewer-plan options, with accurate prices, and then present them to the community for a choice and a vote. Hobson’s Choice is really no choice at all.
-- Not that this project ever really did go to the voters, until now. Which is why I know the way the CSD set up the original assessment was fundamentally misleading. You do not ask for a property tax vote on a massive public works project like this one by parsing out a tiny portion for the tax rolls while reserving the enormous, open-ended lion’s share (i.e. the real cost) for much later in the form of an ever-escalating “service/loan fee,” and then use that tiny assessment vote to declare that the community did vote on the plan and overwhelmingly supported it. “Disingenuous” is one word for that kind of scheme; “dishonest” is another.
--I know that when someone promises me “no spin” on a project that is nothing BUT spin, I’d better start counting the silverware.
-- I know that I no longer have confidence in our CSD Board majority. The entire process that has led up to the recall is nothing new to me. I closely followed the same dynamic at work in the SLO Coastal School District, a district whose board majority put petal to the metal despite repeated warnings, then drove the district into financial ruin before walking away from their self-made train wreck, leaving the students, teachers and taxpayers stuck with the bill. To me, the CSD is School Board déjà vu.
-- I know that once you lie about the simple stuff, you can’t possibly be trusted to tell the truth on the big stuff. Lie # 1 always begets Lie #2 to cover up Lie #1, and so forth, until you end up stuck tight to a Tar Baby tangle from which you cannot escape. I know that spin and hokum and half-truths always mean that I’m being manipulated for reasons that rarely have to do with my best interest.
-- I know that Los Osos has been failed repeatedly by the very governmental agencies that should have served as a safety net to keep well meaning but non-expert elected Boards out of inadvertent harm’s way. Instead, Los Osos has been like the drowning man who, instead of being helped and rescued by trained lifeguards, has seen rescuers row out one after another, not to save, but to bash the drowning man over the head with an oar.
-- And finally, I know that the mechanisms of democracy – initiatives, recalls, voting, petitioning our government for redress – are alive and well. And I know, as messy and often hideous as the process is, it is absolutely amazing to me that so many people in Los Osos still take their right to self-government so seriously. I can only hope that the rest of the community treats their precious right to vote in the same serious way.
Note: As of 10 pm. Tuesday night, the three CSD candidates had been recalled and the sewer initiative was ahead by a slim margin. Final tallies won't be known until tomorrow. In my previous posting, I wondered if my fellow Los Ososians were sheep or growly bears. I now have my answer.