Calhoun’s Cannons, The Bay News, Los Osos, CA for November 9, 05
Oh, Look, Mommy, it’s the old wallet in the street full of cash tied to a string and when Old Mr. Harris bends down to pick it up I yank the string and pull the wallet into the bushes, Bwa-hahahahahah!
Yes, folks, the Los Osos Sewerville Gong show continues. The Tribune headlines blare, “State Rejects Osos Sewer Deal,” this after a week-long earnest negotiation and a compromise “deal” voted on by the CSD at their Sunday, Oct 30 meeting.
Turns out first of all that the State Board, uh, “forgot” to put the item on their agenda, even as a place marker. (In an October 31 letter to Celeste Cantu, Executive Director of the State Water Resources Control Board, CSD President Schicker queries: “We are unclear as to why this item had not already been agendized for tomorrow’s meeting (November 1, 2005) as we all began acceptance of the negotiation process twelve days ago.” [The Board requires a 10 day agenda notification.] Uh, let’s see, 12 days, 10 days, uh, Gosh, good question.
Another puzzle is this: If the SRF Loan in question really was site specific, why did the State Water Boys even show up for a wasted week of negotiations, then sign off on a tentative “compromise-with-lots-of-non-negotiable-strings-attached” in the first place?
Is Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee, who risked a lot of political capital and wasted a lot of valuable time here really, reeeeely irritated at being played the fool? Oh, I hope so.
Weirder still, the state loan amount in question was vastly increased at the request of the previous CSD Board and sent down with no secured revenue stream, no Proposition 218 vote, and full knowledge that there was a recall pending and a Measure B initiative pending, and letters to the State Board pleading for them to hold off on encumbering this community with that vastly increased loan before the recall election – all of which was totally ignored by the State Water Board at the time. But NOW we hear that the loan can’t possibly be used to keep this project going (but with an out-of-town treatment plant) because, according to Water Board spokesman, William L. Rukeyser , “We cannot go ahead and risk millions of dollars that belong to the citizens of California.” Oh, Mr. Rukeyeser, that horse left your barn with nary a peep months ago.
Mr. Rukeyser is also quoted in the Trib as saying, “If I get a car loan from the bank, I can’t go out and buy a gym set for my kids.” “Gym set? Last time I looked, Los Osos got the loan to build a wastewater treatment system and after a week of negotiations, was ready to continue laying pipe for a wastewater treatment system, the only difference being the treatment plant itself wouldn’t be located in the middle of town. Mr. Rukeyser’s analogy should have been, “If I get a car loan from the bank, secured by my property as collateral, and I buy a Pink Cadillac instead of a Blue Cadillac, and despite the color change I repay the bank on time and with interest, why would the bank have a cow?”
And finally, said CSD President Lisa Schicker of the negotiations and compromise plan now tossed into the trash can, “If they weren’t going to enter into good faith negotiations, what was the purpose of dragging us through this?”
Good question, Ms. Schicker. Good question. At the Oct 30 CSD meeting, someone mentioned Trojan Horses and lack of trust. Gosh, you think?
Well, in the meantime, here’s my modest proposal: Call the lawyers. Mr. Seitz is still on retainer so he can certainly have everyone wanting to sue the CSD (and vice versa) take a number, then tell them to have a seat and he’ll get to them in a few years. Then, with the advisory committees back on the job, and the various financial audits finished, the CSD can set its house in order.
After which, the community can start workshops on penciling out costs on two or three options of sewer plans, including putting Step/Steg back on the table, complete with full long-term operating, maintenance and replacement costs for each system, and a look at possible self-bonding and or builder-designer financing, then present the options and costs of each to the citizens for a vote to see which one they want to “buy.” Pink Cadillac? Blue Caddillac? Yellow Yugo?
Then, while the lawyers and regulators waste decades in a futile recreation of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, Los Osos can build a self-selected, Proposition 218-approved, Measure B-compliant sewer system.
Note: Since the Bay News Can(n)on was "put to bed,"' there's an interesting wrinkle in today's Tribune: State Water Board spokesman, William Rukeyser, says that perhaps the only way to revive the loan is if the CSD Board actively acts to overturn Measure B. In other words, you can have some nice money but only if you work to overturn a vote of the people.
Right now, California's Attorney General Lockyear has filed an amicus brief intended to urge the appeals court to overturn Measure B. What Lockyear should be looking into is whether or not the State Water Board, the Regional Water Quality Board and the previous (recalled) CSD Board Majority acted in collusion to put Los Osos in financial jeopardy in order to influence an election.
Here's some of the questions Mr. Lockyear needs to ask: Why would a state funding agency not only recklessly loan taxpayer money to a community heading for a recall, but increase the amount by some $40 million at the sole request of a Board majority under threat of that recall and despite pleas from the community to hold off on committing those funds until after the election? And I would remind Mr. Lockyear, this loan was increased without even a hint of Prop 218 complaince, not even a CSD-sponsored Informal Advisory Vote. In short, the loan was increased, based on nothing but the say-so of a Board Majority facing recall and a citizen-sponsored initiative, both of which would put that loan and the taxpayers in jeopardy.
Worse yet, Why would the previous CSD Board majority then sign off on the loan, thereby indebting the citizens of this community shortly before a recall and an initiative that would directly threated that loan? And then why would the CSD start spending that money as fast as possible before the recall vote, thereby ensuring -- should the recall be successful -- that the citizens would be financially punished. And/or be put into the impossible situation of making any other decisions but the ones made for them by a CSD Board majority they voted to remove in order to stop a project they didn't want? And why would certain citizens send emails to Roger Briggs of the RWQCB urging -- demanding -- that he "fine the CSD out of existence" -- forgetting that it's their fellow citizens who will be paying the fines?
Does this spell or smell like collusion to you? If so, maybe that's what Mr. Lockyear should be looking into. So should Assemblyman Blakeslee and our Congresswoman, Capps.
If democracy means anything, then what's happening here in Los Osos, is a perfect example of whether or not this country will be ruled by law and by the electorate, or operate under a famous, utterly cynical line from an eponymous and apparently apt move: "C;'mon, Jake, It's Chinatown."