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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

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."

7 comments:

Shark Inlet said...

Ann, as always, raises a few good points has a definite slant and seems to no address the big picture question.

I'll put some of her comments in bold.


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.


It would seem that this board has introduced additional uncertainty into the question by their actions and stated intent to pursue another project. It would make sense that the state would want to seek additional guarantees because of the additional uncertainty. You are right, however, that the state should have thought twice earlier about mailing us a check when the recall and Measure B would seem to muddy the waters. On the other hand, they really didn't take too much of a financial risk because if the LOCSD somehow chooses to default on the SRF at this point in time, there is no way they will get financing in the future at any reasonable interest rate. It is in our interest to make sure the state is paid back, even if they were perhaps too quick to provide money before.


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?”


Better yet, the analogy that Crizer brought up at a recent meeting ... "If you borrow money to build a home on one lot but instead use the funds for construction at another lot, would a reasonable bank care?" Hell yes! First off, the difference between sites is far more than a difference in the color of a car. To suggest that changing the design of the plant, the location of the plant and even the possible collection system is to completely change the project in every way.

Ann suggests some time to study all the possible options

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.


I would suggest that there is no way that homeowners would choose to put liens on their homes for whatever plan this board would come up with if the costs would be any higher than the estimated TriW costs. Would you trust someone with your future who promised to save you money but then ended up costing you your hard earned dollars? I, for one, would not vote for a lien on my home to build an out of town plant that would cost me $275 a month instead of the $205 we were sure of getting with TriW. This board baragained away their credibility with homeowners during the campaign and with their actions since. Every action they take to pander to renters and people outside the prohibition zone has the reaction of causing homeowners inside the zone (the people who would vote) to mistrust this board.


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.


Sounds like an olive branch to me. An offer to let us return to the TriW site, with financing. That would be a great deal.


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.


Um, don't you want the Attorney General to look into whether a local community has passed a law which may cause conflict with state laws? Perhaps both would be good.

Ann then suggests a conspiracy between everyone but our current board to screw Los Osos.

Here's the real question ...

What should this current board do? Sue the SWRCB or cave and get the SRF loan back. The finances in today's Trib paint a clear picture that an out of town plant will not save money. In fact, it will cost about $70/month more. Yes, this is an estimate, but if you want to fiddle with their numbers a bit to make them more "realistic" sounding to you, you are equiped to do so ... the picture is pretty solid ... if we lose the SRF and don't get another our costs will go up. I would suggest that if do anything other than go with TriW the state will not look with favor on this CSD for future possible loans. If you make a baragin with someone who goes back on the deal, you are not likely to want to make another with the same person again. While this board didn't start construction itself, it is the fact that they supported Measure B and that they have stated their intent to change the project that has essentially broken the SRF loan contract the LOCSD has with the SWRCB.

What should this current board do? Continue at TriW and save money or look to move the plant elsewhere and lose money? I would suggest that even if they want to move the plant elsewhere there are some huge hurdles to overcome, like the lack of any money to use for site analysis, purchase and design. Without money for this, a new plant will never happen. Even if this CSD doesn't kowtow to the SWRCB to keep the loan, there is no certainty that they'll get to pick whether they want a pink cadillac or a yugo ... there is a pretty high chance that the project will be taken over by the County if this CSD can't pay their bills and goes out of business.

What should this board do? Admit they were wrong and that the state does, indeed, hold all the cards and take actions to fight Measure B and build at TriW. Anything less would be compounding the poor choices made by past and current CSD boards.

Anonymous said...

Hey everyone. Get on over to Ron's blog and check out the breaking news! And don't FREAK OUT on those Tribune articles!

madeadecision said...

'Chinatown' isn't all that bad.

At least Mulholland got LA a water supply.

That's how things got done in the old days - a little grease got used.

I'm sure both sides are probably a little deserving of looking into by Mr. Lockyear.

Anonymous said...

Hello all. In light of recent developments, what do you think of the fact that On Nov. 3 Blesky sent his letter saying that LOCSD did not breach the contract (I just read his letter dated Nov.3)and on Nov.4 the state tells the LOCSD that it will resume funding if the contractors go back to work.
I could be way off here, but it seems like they had a pretty quick change of heart after that letter was received. I also thought it was interesting to find out that on Sept. 29 the state notified the LOCSD they were going to cut off the $$$. The new board was not even certified yet. Call it conspiracy theory or whatever you want but I really think there were (and still are) some shannagins goin' on. Could it be that someone up there in Sacramento is on to it?

Anonymous said...

can someone please tell shark that Los Osos just voted to move our sewer out of town and that if the State and the former CSD board had respected the democratic process by waiting for the vote and the loan we wouldn't be in this mess....i think the collusion case has serious teeth and i wouldn't be surprised if the contractors are also involved.......Los Osos, are you ready for Sewer-gate.....keep digging Ann.....I hope you c.c.'d your post to Capps, Blakeslee and Lockyear

Shark Inlet said...

Could someone please tell anonymous that if Measure B is ruled invalid the CSD has a contract with the state to build at TriW and that if Measure B is ruled valid that the state shouldn't give us any SRF money.

You can't have it both ways, guys!

This issue is more complex than "we voted so it's settled". Again, should the South have been allowed to continue with segregation? It was very popular with the voters until the 1960s...

madeadecision said...

annon et al.,

the town didn't vote to move the sewer anywhere.

It voted to enact a restrictive sewer ordinance

please tell us in that silly little ordinance Measure B where exactly it said to move the sewer and how that was going to get funded