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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Look, Ma, Lemmings! Let’s Jump, Too!

The smell of fear in the room was palpable. Fear fed on half-truths, untruths, fragmented truths and sheer made up stuff that was woven into grand End of the World scenarios and breathtakingly inventive “What Ifs” that were then presented as “real.”

I’m speaking, of course, of the Thursday, Nov. 3rd. Los Osos CSD meeting right here in beautiful downtown Sewerville. The State Water Board had pulled the low cost loan and rejected the CSD/SWB’s tentatively agreed to, negotiated “Deal.” Yes, the old wallet tied to a string trick.

If you ever wanted to see how easily people can be buffaloed and herded, if you ever wanted to see how quickly people will change their convictions and directions, abandon their choices to rush into the arms of whatever appears to be “safe” when threatened, how easy it is to spook people into running, then that meeting was a perfect place to witness the process.

Luckily, after some hyperventilating, a few interesting bits of information slowly emerged.

Our new General Manager, Daniel Blesky, self-identified himself as primarily being “A Contract Guy,”and as such he has written a little billet doux to the State Water Board. He read pertinent sections that pointed to parts of the contract for the State Revolving Fund Loan, a contract that the State Board wrote and that they and the previous CSD signed for the State Loan, the parts of that contract that the State Water Board apparently violated when they stopped the already-agreed upon last payment installment. Mr. Blesky pointed out that contracts always have in them “remedies” which must be followed. Indeed, contracts ARE little more than a set of “remedies” organized in a logical fashion – basically, an agreement that if I do X you must do Y and if I don’t do X, you must do A first, then if that doesn’t work, you move to B and so forth – all spelled out. What you cannot do is to go from X to immediately shooting my dog. Doing so puts you in breach of contract, which Mr. Blesky says the State did in their unseemly haste to terminate the town (That’ll show ‘em!)

In short, the State didn’t do A, followed by B. They just shot our dog. Apparently, that’s a legal no-no. (I presume the state will argue that they shot our dog because they thought we MIGHT do X and they weren’t gonna wait around to see if we actually did. But I don’t think contract law provides for anticipatory dog-shooting. Of course, I could be wrong.)

More interesting still is this: All contracts have “wiggle room,” that’s what they’re all about – encompassing a scope of work and setting forth the best way to get it done at an agreed upon price & etc. All contracts (good ones) have built into them the ability to be modified as things change on the ground, i.e. prices change, physical situations on or in the ground turn up, etc. Again, that’s what good contracts are all about. In short, if all parties agreed that what this contract was all about was building a sewer treatment system and the only thing to be modified was the treatment plant and its site, and IF that modification failed, the original plan and site would be back in play, then IF all parties agreed, then the contract could be modified as to the scope of the work. This sort of thing happens all the time IF ALL PARTIES ARE AGREED. So, there’s the question for the State: The CSD agreed to modify the original contract. The State refused. Why?

Also of interest, according to Mr. Blesky, the CSD first agreed to all terms required by the state to enter into formal negotiations. The CSD brought a proposal to the negotiating table. They all considered that proposal and then the State came back with their non-negotiable Proposal, as a “counter offer.” The CSD voted to accept the counter-offer, which the State then promptly dumped. As per Mr. Blesky, that’s effectively another breach of “contract,” another “deal” broken by the state, not the CSD.

At present, Mr. Blesky said he’d try to get the letter he’s sent off to the state posted on the CSD website so folks can read the pertinent info themselves.

Furthermore, according to Mr.Blesky, the contract written by the State Water Board clearly states that everyone signing on to the contract MUST obey all laws and regulations and statutes & etc. And when Measure B passed it was considered law, and until it’s formally overturned by the courts, it still IS the LAW, so everyone, including the CSD and the contractors and the State Board itself had to abide by Measure B, or be put in jeopardy of being charged with criminal activity. (Oddly enough, the way the Measure is written, it appears as if the collection pipes could have continued to be laid – the “Deal” the CSD agreed to – without running counter to the Measure, since the Measure only concerned the site of the sewer plant itself.)

As for measure B, there’s a December 14 hearing in the appeals court, after which the court has 90 days to render a ruling, which can be appealed to the State Supreme court. Not known is whether the CSD is required to defend the case in court (it’s forbidden to spend money to defeat the measure in court, but I don’t know if it’s required to defend and appeal.)

Also not known, is whether or not the State violated Proposition 218 when they originally issued the loan (increased vastly) without having the community vote on whether or not they wanted to be encumbered with that loan and agree to repay it & etc. Also not known is whether any Federal rules were broken in the way the original loan was set up, since Federal money was also involved.

Even more interesting was a Mr. Fergus who got up to note that according to the Regional Water Quality Board’s documents, fines are base on ability to pay. Ability to pay? What’s that? The previous CSD Board refused to do an “affordability study” for pricing out the sewer, so nobody knows what the “ability to pay” of the prohibition zone folks is. Wouldn’t it be ironic if the RWQCB was required to do what the previous CSD Board refused to do and that is to at least find out our “ability to pay” by having to do an “affordability” study in order to fine us?

And what would happen if such a study found out that the folks in the prohibition zone only had the ability to pay $100 a month? How then, were they expected to have the ability to pay $200 a month for the Tri W Sewer? Ability to pay? I can hardly wait to find out what that means and see those numbers.

Meantime, the CSD and/or the Advisory Committees, which are being re-started, will hopefully be making public the crunched numbers for the out-of-town plans that were presented and examined in the negotiating room. It’s critical that this community take a good, long hard look at those numbers. The previous CSD repeatedly told us that they had examined ALL options, that any out-of-town site would be waaaaay more expensive and simply couldn’t be done, that the Tri-W site was the ONLY option. It’s important that this town know just what those negotiators were looking at when they arrived at their preliminary “deal” that indicated that not only would the out of town site be cheaper and/or give more bang for the buck, but could be “permitted” and work started within the two-year window.

Meantime, folks in the community need to take a deep breath and stop thinking that Roger Briggs of the RWQCB will come to their door and hand them an individual fine for $11 million. From some of the fearful comments made Thursday night, I have an awful feeling some people out there think that’s what’s going to happen.

Which is why it’s critical for everyone in the community to be very, very careful about what they hear and from where and whom. For example, one of the “Dreamers” announced that there’s a petition circulating to dissolve the CSD. When certified, the CSD must call another election and the voters can vote on the matter. What wasn’t said was whether or not such a de-certification process requires that LAFCO sign off on the deal, a process I’m told can take a year or more to complete. Nor did the “Dreamer” indicate whether the county would even take on the burden. Instead, what was clearly implied by the speaker is if the election was held and the CSD dissolved, then POOF! the State Loan would arrive the next day and the Tri-W sewer site would begin a-building overnight!

If the community isn’t to be Lemmingized by fear and rumor and snappy misleading campaign slogans, then everyone better keep a pound of salt handy, start attending the CSD meetings (or catch them on TV), and/or take a gander at all the various original documents kept on file in the Giant Big Huge Board Books in the CSD office.

Otherwise, there’s the cliff. Start your furry little engines! Bwa-aaaaaaaa-ieeeee!

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great piece, Ann. I was in that room and Man! Talk about people being scared out of their wits!Please, please good people of Los Osos. Don't let those bullies frighten you. I think we have an excellent case against the state. Many were saying it was foolhardy to "fight the state." What? This is America. The land of the free and the home of the BRAVE. Don't be scared. Being scared is what makes people back down and forget they have a right to JUSTICE FOR ALL.

Anonymous said...

Did you say dissolve the CSD? Oh my God. Now there's another delay. By the way I did not vote for the recall because I want to get the project going wherever it is. I think if people really want this to get going they should just let the new board handle it. If we dissolve the CSD this will take even longer!

Shark Inlet said...

I do have to agree ...

Ann, while I'll disagree with you about many of the details, this most certainly was an interesting meeting. I do think that Dan was a bit hasty to encourage the current board to stop construction (even temporarily) because that gave the SWRCB an excuse to stop the money. I disagree about his interpretation of the contract. Having read it, the contract is very clear ... if the state even thinks the CSD is going to change the project or not make progress they have the right to pull the funds (unless the changes have been approved in advance). Sure, there is some wiggle room, but if you view the SWRCB as the enemy, why give them a chance to hurt you? What does the current board do now? Sue? That will certainly make the SRWCB make want to give Los Osos another SRF loan!

Here is my major frustration with this board so far ... besides the fact that they've taken actions to lose the SRF. They told us they would be transparent and open to listen to people and take actions only after listening. This board seems at least as close-minded as the previous board. This board has done a lot of thinking about the issues behind closed doors and they've come to the meetings to "listen" to public comment then announce their opinions. After several speakers on Thursday, Dan, Julie, Lisa and the new lawyer-man told us details about the negotiations and about what had happend that they could and should have told us earlier.

Key among those decisions ... the decision to stop TriW. They should have thought through all the possible ramifications about that before making that choice. In particular, they should have told the state that they intended to continue at TriW but they couldn't because of Measure B (which Dan told us the state presumes to be law), so they'll continue with "winterizing" but wait on further grading until after the court date. Simply put, stopping construction instead of telling the state that they need to temporarily change plans because of B may have cost us the SRF.

On the other hand, Measure B may have cost us the SRF anyway.

Bummer for us all.

I really hope that things work out well, but I am troubled.

Shark Inlet said...

I have to think about the whole petition to disolve the CSD. It may speed things up and save us some money but it might do neither. Certainly the County would use the TriW plan if they inherited the project.

The real question may be about how long it would take to disolve the CSD then the county pick up the project. If it would only be two or three years, it might be a good financial move because if the county would put the project out for re-bid they might get lower bids than the CSD. The county has a much better reputation than does the CSD. Also, the county wouldn't feel any rush to move quickly to avoid fines, unlike the CSD so they might have more opportunity to say "no thank you" to high bids.

On the other hand, this current CSD would probably have to spend two years studying possible out-of-town sites before they can be sure that any of them would work. Then they would spend another year to design the plant. On the time issue, it is clearly a wash. On the money issue, we have no idea. I suspect more expensive for out-of-town, but would need to check.

Anonymous said...

Have to agree with The Shark as far as the transparency thing goes. Even though I personally like the new board members very much, I feel like they are doing things out of order. They would get alot more support for their ideas/actions if they would inform us of those decisions and actions. I know they are trying to let the public speak and by doing it early on in the meetings there is more time for people to speak. But it seems like we speak first and then they go on later to do whatever they were planning to do, which we often don't know about before we speak. Sorry for the long sentences they just came out that way.

Publicworks said...

The GM wasn't the one to issue the stop work orders, chalk that one up to the new board. His job has been to try to find every conceivable loophole to bail them out - hopefully the ones he's finding will hold up and force the state to keep the funding going.

This board has a real problem, they have to do most things behind doors, because basically they can get sued from everywhere -which means all they're really doing is negotiating.

This CSD has a loan contract and a construction contract - those contracts are the greatest assets this community has - and those contracts are in place for one reason only, and that is to protect the groundwater.

Since dissolution would eventually hurt the contracts - why would any sane person want to do it?

Shark Inlet said...

publicworks,

I hear what you are saying about dissolution. On the other hand, if the current board pisses away the loan and the construction contracts and if it would only take 2 years to get the county to take over, it might be cheaper and quicker than to go with the lack-of-plan that the current group has.

I would view dissolution with the same suspicion that I would view a recall. Probably a bad idea, but I could be convinced.

Now a question about Ann's post. She complains about various "what ifs" that people were spinning as fact. On the other hand, these "what if" scenarios are being told to us by the people who told us in advance that if we stop construction we will lose the SRF. New-lawyer-guy suggested the SRF was already gone. The CSD counted on keeping the SRF and didn't think that stopping construction would cause a problem with the SRF. Sounds like the people who are telling these "what ifs" are better able to predict the consequences of the CSD actions than the CSD itself. Sounds like the board ought to be listening to these people.

Here is my question ... even if Dan finds a loophole or two or five, doesn't the CSD need to continue construction at TriW to keep the loan? I would think so. The "winterizing" will only take so long. Meaure B will likely be dead by the end of January. How will the CSD be able to "move the sewer" at that point in time? And this is all assuming that the contractors don't walk first. If they go, bad just goes to worse for the board.

I just don't see them being able to find any money anywhere to move the project.

Again, all the best of luck to them ... and us.

PublicWorks said...

The money to re-site is a legitimate issue, and that's a $5 million question.

Keeping a $134 million loan for construction will make the financing for siting more viable. That's why the board must continue construction going substantially to keep the loan.

Measure B is already dead, it's a 'faux' law.

Anonymous said...

fantastic post ann. i am so thankful and our community is so fortunate to have watch dogs like you. you are awesome. keep up the good work and thanks again

Shark Inlet said...

publicworks,

It sounds like you are saying that the construction at TriW must continue until the SWRCB could allow for a change of venue. Presumably that would have to be carefully timed ... after Measure B is struck down but before the winterizing is finished.

I really hope that this current board can pull it off. I don't necessarily want an out-of-town project, but one that is at as low a cost as possible.

I am wondering whether the state will take a punitive attitude toward Los Osos because of past bad behavior on our part or an attitude of trying to help us because we clearly need some help else the cost will be beyond our ability to pay. Funny that the same board that is charged with helping protect the water is also charged with making sure that the SRF money is spent wisely.

Or is this just a never-ending game of "good cop, bad cop"?

Is the SRF money really dead as lawyer-guy told us? If so, the costs of an in-town site and an out-of town site might just be about the same. It was only the SRF money that made the in-town site cheaper.

Churadogs said...

Wow, ten comment posts overnight! Good going, guys and gals! and whoever! That's what this blogsite was imagined to be by Newstand Greg when he set up the News Mission -- a forum for info and opinion and questions and discussions.

All of you raise inportant questions. One questions that continues to haunt me: Why did the previous CSD Board fight so ferociously to keep Tri W? I mean, they locked into place actions that could only bring financial harm or ruin to this community (recklessly pounding loan money into the ground 30 days before a recall election & etc) It was truly a lack of financial care and diligence to guard this community against possible harm. For people to do that, I can only believe there's something more going on that mere siting and sewage. I mean, at Thursday's meeting, Vita Miller read an email from a Dreamer to Roger Briggs (the email was part of the public comment record) that demands Briggs "fine the CSD out of existence," forgetting, of course, that the citizens will pay the fine -- pro and con recallers and dreamers alike. Why would a former Citizen of the Year (I think) demand financial punishment and ruin be called down on the heads of fellow townsfolk, sheep and goats alike? I dont' get it. Is something personal going on? A Sampson-like rage to pull the temple down no matter what? What's fueling that? Ego? Fear? Whaaaattt?

I mean, at the October 30th meeting, (the one on the compromise deal) I heard previously-committed anti-recallers say, "Well, actually I wasn't married to the Tri W site. . . ." I suspect most of the town wasn't married to the site but stuck with it because they were told it was the only site that would work or was cheaper. When a tentative brokered compromise and deal was struck, when the negotiators had apparently run the numbers and indicated that moving the plant out of town was both doable and cheaper (maybe) then it was amazing how many people said, Fine with me.

Except the Dreamers. Why?

Now, they're calling for disolving the CSD? If that involves LAFCO, then that process may take years. What's the point?

I really don't get it. I did not want a sewer plant in the middle of town, and I have been and still am highly critical of the process that resulted in the whole plan, and highly suspect of the "story" this community has been told about the siting of the project, but the one thing I did want came to pass: A vote on the whole issue.

That happened, finally, but if the vote had gone the other way, I would have written a column saying, O.K. Guys, you voted and now you'll get what you asked for,Good Luck, Then I would move on.The people have spoken. Get on with it.

But demand that the wrath and fury of the regulatory agencies be visited upon my fellow citizens because they voted for something I didn't favor??? Haul them into court to change the vote or stop the project? Nope.

Which is why, I don't get it.

As to the lack of information available to the public, as noted, a lot of info is now "closed session" and will remain there until it's reported out. Another problem is simply lack of time. Things HAD to move fast, which means there wasn't time for much more than following Brown Act rules. (Oddly, the same speed and haste and refusing to really listen to citizen's concerns also took place when the previous Board voted to commit the town to gazillions more on that loan, all without any kind of citizen vote & etc. and rushing forward to sign with contractors rather than step back and take a second look at the over-priced bids, & etc. so I find it ironic that the present Board is being criticized for doing the same thing the previous board wasn't criticized for. Goose & ganders?)

Well, meantime, breathe in, breathe out. And let's all keep a sharp eye on the ball, get a grip, don't panic, keep a level head, ask questions, remain skeptical and aobe all, demand honesty and don't take any wooden nickles.

Publicworks said...

The construction needs to keep going to make progress towards cleaning up the groundwater. Whether that means winterizing only or resume the plant, either way that will only occur if the state gets off it's duff and releases the funds to continue.

As for the vote, it was not about a choice of a system that so many had asked for - it wasn't. It was a choice to replace three directors, and a choice to enact a law that makes it difficult to site a sewer.

If Ann voted for that law, she didn't vote to move anything - she voted to make it difficult to site a sewer. Anybody that doesn't recognize that the state has a beef with Los Osos over B is dreaming.

Anonymous said...

Good grief! It has taken me nearly 48 hours to recover from my first experience with the CSD meeting on Thursday night! I think I am able now to contribute to this message board.
UN-freakin-believe-able just about reflects what I saw and heard.

People, the CSD has got to go. Period. They are a rogue bunch of criminals running roughshod over this town. The entity in itself probably could be a good one. But, the people sitting at those two tables in the front of the room with their microphones and horrific attitudes and grandiose egos are not good people whatsoever. Couple them with the "back of the room" rude, nasty, just plain wicked people and Los Osos is currently indeed in deep doo-doo. How in heaven's name did this happen!?!?!?!? I KNOW for a fact that if the 1/3 of the voters who did not vote because they were in complete and utter denial that such a group as "them" would possibly win, would be presented with a ballot today, Los Osos could be taken back in a NY minute! Add the YES people who are now the NO people due to their eyes being opened...we have a more than simple majority my friends. Oh, and the LIES the YES people were told, and are being told just amazes me that this group can sleep at night.

It is a shame that we were so confident the first go-around that "those people" were able to do what they have done to us, but...a new level of confidence is being grown as we speak. You gotta pardon me but I am SIMPLY BLOWN AWAY at what I saw and heard Thursday night. Talking about a wake-up call. If you have never been to one of these meetings, you have got to experience one just once to snap you right into where you know you NEED TO BE if you want Los Osos to be the town of your dreams. And if you have satellite television as we do and do not have the Charter Cable feed to view these televised meetings, then you are as much in the dark as we were. The opinion columns in the newspapers DO NOT do this dilemma justice. You have got to see it for yourselves. Wear your asbestos underwear when you go. The fire-breathing ones in attendance will not spare you whatsoever. We did not feel unsafe at any time. Just totally in disbelief of what we saw and heard. I wanted to cry but it is beyond that now.

I spotted the ringleader in the back of the room, as well as the one he's second to. She definitely has the personality disorder that Scott Peterson has. I could see it in her face. Her eyes are empty and so is her soul. Just too much evil in one room at one time for me. I look forward to spending better, positive times with the group of people who are working to turn this misguided train around!

Get out and be a part of dissolving this bad, bad force of influence on this town.

Sign ANY petition you can get your pen on that will stop this insanity! Get your NEIGHBORS to do so as well. Oh, and get out your checkbooks because removing "them" will not be free. You may not have gobs to give but every little bit helps. Spending now will save you gobs later.

You know those current spooky, alien, sci-fi, 1/2 and hour long shows on network television right now? Well folks...guess where they are getting their script material and characters? Yep, you guessed it...from "them." These people are NOT human. They have absolutely no feelings whatsoever. The personality disorder "Narcissistic" rings a bell when observing "them." If you do not know exactly what this personality disorder is, look it up. Your head will nod as you read about this disorder.

Nearly 1/3 of the great Los Osos people have been lied to so dramatically that they have now become puppets for "them" - - hell-bent to destroy Los Osos too. WOW! As I write this I am still reeling from my experience Thursday evening. I may have issues about my exposure to "them" that will need therapy to get them behind me!!! Ha! What I witnessed actually freaks me out that I live, grocery shop and walk amongst "them." Why is it that the name "Jim Jones", the words "vodka and pudding", and the place "Waco" keep popping up in my mind? Can anyone tell me, please?

SAVE Los Osos now! You now have the telephone number to call to sign the petition. Get involved with this group that is legally working to take back over the decision making process. God knows, no more decisions can be made by "them." I would not trust a decision as small as allowing a light pole placed at an intersection by "them." It is that bad. Sorry, but I do not care what you say in opposition to my message. It will go in one ear and right out the other. I for one am DONE with any future exposure to "them" and "their" bad, bad ways. I have only just begun. Hang in, group up, it will be over sooner than you think.

One day, we all will look back at this as a stronger community because of it....and celebrate that we ALL became involved and overcame this enemy. :)

Anonymous said...

This kind of extremism is what has got to go! We will never get this done if we don't agree to go beyond "revenge" mode. I know the above writer does not want to hear these kinds of pleas but does anyone else out there agree with me? Paranoia is what the bullies want!

Anonymous said...

At least the recall supporters don't contact regional and state officials by email and beg them to fine us! What kind of sick corruption is that?

Shark Inlet said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Shark Inlet said...

I sort of agree ... begging for fines is a bit odd.

On the other hand, if such fines get the CSD to take action on TriW and do so promptly, fines are probably cheaper in the long run than would be the costs of moving a plant out of town.

Again, I would not encourage fines, but I can certainly see why some would feel that fines would be a good thing, considering the current board's tendency to hose up the situation. Their first action was to send a big "FU" to the state by stopping (um ... to pacify Ann, let me change that to "temporarily halting") the construction at TriW.

The fact that this board campaigned for Measure B makes things worse than had they simply kept quite on the matter.

Churadogs said...

Dear All: A suggestion. If you're going to post something and don't want to use your real name, maybe you'll like to make up some "handle," since we seem tohave a bunch of "Anonymouses" commenting and it gets a bit confusing -- one Anonymous was having an hysterical meltdown (Jeeze, get a grip) and another Anonymous was saing, well, Get a grip. So, for clarity's sake, maybe make up a name for yourself?

But Anonymous, who was coming undone, does illustrate a type of thinking that has taken this sewer issue out of the relm of common sense or Engineering or even Clean Water and put it into some quasi religico-Freudian-Manachean realm. Which maybe explains some of the weirder aspects of what's been going on?

Meantime, to Shark Inlet, suggest we both go to the CSD office and look up the 2001 Project Report, table 4.4 regarding the "Andre" site's cost.

Shark Inlet said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Shark Inlet said...

Good idea Ann ... maybe Greg could restrict anonymous postings entirely.

Isn't that document available via Ron's site? Don't you mean: http://www.slocreek.com/csdmemo.pdf?

Churadogs said...

Dear Inlet, thanks for that link info, it's also in The Big Book at the CSD office, which can be checked out for review, like the various tapes.

As for restricting "anonymous" comments, uh, don't think so, since the writer is free to click whatever little box he/she wants. I was just suggesting that instead of Anonymous, you could pick "other," or make up a name, since, with the exception of one person who's commented, everyone commenting so far IS anonymous.(your real name isn't Shark Inlet . . . I don't think.) I just thought it might make it easier on the reader to separate all the anonymouses.

Anonymous said...

Please don't limit "anonymous"! When I started posting here I didn't use a name, but I soon felt that if I had any conviction at all, then I would sign my own name,so I did, and will continue to do so, no one has come to beat me up yet, and maybe I contributed a little to the discussion. Being anonymous got me to stick my toe in the water, I'm still learning to swim. Perhaps it will help others too. We need as much participation in this process as possible. Mike Green