Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Mommy, how do you spell B*L*A*C*K*M*A*I*L?

Once again, thrilling headlines in this morning's Tribune. The State Water Board apparently offered it's "new plan" to the Tribune BEFORE sending it along to the CSD. But then, why should that be surprising since it's clear from this "new plan" that the CSD and the voters of Los Osos are merely annoyances to what remains a Done Deal.

The "new plan" says, "If you want the low-cost state loan you have to build the sewer plant in the middle of town, set aside your Measure B vote, and form an assessment district and vote to fund the very plan and plant that you recently voted out. In short, if you want the nice money, you have to go back to square one and do what the recalled-3 previous Board locked you into, a deal you voted to get out of, but since you're of no account you'll do what the previous board decided.

And buried on the jump page, the most interesting little snippet of all: First up on the "new deal," is this: "The district must agree not to bring legal action against the state for witholding loan payments." i.e. the breach of contract that occurred when the CSD notified the state that they had apparently violated their own contract by abruptly cutting off the money.

Curious, no? Why would the State Water Board make that not only a priority but an absolute requirement?

A few days ago we read that if this loan defaults, it would make history by being the first one. Also very interesting because if anyone would bother to examine why this loan is even on the verge of default, they would have to ask and answer some peculiar questions, like Why did the State Water Board grant that loan in the first place on unsecured revenue, when its own statutes require it to have a secured, dedicated source BEFORE signing off on the loan. They didn't do that in this case. Why not? Also, why on earth would the State Water Board not only sign off on the loan but increase it some $40 million -- also unsecured -- on the say-so of three board members who were under threat of recall and against pleas by two other board members and members of the community to simply wait until AFTER the election.

Meantime, before anyone in the community panics (the intended result of this "deal," methinks), they need to get down to the CSD office and get a copy of the LOCSD's "Response and Request for Continuance to R3-2005-0137 ACL Complaint." Page 8 is particularly interesting. Aw, heck, it's all interesting.

Then, do plan on attending Thursday's CSD meeting. Maybe somebody there can answer one missing question: Why didn't the "new deal" include requiring the recalled-3 CSD Board members be reinstated?


Shark Inlet said...


There is no real change in the State's position since long before the recall election ... the SRF money is for TriW only. If you want to pursue a project elsewhere you don't get the low interest rate. Furthermore, if pursuing a project elsewhere means that you delay progress on building a plant, you will be fined.

Not a change at all. While you call it blackmail, I call it a reaffirmation of the policy they've had all along.

What this all boils down to is that the CSD has (yet another) clear statement of what the State intends to do if they don't procede with TriW.

As you point out, Ann, the decision to put the plant at TriW was years ago and once the state locked in that site for the SRF money, the issue was settled. If you and those who supported moving the plant out of town had voiced your opinions more clearly back then or if you had run a slate of "out of town" candidates back in 2000 that had won, this wouldn't be an issue. It's perhaps a bit too late now (because the recall and Measure B passed), but I resent the fact that people who weren't paying attention five years ago when they should have been are now threatening my financial situation. If it is so important to have the plant out of town, why nary a compalint back in 1998 or 2000 or 2001 or 2002 when pretty much everyone knew that the plant was schedule for the TriW site?

Note: for those astute readers who noted a few new conditions in mentioned in the newspaper, they all boil down to the fact that the SWRCB feels that the current LOCSD board is not trustworthy so they want some action to clean up some problems now (pumping out of some problem septics) and a promise that work at TriW will continue (getting rid of Measure B and a property owner vote asking property owners to agree to repay the state should this board or a future board do something stupid like stopping the project).

For one, I don't know how I would vote. This current board's actions don't convince me they won't take the money for now just to keep things going and then screw us over later on, once I'm on the hook to repay the state.

Anonymous said...

Just mulling over the live broadcast of the state board meeting...did anyone else see it?

Churadogs said...

You state if people had voiced moving the plant out of town years ago . . . . You're joking, aren't you? People have been doing that FOR YEARS, repeatedly, loudly, lawsuit-edly. All of it fell on deaf ears.

Shark Inlet said...

Ann, there were nearly no complaints about TriW back in 2000 and 2001 when the site and the SRF deal were finalized.

Other than Al Barrow who complained that things were too expensive ... but then he filed a lawsuit or twenty and delayed the project, raising the costs to us all and losing all credibility.

Anonymous said...

Well Ann, I guess your old nickname for Los Osos was quite right, (Bagdad by the bay) Like Bagdad today, democracy is only a far off dream. I still say seceed from the state and put up border crossings. Sharkie, Lots of people have complained about CSD1, Lots of people have questioned the TriW site. Just not enough, We have failed to dig ourselves out of a problem that we did not create. Now big bro. is gonna come down on us for being fiesty and wanting fairness. I wish everyone in Los Osos cared enough about this place to at least read more than what is printed in the Trivial, But evidently not enough do, It seems that this blog is only occupied by about five or six people, am I wrong? Mike Green

Shark Inlet said...

Mike, the question is when these complaints about TriW occured. There were very few back in 2000-2001 when the decision was pretty much finalized from the POV of the SRF.

Any complaints about the site since then should explain why the trade-off (paying considerably more for an out of town site) is a good idea. None did. All those I've seen telling us to "move the sewer" were under the delusion that it could be done on the cheap. They bought the lie that Julie and the rest sold them.

Let me tell you something ... just because Lisa says it doesn't make it fact. We saw this today during the meeting. As a community we would be well advised to remember that this current board lied to us during the campaign when they told us we could move the plant and not lose the SRF in direct opposition to what the SWRCB told them in January.

About democracy. The SWRCB will still allow us to build an an out of town plant ... just not on their dime. If we want to raise the costs by $70+/household per month, we are allowed to make that choice.

Maybe we've learned our lesson and won't trust the current CSD board who lied to us just to get elected ... the real question is whether they've learned anything from this experience. Have they learned that their advisors (Dan, John, Gail and Richard) are essentially not telling them the truth? Will they vote to accept the state's kind last chance offer? Or, will they doom us to poverty because they are unwilling to admit their mistakes? I hope they are adults and can admit their mistakes and make wise choices instead of choosing to hurt us all.

Anonymous said...

Ah! Sharkie! Touche again, This whole disgusting mess has a lot of "when" questions. Starting from the beginning.
I will take your advice about certain board members under concideration. (not like I believe ANYTHING anymore)
About democracy, I thought, and I may be mistaken here, it was about the will of the people to change the way our government works and it's laws, isn't that the basic thing we vote for? Since when is an unelected beuracracy (besides some judiciary) allowed to trump a legal election? It seems to be happening here. Mike Green

Anonymous said...

Here is a funny thought, (I hope)
What if pumping the "problem septic tanks"
can be proven to lower the nitrate levels to allowable limits, and we hire one guy to keep working on the TriW site with a garden spade? Sorry, humor is what I use to combat depression. Mike Green

Shark Inlet said...

Prepare for a long-winded rant...

Please don't read into my comments here that I am supper happy about the TriW location. I know that Ann won't be happy to read this, but I wasn't paying as much attention in 1998-2001 as I should have been.

My mistakes:

1. I voted for the formation of a CSD ... a mistake because the solutions group promised to lower our costs by moving the treatment plant from near the middle school to the center of town.

2. I didn't get involved back before 2000 and insist that we pursue an out of town site ... a mistake because if we want an out of town site we could have chosen one back then. [Note: preliminary studies about that time suggested that TriW would have fewer environmental issues than an out of town site and at at that time the CSD still had the hopes that a ponding system would be acceptable.]

3. A possible mistake was supporting the previous board's choice to accept the construction bids that were considerably over the estimated costs. If they had rebid the jobs I don't think that the new bids would have been much lower and they could have been even higher. We'll never know on this issue. The reason the bids came in so high to begin with is that contractors knew they had Los Osos over a barrel with the state deadlines looming (delays by lawsuits caused this tight timetable).

Perhaps in the future I'll be able to look back on other issues as mistakes as well, but to me it seems like since 2001, it has been the actions of those originally opposed to the CSD who are now running the show that have been the mistakes. A few:

A. Filing lawsuits to delay construction. Even if we don't count lawyer fees, these lawsuits have only raised the construction costs due to inflation.

B. Asking the CCC to put an expensive park back into the project even though it would appear that only one or two people in the community wanted it. Thank Julie and the CCLO for this $2.3M addition. [Note: I've heard recent accusations that the previous board had committed a fraud by removing the park from the project so that the CCC would require it's addition back into the plan so the SRF would cover park costs as well. I would like to hear more about this theory, even if doesn't sound plausible at face value ... it would require someone complaining to the CCC about the removal of the park and it would require the CCC to go against staff recommendations. These are two things that I don't think the previous board could count on. Even if they could, I don't see how any of this was fraud.]

C. Asking for a recall to begin with.

D. Measure B.

E. Timing of each the recall and measure B so that they would be only shortly before construction would start, at best but months afterwards at the worst. Honestly, if Steve Sawyer wanted a recall, why didn't he turn in his petitions a bit earlier to avoid a mess?

And a twofer

F. The recall candidates (plus the two ladies on the board) or those campaigning on their behaf telling us that we could keep the SRF money and we wouldn't be fined.
G. The recall candidates and those campaigning on ther behaf telling us they had a workable plan during the campaign. If they had been honest and said "we promise that if elected we'll lose the low interest loan and get fined some tens of millinos of dollars ... but it is worth it just to the possibility of an out of town plant" would they have had anywhere near the same number of votes? I suspect not.

H. Voting to stop construction immediately after election even though a more prudent action would have been to simply refocus the TriW construction on non-plant related activities until Measure B's legality had been determined. This stopping action appears to be a clear breaking of the SRF contract.

I. Hiring a GM and lawyer who appear more interested in telling the board what they want to hear than in telling them the truth of the situation they're in.

J. Asking a court to delay a hearing on Measure B.

K. Telling lies (about the SWRCB) to the public in a press release. That can't have helped the disposition of the SWRCB boardmembers when considering their actions today.

Ron at sewerwatch and Ann here have some very good points ... there are many actions by the previous board which are questionable at best and downright unwise or dishonest at the worst.

But, as I've been saying for some time, while they made a mess, sometimes it is more expensive to clean up the mess than it is to learn to live with it. This current board can choose to hold their noses and vote to continue the TriW project or they can choose to continue the attempt to move the plant out of town even though it will make the costs a lot higher (a minimum of $70/month per household, maybe much higher if we are fined or if moving the plant doesn't go as smoothly as we've been told it will). Along those lines, another highly related question is whether the board has enough cash to do the necessary work to move the plant out of town. I sort of doubt it.

The question now is whether the citizens would prefer TriW with its high cost or whether they want to pay more, a lot more, to pursue an out of town solution.

Another question is if the citizens have opinions on the matter, will the board listen? Suppose that the opinions of even 5% of the voters have changed from "move the sewer" to "oh my God it will cost how much more?", it seems that the majority that elected the current board and passed Measure B is no longer a majority. The people are fickle, perhaps because we were not presented with an honest picture as to the real choices during this past election.

So, if enough people get up at the meeting Thursday (and likely Sunday or Monday as well) and say "I voted for you but would you please vote to keep construction going at TriW" would they listen or would they continue to listen to the hard-liners who don't care that their actions alone (see items A-K above) will force many people to have to move out of town because they can no longer afford the costs?

Will this board be open to listening?

Apologies for the long-winded rant.

Anonymous said...

Dear Shark Inlet (notice I didn't call you Sharky this time) Take a lude! you and me are going to get Scrw##d!
There appears that there is nothing that is in the way of this train wreck.
I'm also sorry about voting in the original CSD
Cheaper better faster What a load of crap that was!
I honor your opinions, although I don't always agree.
I hope someday to meet you, Mike Green

Anonymous said...

Of course we voted to form the original CSD. They promised us a ponds/park combo for something like $38/mth! Of course we voted for the new board. They promised us the ponds out of town w/o park for "cheaper." I agree with Mikey. We're screwed and no one will help us. I say let's build the monstrosity and make it a tourist attraction and try to recoup some money that way. Maybe we could make the Book of World Records for the most expensive sewer in the worst location.