Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Mommy, How Do You Spell, "Negotiate in good faith?"

So, on Sunday October 30th, the CSD votes unanimously to accept the non-negotiable proposal hammered out in a week-long negotiation that up-front required that "Everything Must Be On The Table." At those negotiations was a representative of the State Water Board. A tentative deal" is struck, the CSD takes it back to the community for public input, a vote is made and in the the next morning's TRIB story, we learn that the State Water Board needed to put the item on its agenda 10 days in advance of the meeting (a standing regulation that they had to have known about forever) and turns out they, Oh, gosh, uh, "forgot" to put it on the agenda, not even a place holder (in case the negotiations went on longer, at least there would be an allotted time to report-out about the ongoing negotiations) , oooo, my bad!

Meantime, since the state money is frozen and the contractors aren't getting paid, if they walk, the whole brokered deal could collapse and everyone will have a fine time heading to court.

Hmmm, let's see. Any hidden agendas here? Behind the scenes schemers rustling in the underbrush? How do you spell, Negotiate in good faith, anyway?

And for the classic Let's Carve That In Stone Fifty Feet Tall quote of the week: "I'd hate to see a good deal go south because the process failed," (Assemblyman) Blakeslee said. "This is numbered in days, not weeks."

The process failed? Since day one, I'd say.

So, will that be be the epitaph for Los Osos? If so, let's carve it on a huge stone portal arching across both entrances to the town. Put it next to the Bridge Bears: Welcome to Los Osos, Home of The Failed Process. Be Sure To Visit Our Ginormous In-Town Unaffordable Sewer Plant, Placed There By A Failed Process. Hourly Tours at 11 a.m. Ajacent Tot Lot open at Noon. Have a Nice Day.

Well, Stay tuned.


Shark Inlet said...

Maybe I read a different article. It says that the item must be scheduled 10 days in advance. Because the meeting is scheduled for Nov 16, that gives some 4 days to add the item to the agenda.

I am sure that a phone call from Sam could accomplish that even if there is a normal process that would need to be circumvented.

Let's hope. Mostly because this deal would limit our financial exposure in the all-but-the-very-worst case scenario.

Ron said...

Welcome to Los Osos, Home of The Failed Process. Be Sure To Visit Our Ginormous In-Town Unaffordable Sewer Plant, Placed There For No Reason Whatsoever. Hourly Tours at 11 a.m. Ajacent Tot Lot open at Noon. Sewer Plant Amphitheater Music Schedule at

Please enjoy the $30,000 stainless steel gates, the $5,000 drinking fountains, the $3,000 park benches.

Have a Nice Day... if you still can.

Shark Inlet said...

Ron, please remember that the CCC was going to approve the downtown plant without any "amenities" until Julie Tacker and group asked them to put the dog park and the rest back in. I know that was not her goal, but that is essentially what they asked for when they complained that the amenities were removed. Yes, I know that without the park, the reason for the downtown site was a bit specious, but once the SRF loan was achieved, an out-of-town site was truly unaffordable by comparrison.

Perhaps the previous CSD should have gone to the SWRCB and asked them for time to design an additional plant located out of town. Perhaps the previous CSD should have gone to the people and asked them for an additional assessmentt to design an additional plant. I would suggest the SWRCB would have said "no" to a request for additional time and that the people would definitely have voted down an additional assessment.

If you are going to argue that there was a compelling reason that we knew at the time (say, 2001) that the Andre II (or other) site was definitely cheaper, show us the facts. Without such facts, it would seem you and Ann have a plausible argument when you claim that they didn't study the out-of-town option thoroughly enough. A change in the interest rate is more than sufficient to wipe out all the gains by designing a "less expensive" plant.

Certainly had the CSD changed gears back in 2001 and focused all their efforts on an out-of-town plant it would have been odd, considering all signs suggested an in-town plant was less expensive.

Along those lines, what would you think is a reasonable amount to pay for the gates, drinking fountains and benches that Julie asked for? Are you going to complain that they could have gotten iron gates (which require additional care) for some $10k less? Isn't arguing over some $100 here or there a bit silly when the key numbers are all in the millions and tens of millions?

Shark Inlet said...

I just looked at the SWRCB website. Their meeting has always been scheduled for Nov 16. The previous one was October 20. Their meetings are predetermined a year or so in advance.

There was no way to have gotten this deal before the board any earlier than Nov 16. If the contractors pull out before then for some reason, it is not the fault of the SWRCB, no matter what Ann would have us believe. The rules that govern their actions are not set by them, but by the people of the state.

If the deal could have been reached before October 9, it might have made it into the Oct 20 meeting.

Again, perhaps Ann has special information that was not reported in the Trib, but she is making claims here that just don't match the news.

Anonymous said...

I think what Ann means is that since they were in negotiations for a whole week , "in good faith" and "with everything on the table" they should have mentioned the meeting date, agendizing, etc. The negotiated proposal says start construction (ie. put contractors back to work) immediately. I think it's fair to assume that the CSD thought the state would look at the proposal immediately. It's obvious that this is an urgent situation. Makes me wonder who else is involved that has some influence...I just hope Blakeslee doesn't bail on us.

Shark Inlet said...

Considering there was no chance of getting the results of the negotiations into the Oct 20 agenda, if the board would formally need to sign off on the results of the negotiations it seems pretty clear to me that it would be during the November meeting that this could first be considered.

It would not be reasonable for the CSD to assume that SWRCB would meet immediately. They meet some 10 or 12 times per year. The agenda items are required by law to be set in advance.

Who is at fault for this miscommunication? Ann would say that it is the fault of the SWRCB people because they didn't walk into the meeting announcing their scheduling limitations but I would suggest that the CSD and their staff here should have known that it would be Nov 16 at the earliest that the SWRCB would meet.

Yes, it would have been nice for the SWRCB to have announced this loudly, but the buck here stops with the CSD.

I recall (but don't have Sunday's paper in front of me) reading on Sunday that someone said that they hoped that the SWRCB could get this into their Nov 16 agenda because otherwise it would need to wait until January, the next scheduled meeting.

Face it, the CSD board assumed too much and their staff didn't tell them what they needed to know ... or worse, didn't know enough about the situation to advise the board wisely. Bruce Buel would not have made this mistake. Whether you liked him or not, you have to admit he knew the workings of the other governmental agencies that the CSD needs to work with.

The Real Issue here is that the contractors seem ready to walk.

I would suggest to them that if they don't walk until Nov 17, they are more likely to get paid and more likely to get paid in full for doing the entire job. However, I cannot dictate to them what is the wisest choice and I can see why they may be reluctant to trust this current board (who stopped the work and seems to be on the verge of financial collapse).

And what of the $200,000 per day that we keep reading about in the newspaper? Is it like the "Los Osos is polluting the Bay" ... essentially an old phrase that has been repeated so often that the reporter views it as factual or is this a number that is pretty close to accurate?

I would hope that Lisa is right when she says that the $200k number is incorrect. On the other hand, when given the chance to be upfront about what the real costs are or at least what negotiations had taken place she didn't bother.

This current board took a very risky action when they halted construction. Even if things pan out in the long run the way the board hopes and even if they are only paying contractors $100/day for doing nothing, they've already spent over $1M on this non-work.

Where is that money going to come from? The state says they won't cover those costs. Homeowners were assessed for design costs, but not this. Will they come to us again asking for more money to give them additional time to study the issue again?

I would suggest, as did Crizer and a few others at Sunday's meeting, that many owners will view this as an opportunity to vote to keep the TriW project on track because it is less risky and more clearly defined.

Anonymous said...

Well, you're right. I am one of those people that lives in my own world where I keep expecting others (even government agencies) to be nice. What was I thinking? They might want to help out the good folks of Los Osos who are desperately trying to resolve this mess?! Thanks for the reality check :)

Anonymous said...

Los Osos was sold down the river by a conspiracy supported and condoned by the RWQCB, the Coastal Commission, the USFWS and the past LOCSD directors, all of which were taking directions from the author of "Faster, Better, and Cheaper" herself. The community never got the support it needed from the agencies that are charged with watching out for our benefit. They turned their backs on us for the sake of getting something in the ground, at whatever cost. They bought and supported the lies, knowing the truth. They added fuel to the fire and they should be held accountable for failing in their responsibility. There's a conspiracy here, and it isn't in our community. It's between those agencies that had a clear and present responsibility to see that things like this don't happen. They should be charged for fixing the mess they caused.

Ron said...

Anonymous said:
"They turned their backs on us for the sake of getting something in the ground, at whatever cost. They bought and supported the lies, knowing the truth."

That is a very interesting take and here's a little bit of interesting evidence to support it (and it is something that has always bugged me). The following quote is the canned response of the history of the project from the Regional Water Quality Control Board. It shows up all the time in their documents:

"In November 1998, Los Osos voted to form a Community Services District (CSD) to replace San Luis Obispo County as the governing body for community services. The Los Osos CSD chose not to proceed with the County’s wastewater project, began anew the process for project development, and developed a revised project for wastewater collection, treatment and disposal.

Through a lengthy multi-year process of alternatives evaluation and public meetings, the Los Osos CSD developed a technically, environmentally and financially sound community wastewater project."


Unless the RWQCB is now calling the terribly ill-conceived Community Plan, that the initial CSD Board adopted just two months into their first term "technically, environmentally and financially sound," then that statement is completely inaccurate, and they know it.

So, my question (that I can't get answered) is, "why does the RWQCB deliberately and repeatedly print inaccurate information on the history of the project in official documents?"

On a side note:

Shark Inlet said above:
"Are you going to complain that they could have gotten iron gates (which require additional care) for some $10k less? Isn't arguing over some $100 here or there a bit silly when the key numbers are all in the millions and tens of millions?"

Here ya go, Shark:

met·a·phor ( P )  Pronunciation Key  (mt-fôr, -fr) n. 1. A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison, as in “a sea of troubles” or “All the world's a stage” (Shakespeare) or "$30,000 Stainless Steel Gates" (Crawford).

Shark Inlet said...

Thanks, Ron ... I got it.

I just wanted to point out that we wouldn't need the diamond studded dog run it it weren't for the sewer foes who argued that we need to keep the park even at an added cost of some $2M.

Shark Inlet said...

anonymous wrote: Well, you're right. I am one of those people that lives in my own world where I keep expecting others (even government agencies) to be nice. What was I thinking? They might want to help out the good folks of Los Osos who are desperately trying to resolve this mess?! Thanks for the reality check :)

I don't actually know that the SWRCB actually wants to help Los Osos. I wouldn't be surprised if they view Los Osos as a stubborn child at this point in time. How long has it been since the groundwater problem has been identified? How long did it take Los Osos to admit to a problem? How long did it take to get any construction started? How long after that did it stop?

Assuming that they actually do want to help Los Osos (and that might be a reasonable assumption becuase it seems from the Trib article that they were impressed with the stated intent of the CSD and their willingness to compromise) they still have no way of getting this item to any vote before Nov 16.

Just because the Los Osos CSD has recently been in the habit of announcing public meetings some 24 hours plus a bit before the meeting itself doesn't mean that other groups should necessarily act the same way. As a friend of mine who taught at Poly often told students "failure to plan on your part doesn't constitute an emergency on my part." The CSD has choosen this course of action by halting construction. They were warned by many that various fallout could and would occur.

Note: The fact that details of the agreement were only announced Sunday at the CSD meeting irks me. Even though "time is of the essence", it seems a bit shady to me to bring up the details only minutes before expecting thoughtful public comment. Voting on this before we citizens have had a reasonable chance to digest the issues and think and then give comment is a bit rushed. At least make the details available some 24 hours earlier ... or take comments Sunday and again on Monday before voting Monday!

Please don't think that I want this agreement to fail. I don't. I am just trying to point out that the "blame anybody but our current CSD board" attitude is more than a bit old. They need to step up and take credit and blame for their actions (or inaction).

Shark Inlet said...

From the Trib article this morning: SWRCB rejected the deal because Measure B.

I disagree that Measure B should stand in the way of a deal that would require the repeal of Measure B.

However, that is not my decision, it is the state board's.

I am sure that we'll hear Ann and others rail against the state board for this action and continue to not hold the current board responsible for their actions.

As an aside, I kept hearing last Sunday about a replacement for Measure B that is "in the spirit of Measure B". Does this mean that the CSD was going to propose a replacement that would allow for votes, including a downtown option? If so, wouldn't that replacement measure violate about half of the spirit of B?

Just to remind Ann that such calculations are possible, let me point out that a "not unlikely" scenario will now run us $185/month just to build an out of town plant. If we can run it for $20/month less than the TriW plant, we still pay $25 more per month!

Let me repeat what I've said here before, losing the SRF is the worst thing that the board could do ... and now they've done it ... unless they choose to continue construction at TriW. How they'll do that, I don't know becuase they would have to convince the contractors of an ability to pay, but the state hasen't promised to reinstate the SRF.

Interestingly enough, this was exactly the same place we were in just a week ago before any deal with the state had been announced but now Lisa is talking as if the rug has been pulled out from under our feet. Let me mention that the rug was the recall and Meaure B, not the deal with the state.

Al Barrow and the current board, in the name of affordability, have sold us a bill of goods that is sure to bankrupt our community and to force even more people to move out of town.

Thanks, guys!

Anonymous said...

So much for getting the proposal on the agenda and waiting for Nov. 16 meeting. You're right - they don't care about Los Osos. They didn't waste any time making that clear. I agree with the previous entry suggesting these agencies should be held responsible for the damage they have caused. When we FINALLY (through the democratic process) get some people on board who want to tackle all the water issues, they get shot down as if they are crazy or something. I don't get it. It's been what? 30 years? A variety of groups/people have done a less-than-perfect-job here. Why is it that civil engineers and environmental planners and biologists who have been elected by the community to represent us can't have their chance. I know people will respond "It's about money." Yes it is. For my "sewer money" I'd prefer to buy much more...preservation of our ESHA land, an out-of-town-location, move it off the sand dune and away from the bay and estuary, water recycling, AG exchange, and NOT have to pay for expensive O&M, mechanical failure, and state water (that is ridiculous for a town of our size). Please, please let's not have an earthquake with that facility located on that sand. I just don't get it. Come on folks let's have some VISION here.

Churadogs said...

To the above comments regarding the Agenda for the State Water Board. In a October 31 letter from CSD President Schicker to Celeste Cantu of the State WAter Board, Lisa notes: We are unclear as to why this item had not already been agendized for tomorrow's meeting (Nobember 1, 2005) as we all began acceptance of the negotiation process twelve days ago." (The state agenda requires TEN days notice. Once you accept a negotiation process, the clock starts ticking. Clearly, the state was either incompetent in forgetting to put the item on the agenda, or it was in reality a done deal from hour one so there was no need to put anything on the agenda.

Anonymous said...

Exactly. Thank you Ann.

Shark Inlet said...

Okay, I get it.

You are talking about the Workshops where the board hears comments gets reports but takes no actions.

You are saying that because it's not at the Workshop it can't be discussed the meeting on Nov 16. Maybe, maybe not. Certainly it looks as if the SWRCB doesn't tend to vote at the workshops. If they do, it would seem premature because many people may intend to attend the meeting itself (rather than the workshop) to make public comments before any possible vote.

As to assumptions ... Ann you are quite clearly the queen of assumptions. Here you've just told us that the only two possibilities is that the state was acting in bad faith all along or they were incompetent. How about a third possibility, that the SWRCB workshops and meetings are crowded enough that they simply don't agendize items which may or may not exist? Did the CSD request the item be agendized at the start of the negotiations?

By the way, it is interesting that you, Ann, get access to all the documents that the Tribune doesn't report on. Did the CSD make this letter available to everyone?

As to the issue of why the State said "no". Read the Trib article. They pretty clearly said that Measure B makes it impossible for them to contine to legally provide money. Not their fault. During the negotiations they arrived at what seemed pretty reasonable at first, but then once they looked carefully at the agreement and Measure B and the SRF contract, they cannot provide funding to put the plant at TriW (the fallback position if a replacement for B isn't voted in) if Measure B forbids it. They would be providing money to the CSD for the CSD to do something illegal.

As they said and as I have said, the state has the responsibility of making sure that the projects that are funded are the ones that are built. This CSD intended to use the SRF money to design a new plant, something that the construction loan forbids. If it were some other community switching horses midstream, I would want the state to step in and provide some control. Why not Los Osos? Do you think we are somehow above the law of the state because "we are needy" and "we really want to do it right"? Isn't part of doing it right, following the laws of the state?

Let me vent for a bit ... it seems as if others are doing so here.

Essentially everything that has happened is something the supporters of the TriW site (not because we want a plant there but because we don't want a financial disaster) predicted in advance. We were ignored by the hopeful, the Lisas, Julies, Steves and Anns. Los Osos voted in a nightmare. What we already had was bad enough. Those of you who voted for the recall should have known better in advance. The state was very clear about the SRF ... it was site specific. To pretend that you could invent money by simply hoping that money would appear as if by magic was more than a little foolish. Your votes and your actions are raising the costs to us all.

Thanks a bunch!

Churadogs said...

Dear Inlet, you state, "What we already had was bad enough." You mean the Tri-W plan? I thought you loved that plan, supported it, couldn't get enough of it. Is it possible that you and most of the community were simply holding your and rolling over and playing dead, grimly settling for what you were told was the "Only" way?

If so, what do you make of Schickers Oct 30 comment that the negotiators penciled out the various out-of-town site options and no matter how they ran them, they still came out cheaper. The Community was never given those penciled-out numbers by the previous CSD Board, were they?

Wonder what would have happened if the previous CSD Board had penciled those numbers out like the negotiators did and let the community in on the numbers.

Shark Inlet said...

Give it a break, Ann.

I've said from day 1 that the reason I like TriW is becuase it is likely the cheapest option. To suggest otherwise would suggest you have problems with your memory, reading skills or honesty.

The way an out of town site would be cheaper is if the 2.3% SRF is available, no fines, construction starting within 2 years, an EIR not finding any problems, the state not requiring any design changes and finding a contractor who will build for the design cost.

The big issue here is the 2.3% loan. It is what could allow the out of town plant to save money on our monthly bills. Without it, a "cheaper" plant would still cost us more in the long run.

What would have happened had the previous CSD done the calculations on moving the plant out of town? I would imagine that had they told us the results (that it would likely cost us an extra $20/month each ... minimum) we would have said "move the sewer? nah."

Churadogs said...

Dear Inlet, "likely the cheapest." There, in a nutshell, you have it. If we get a gander at the crunched numbers used in the Negotiations, we should be able to see if the previous CSD was truthful in saying moving the plant out of town would be Waaaaay more expensive or not.

Shark Inlet said...

Yes ... but as we've already discussed, it's all about the interest rate.

We would need save some $30M on collection system plus save some $20/month per household on O&M to balance out the cost to design a new plant and plant costs to make up for the costs to design a new system and buy a new site and the increase in interest rate. Oh yeah, if there is any inflation, fines or misestimates in the costs of construction the out of town plant would cost more.

Not going to happen without the 2.3% rate.

Churadogs said...

Well, then, let's hope the State Water Board will go back to the negotiating table that they so unceremoniously left and then vote on the brokered "deal."

Shark Inlet said...

Yes! I certainly hope this CSD and Sam can convince the SWRCB to reconsider.

Perhaps this is what Dan was saying when he claims that there were loopholes ... that a judge could be convinced that the state acted too quickly.

Let me harp on one issue a bit ... it seems like had the CSD continued construction at TriW, but only the winterizing and had they told the state that Measure B forced them into this change and that they were going to ask for the earliest possible court date to resolve whether Measure B was legal or junk ... then the state could not have stopped payments.

Frankly, it seems like Measure B is weighing down this community and board.