Oh, Shut Up And Eat Your Gruel!
I have long believed that the world can be divided into two basic groups, each almost equally balanced: Adults and children, or, if you prefer, wolves and sheep, or good children who do as they’re told, and wicked children who disobey and keep asking, Why, and then go on to spill chocolate syrup on the rug, and when chastised, run their tongues out and make rude noises, and so forth.
Society runs as smoothly as it does because we humans have an innate need for order (and peace and quiet and safety and security), so we tend to do what we’re told – for the good of all – and mind our P’s and Q’s. For those who don’t obey, we have rules and laws and enforcement mechanisms that range from polite frowns to whips to guns to tanks and bullets in the brain.
And for the most part, even the threat of something dire is enough to keep the good little boys and girls in line. It’s a mechanism that you can see working perfectly watching a Border collie run a band of sheep. There is no need to nip at a heel. All the dog needs is The Look, and the sheep will panic and run. Simple.
I was thinking of this while reading Lori Okun’s “Central Coast Water Board Prosecution Staff Rebuttal, ACL Complaint No. R3-2005-0137, November 28, 2005.” Ms. Okun is Senior Staff Counsel to the Prosecution Staff, and the Rebuttal is for the Dec 1st hearing between the Los Osos CSD & the Regional Water Quality Control Board as to whether the RWQCB should “revoke & impose,” and announce FINES!FINES!FINESWE’RE ALL GONNA DIE IN THE STREETSLIKEDAWGS!
Amidst the legaleze, there on p. 10 and again on page 12, the game is given away in very human terms: “. . . Allowing the District and its residents to disregard and Basin Plan prohibition and flout the Water Board’s direct orders will encourage other dischargers to do the same. . . . “ and “. . . “most dischargers take immediate action to put their best foot forward before the hearing. They typically come into the hearing explaining how they have attempted to mitigate past violations, are back on track to compliance. . . . . In this case, however, the District has not only shunned this typical strategy, it has actively sought to continue the pattern of noncompliance. . . . “
And there it was. The Regional Water Quality Control Board’s “Look” had not spooked the sheep, had not frightened the wicked children. Indeed, those wretched ingrates, instead of coming cap in hand (“Oh, mommy, plueeeze don’t spank, we’re sorry, see, we’ve been moping up the mess all day, boo-hooo.”), these rotten little children from The Dogpatch had the temerity to affront the dignity of our Regional Board and Staff by coming out with all guns blazing, questioning our authority, questioning our staff’s behavior, indeed challenging our majesty and power. Why, the absolute gall!”
Of course, also on page 12, Ms. Okun writes something that is truer than she may realize: “The District has more culpability than do similarly situated dischargers, such as individual homeowners or residents. The residents formed the District to cure this problem and build them a treatment plant. The District assumed the obligation to operate a treatment plant within the district. The residents relied on the district to provide this service. The district failed them.”
Oh, my Dear Ms. Okun, truer words were never spoken. However, I suspect that you and I might disagree on just which “District” you are referring to.
Well, like the eponymously named movie, the Squid of the CSD and the Whale of the RWQCB will be locked in battle in the deeps come tomorrow morning. I suspect, whatever the outcome, it will all go to law. Which is what happens when “districts” fail to understand that problems get solved only when all parties are honest about what they’re doing – no spin, no fudged numbers, no Madison Avenue hype, no lies, no hidden agendas, no hidden costs, no bait & switches, no surprises – and when they keep their citizens in the loop with a voice and a vote on decisions that will affect them for years to come. Simple.