Dang, when I wrote the last posting it was a Friday, a holiday, and I had hopes that when I peered out into the morning gloom for the next few days and saw the Tribune gleaming white at the end of the dark driveway, I wouldn't have to keep nitroglycerine tablets handy in order to open the thing and see the headlines without suffering heart failure. But Noooooo. There was Saturday's headline, "Loan default would make U.S. History." And a sub-head, "Federal program has given out 14,200 loans for water projects in 15 years without one failure."
Really? Now, what's interesting. Said EPA spokesman Dale Kemery, that "never in the program's $47 billion history has any state given money to a borrower and seen the loan fall apart."
Reeeeeely? So, should that tell somebody at the state or federal level that something clearly went wrong here with the original loan?
I know, let's start a list. In the comment box below, you can add your ideas as to just what went wrong here. Let's start:
1. There had not been a Proposition 218 vote on the project, on the loan, not even on the $40 million requested increase of the loan.
2. There was a lawsuit in the courts contesting the loan for NOT having a Proposition 218 vote for it. If that suit prevailed, the entire loan would be ruled illegal/improper, ka-Poof!
3. There hadn't even been a non-binding, "advisory vote" by the community for the loan and certainly none for increasing it by some $40 million. That increase request was done by three board members who were under threat of recall.
4. People HATE recalls. They will suffer under any sort of crappy governance forever (school board, city hall, whatever) rather than lift a finger to make a change. This is especially true in small towns when the folks being recalled are often friends and neighbors. People HATE recalls, so when a recall actually qualifies for a ballot -- which is what happened in this case -- red flags should have gone down all over Sacramento. Boing! Boing! Boing! Warning! Warning! Warning!
5. Giving pots of money to three guys under threat of recall is like a bank giving an unsecured loan to a guy who's just been put on notice that he may lose his job. Do you know of any bank reckless enough to make that loan?
6. The State Water Board granted that gazillion-dollar loan despite pleas from two CSD members and a bunch of citizens asking that they hold off until after the recall. The Water Board refused. Is that a sign of prudence? Or damned foolisheness? Or collusion? Or grotesque incompetence?
7. Jon Seitz is the CSD's attorney. It's his job to protect the CSD from legal and financial ruin. I do not remember Mr. Seitz, at a public meeting where this loan was discussed, warning his clients (the Board) and the public (who pay his salary and would be the ones ultimately injured) NOT to lock in a huge debt on the community without either a Prop. 218 vote, an official "advisory vote," and/or waiting until after the recall to sign any contracts. Do you remember such a warning from Mr. Seitz? What kind of "feasance" -- mal or mis -- would that be, do you think?
7. Do you think the various Federal spokespersons quoted in the Trib story know the full story of what happened here? Do you think they should, perhaps, find out just what happened before making threats and comments? Bwa-hahahaha. Sorry, you're right, What was I thinking?
8. IF the tentative brokered "deal" that the State Water Board tentatively dismissed MIGHT HAVE moved this project forward while POSSIBLY offering both a compromise and improved bang-for-the-buck solutions for some critical, unaddressed WATER issues, then what's the problem here? Shouldn't the State WATER Board and the Regional WATER Quality Control Board and the citizens of Los Osos who want to solve their WATER and wasteWATER issues --but just didn't want a sewer treatment plant in the middle of their town-- be able to figure something out here?
It's not rocket science.
One of the most telling things happening here happened at the October 30th CSD meeting, after the election, after the train-wreck, after smoke and rail-cars and dead bodies were piled high, after millions were pounded into the ground, after pipe was laid, after the trees were cut down, when the tentative brokered "deal" was still in play. During public comment, folks who, before the election had been adamantly anti-recall and pro-Tri-W project, stood up and said, "Well, actually, I was never really married to the in-town site. If you can build a project cheaper out of town, then that'd be fine with me."
There, Dear & Gentle Reader, may be a suitable epitaph for this town.