The Perils of Sewerville Sue, The Sweet Flower of the West, Part 1.
You must pay the rent! Eeeeeee, I can’t pay the rent. You must pay the rent! Eeee, but I can’t pay the rent! Bwa-hahahah, I’ll have the rent, my pretty!
Oh, Dear. Sewerville Sue,The Sweet Flower of the West, is tied to the railroad tracks and, what’s this? Yes, it’s a train a-comin’ in the form of the State Water Board’s demand that Los Osos repay $6.5 million in State Revolving Fund money by 3:30 p.m. today. Oh, what shall our dear girl do?
Well, if it were me, I’d grab my attorney and head into bankruptcy court to have a judge take a look at the original loan because, being amazingly stupid, I’m really, really having a tough time figuring out how in the world that loan (which also involved federal monies as well and so has to follow a slew of federal rules and regs regarding its disbursement) ever got to this town in the first place.
I go into my local bank and sit down across from Mr. Prudent Banker Guy and say, “Gimme a hundred million dollars because ah’m gonna build me a hundred million dollar house.” And Mr. Prudent Banker Guy says, “Sure, whatta ya got for collateral?” And I say, “Well, nothing except I got this old beat up Honda Civic. Got 125,000 miles on her.”
And Mr. Prudent Banker Guy says, “Well, how will you pay the loan back,” and I say, “Waaaalll, I got my job and I’m also fixing to rent out a couple of rooms of my hundred million dollar house once it gets built .” And Mr. Prudent Banker Guy says, “Uh, is the location zoned for that?” and I say, “Uh, not really, and I do have a slew of my neighbors suing me right now over that plan, but heck, pay no attention to them. They’re just a bunch of looney-tunes.” And Mr. Prudent Banker Guy says, “Well, in that case, SURE THING! NO PROBLEM! You can repay the loan once you get the house built and those rooms rented out,” and hands me a couple of suitcases stuffed full of the long green.
So, a few years go by and I find out that all the bids to build the house are 50% over estimate so I accept the bid contracts anyway and go back to see Mr. Prudent Banker Guy and say, “Gimme forty million MORE dollars. I ran into a little cost overrun there. Oh, and by the way, the stockholders of my company are fixin’ to vote in a few months to decide whether to downsize the company I work for and put me out of a job.” And Mr. Prudent Banker Guy says, “SURE THING! NO PROBLEM!” and hands me another couple of suitcases stuffed full of the long green.
Which I proceeded to pound into the ground as fast as I possibly could before – yep, you guessed it – the stockholders voted and I lost my job.
And now – NOW?? -- Mr. Prudent Banker Guy’s whining that he can’t work with me on a compromise deal concerning changing the site for my house because the money he gave me was public money and he has a responsibility to the taxpayers to safeguard all the loans he makes, to make sure they’re secure and prudent and now suddenly he’s worried that I might not be able to pay it back so he’s gonna kill the whole amended deal I thought we had negotiated and demand the money back, including the millions I pounded into the ground as fast as I could before losing my job? I mean, what’s up with that?
Yes, methinks a bankruptcy court would have a fine time with this whole deal. Of course, the CSD could sell the Tri-W site (It was totally pounded into a big mess by the recalled-3 CSD majority only weeks before the election, so it’s already been trashed vis a vis its ESHA requirements, which might make it a dream for any developer – pay a cheaper price for it since its been rezoned from residential to “industrial” and its ESHA has already been broken) and the Broderson (greenbelt) disposal site, which is really, really protected habitat so the cost to put houses up on that hillside would carry a steep development price, but they’d also command big, big bucks once built. Oh, what to do?
Well, stay tuned. The Perils of Sewerville Sue are just getting underway. Will the train arrive before some guy in a white hat gallops up on his trusty horse, Ralph, to save the day?
On a more serious note, there was a letter to the editor this morning from someone in Atascadero that perfectly illustrates one of the most serious problems this issue faces: How to get real, true, actual, FACTS to the public instead of spin or just plain wrong information. The author states, “While people debate about a better location to place the plant, the level of nitrates in the groundwater continues to rise.” According to the 2005 Cleath & Associates groundwater studies, this is simply not so. The levels have stabilized and in some cases are dropping. Yet our Tribune reader in Atascadero “knows” that the nitrates are “rising.” Just like people “know” that millions of gallons of sewage are running into Morro Bay from all Los Osos septic tanks, and etc. Now, where do you suppose those folks could have gotten all that “knowledge” from? Letters to the Editor, filled with misinformation? The Tribune’s own often muddled and context-missing stories? Local TV? Comments made by the Regional Water Quality Control Board’s staff?
One of the most disturbing things I saw at the Dec 1, Regional Water Quality Control Board’s hearing was a staff member, under oath, giving a presentation to the Board and using out of date data on his slides. The result was the Board, which is charged with making some serious decisions affecting real pocketbooks and real lives, was left with a totally misleading picture of the nitrate/water situation in Los Osos. Later, when CSD Engineer Rob Miller presented the up-to-date data from the 2005 Cleath & Associates water study, you could tell at least one Board member had figured out he’d been deliberately spun by his own staff. Not good. Especially since the RWQCB’s staff had the 2005 study in hand well before the meeting was even set so there was absolutely no excuse for what happened. More embarrassing, the RWQCB’s executive director, Roger Briggs, who knew better, was sitting right next to our mis-informer, yet said not a word.
And that, of course, is the perennial problem. How do you inform people when media, elected officials, regulators, etc. are busy mis-informing them? And what can you do with people who refuse to get informed, but simply latch onto a handy myth because it’s simple. Nationally, we’ve seen an administration that has artfully and repeatedly used conflation to mislead the nation as to the 9/11 – Iraq connection. So artfully was that megaphoned via various news media that even today it’s taken on the style and form of an Urban Legend, with a good sized percentage of people still firmly believing it.
Ditto with the Urban Myths and opinions pretending to be Facts that continue to swirl around my Beloved Bangladesh By the Bay. I have said before and will say it again: The wastewater/water issues aren’t rocket science. But solving the issues absolutely depends on clarity, honesty and accurate information – no spin, no hype, no urban myths, no hokum, no egos, no hidden agendas, no happy ad sloganeering. Just the facts. They’ll be complicated (and simple) enough without the hooey.