Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Regional NON-Water Quality Control Board Rides Again

Hi-Yo, Silver. The R(N)WQCB is off on another mindless toot! They’re getting to be an embarrassment.

I mean, look at today’s Tribune story. The R(N)WQCB wants to crack down on wastewater discharges by RANDOMLY selecting 50 homes and requiring them to start pumping their tanks every other month. RANDOMLY? Executive Officer Roger Briggs said that “pumping six times a year will decrease the amount of suspected nitrate pollution from each tank by 22 percent.” (The data behind that statement was not given.)

Never mind that constantly pumping tanks unnecessarily upsets their natural functioning and will end up creating more pollution because the tank won’t be able to recover and get up to optimum operating speed before it’s pumped again, but why 50 RANDOM tanks? If Briggs is so concerned with water pollution, wouldn’t requiring the CSD to locate failed and failing systems and require them to be brought up to code or replaced or pumped FIRST make more scientific sense?

And why require each home to pump 6 times a year, despite whether 6 people live in the home or 1 person lives there, no matter if the tank’s big or small, in great working condition, or falling apart, whether its 20 feet above the aquifer or located smack dab down on the bay, and whether the home has low-flow toilets and showerheads or not, and so forth.

And while we’re looking at the handy-dandy little map provided at the Regional Board’s website --do you find it odd that not a single home sitting smack on the bay has a little flag stuck in it? Not even ones the Board knows have leach fields sitting in standing water?

So much for “science,” so much for being serious about water pollution. Cookie cutter regulations hang both sheep and goats and since they have no scientific rationale, rarely get the job done and just continue to damage the reputation of an organization whose methods are already highly suspect .

And if people want to get answers about all this, well, the web site says to ask Matt Thompson. Ask Matt Thompson?? Well, good luck to them. In December, I wrote to Matt to get some question answered – simple questions – about “onsite” systems, one of which had been written about in the Bay News. One of the simple questions I asked is, Who evaluates and signs off on any “onsite systems?” The RWQC? The County? Who? To date, I’m still waiting for an answer. So, if hundreds of Los Ososians think they’re going to get questions answered in a timely manner, well, I can only wish them luck.

Of course, this latest assault on Los Osos may not be about water quality at all, but may be about terrorizing people into thinking that dissolving the CSD will “save” them and so send them rushing to sign dissolution petitions. At one of the signing tables at Monday’s Farmer’s Market, was a handout that was headed “NEWS FLASH and discussed the recent Cease & Desist Orders (CDO) and concluded with big capital letters that said, “Join the petition campaign to dissolve the CSD, get the sewer project back on track and rid the community of this assault on our pocketbooks.”

What went missing, of course, is just how dissolving the CSD would stop the Cease & Desist Orders. Since the rationale for issuing the CDO was “water quality concerns” whether the CSD or the County is in charge, changes nothing. (Unless, of course, the CDO has nothing to do with “water quality" at all, hmmmmm?)

As for an “assault on your pocketbook.” at $150 – 200 month, pumping will be cheaper than the monthly Tri-W sewer bill would have been. Waaaaay cheaper, when you add on the various deferred costs and constantly rising O&M costs of that project. And if folks were happy with $205 a month sewer bills, this cost will be seen as a good idea, not an assault on their pocketbooks.

Plus, if Briggs is right (wouldn't it have been nice if he had backed his claim with some test data?) and it does reduce pollution 22%, that should make us all happy, after all we’re ALL concerned about “polluting our groundwater,” aren’t we?

Of course, I don’t think “science” and “pollution” has anything to do with what Briggs is up to. What you’re seeing is another carefully orchestrated “shock & awe” campaign to stampede people into putting a sewer plant in the middle of their town. Briggs and the Dreamers very much want that plant there, despite what the community voted on, and they’ll do anything to make that happen. (Rememeber the wonderful email to Briggs from Chief Dreamer, Pandora Nash-Karner, on the eve of the election, even before the numbers were certified, asking Roger to “fine the CSD out of existence?”) Shock and awe and fines and fear and bully-boy tactics trump “science” and good planning every time. Plus, they work very well. Scaring people’s easy. Stampeding them into doing what you want them to do is very, very easy.

What remains to be seen is if Los Ososians are bears who will start asking the right questions or sheep in a panic, soooo easy to herd off a cliff. The old recalled board majority (some of whom are behind the “dissolve the CSD” movement) tried that with their Let’s Pound Money Into The Ground assault before the election in order to cow and bully people into either not voting or giving up and following the party line. (You know, the party line that said that having a centrally located sewer plant in order to get some parks around it was a “strongly held community value” that trumped all else, including common sense, science, environment, good planning and price?)

So we wait to see if growls will arise from our Bangladesh By The Bay. Or baaaaahhhs” Meantime, about the “science” behind the R(N)WQCB’s latest move, I can only say –you’re embarrassing yourselves, Guys. If water pollution IS what you’re serious about, and you intend to issue CDO’s to the entire community, any fool with a clip board will tell you, you don’t randomly hit your targets. That smacks of incompetence OR the possibility that you have a hidden agenda that has nothing to do with “science.” If you’re interested in “science,” you start with the worst cases first then work forward. That will get you more “water quality” bang for your buck.

Of course, that action depends on whether or not the RWQCB is actually “serious” about “Water Quality.”

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Why Los Ososians Are Getting Grey

If you ever wonder why so many people who pay the least attention to what’s going on in Los Osos end up crossing their eyes and grinding their teeth so often, Geoffrey Evan’s January 25th letter to the Editor is a case in point. Mr Evans, a member of the Los Osos/Baywood Park Property Owners Association, wrote in response to a Jan 15 Tribune story about the various legal bills piling up for the new CSD.

Alas, like so many people discussing The Hideous Los Osos Sewer Wars, what Mr. Evans does is conflation: put apples next to oranges and hope everyone will see pears.

For example, he notes that “since 1999 [a period that covers when the OLD board was in charge] the total expenses for legal costs including outside legal fees to combat the many lawsuits brought against the Los Osos CSD by some of the very people currently serving on the board, has been $700,000.”

Wow! That’s a lotta pears, isn’t it. But what Mr. Evans DOESN’T tell you is that a good chunk of that money involved the Cal Cities lawsuit, brought against the OLD board by Cal Cities to protect their assets -- the water they sell to the community. Another chunk of that amount involves various personnel matters having nothing to do with the NEW board or the Sewer Wars, a gender bias lawsuit against the previous fire chief and on-administrative-leave general manager and so forth.

And the biggest chunk of the most recent expenditures was caused when the OLD board went into court to try to stop the recall election. That piece of folly cost the taxpayers a bundle but also saved them a bundle when the NEW board settled, since had they not settled, the law was soooo clear on the penalties and consequences for attempting and failing to stop ballot measures before an election that I’m amazed that the new group claiming “concern” over expenditures, Taxpayers Watch, doesn’t sue the on-administrative-leave OLD board attorney for malpractice for advising the OLD board to start that lawsuit in the first place.

So, when you remove the [old] apples from the [new] oranges, what do you end up with? Something that isn’t pears at all.

But that’s the game – conflation, spin, missing information, distorted “facts.” And now that Taxpayers Watch is starting a drive to dissolve the very CSD that some of them helped create, keep your hat on. The wind from the spin will be ferocious!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Nice Work If You Can Get It . . .

Ah, sweet! Little Tribune “CountyRoundup” notice: “The former general manager of the Los Osos Community Serviced District may head to Nipomo. Bruce Buel, who was placed on administrative leave by the Los Osos district’s board in October, would work as an assistant to Nipomo’s general manager, Michael LeBrun.”

The pay for the new job? $84,000, plus benefits. This on top of the $94,000 a-year paycheck he’s still getting from his original CSD contract.

Sweet! And who said this train wreck was a disaster?

Not known is whether Nipomo will wait to hear from the local District Attorney. He’s trying to figure out how it came to pass that Bruce signed a contract with the engineering firm, Watson Montgomery Harza, on behalf of the CSD before he had even been hired and before the CSD Board even voted to approve the money. Ah, well, it's just one of those little Los Ososian puzzles that litter our little town that remain to be solved.

Over at, Ron Crawford has posted his complaint to the local Grand Jury. In it, he “alleges that the initial CSD Board of Directors, subsequent Directors up to 2005, and staff members, deliberately misled, from 2000-2005, the County of San Luis Obispo, the California Coastal Commission and the Regional Water Quality Control Board that a ’strongly held community value’ exists in Los Osos that any wastewater treatment facility must also double as a ‘centrally located’’ recreational asset.’

“Evidence shows that the initial CSD Board manufactured that ‘strongly held community value, in an attempt to coerce regulators into approving the ‘centrally located’ Tri-W site as the location of their second proposed wastewater treatment facility/public park, even though evidence shows there was no rationale to site the second faciity at Tri-W.”

Well, good luck to him. I hope the Grand Jury does look into this matter since that’s one of the great puzzles to this whole train wreck -- Just why the old board clung so ferociously to the that Tri-W site when it was clear to many there simply was no point to it once the Ponds of Avalon bit the dust.

If the Grand Jury is supposed to “investigate local government agencies and official to form a view as to whether they are acting properly,” then The Hideous Sewer Project is just ripe for a look-see.

Of course, whatever reports they end up writing usually get tossed in the trash can by the very people they’re reporting on – “Oh, thanks soooo much for this scathing report on my appalling incompetence and malfeasance. I’ll cherish it . . . right here in this round file with the old MacDonald wrappers and cigarette butts.”

So, while this would be a worthy project, I won't exactly hold my breath. Not in this county, anyway.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons, the Bay News, Los Osos, for January 18, 06

Sing-Along in Sewerville

Koooombyyaaaa, My Lord, Koooombyyaaaaaa…Oooohhhh Lord, Koooommbyaaaaaa

Regional Water Quality Control Board member Gary C. Shallcross was quoted in a Jan 6 Tribune story on the $6.6 million fine the board had just levied against Los Osos as saying “that seeing a community ‘go at each others throats in such an ugly way’ was one of the saddest things that has come before the regional board.”

I can only surmise that Mr. Shallcross remains curiously clueless about the role his own Board and Staff played in creating this mess – years of puzzling indifference and questionable “science” alternating with irrational bullying threats that resulted in an unholy collusion that helped create the train-wreck now before him. He is also apparently oblivious as to the complexity of this process and apparently believes that sewering an already built town in about 4 years is “reasonable.” It never was “reasonable.” But Mr. Shallcross apparently never bothered to understand that the Time Schedule Order (TSO) that was the loony engine that was driving this train off the cliff was always nuts. Indeed, four times former General Manager Bruce Buel testified that the TSO was unreasonable, unreasonable, unreasonable, and . . . unreasonable.

With what most likely were crocodile tears, Mr. Shallcross went on, “It makes me sick to my stomach . . . Hopefully someday you’ll all get together and hold hands and sing Kumbaya. But I don’t think that’s going to happen,” once again proving that Mr. Shallcross hasn’t been paying attention to what was supposed to be his area of concern here: Los Osos.

On October, 30th, had Mr. Shallcross been paying attention, he would have heard strains of Kumbaya wafting from the community center as die-hard Tri-Ws and die-hard anti-Tri-Ws, one by one, went to the podium for public comment and said of the “Negotiated Deal That Wasn’t Negotiated,” things like, “Well, it’s not what I wanted but I can live with it.” or “Actually, I was never really married to the in-town site and if we can get a better plant out of town, I’ll vote for that,” and such like. Kumbaya doesn’t sound sweeter than that.

But Mr. Shallcross wasn’t paying attention. He had old tapes playing in his head and was not able to see what was going on in front of his nose despite three grueling days of hearings. Oblivious, was Mr. Shallcross and oblivious was the entire Regional Board, except for one thing and one thing only: Their single-minded search for assets in Los Osos that could be converted to cash in the form of fines and paid to the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

For me, that was one of the “saddest things that has come before the regional board.” It made me sick to my stomach – a water board that spent no time discussing how to move ahead to fix a water and wastewater problem. Not once did a single Board member say, “We’re all about water quality and you folks have hit a rock in the road to fixing your water quality so tell us how we can help you get this water quality project going in a direction the community will accept so we can solve these water quality issues.” Nope, not a bit of it. Not a whisper about water. It was all about money.

Even sadder was a question repeatedly asked and left unanswered: How does bankrupting a community fix a wastewater problem?

The answer to that question would have been obvious had Mr. Shallcross and his fellow Board members been interested in water and water quality. Indeed, had Mr. Shallcross and his colleagues been interested in such things, I have absolutely no doubt at all that the “Negotiated Deal That Wasn’t Negotiated” would have gone through and we’d be on our way to finishing this project. But pre- and post-election emails among certain community members, the RWQCB staff and the State Water Board, emails later posted on the Tribune’s website, show a far different agenda was at work.

So, now everyone will wander into court. Too bad Mr. Shallcross is not able to see just how sad that is and just what role he and his fellow Board members had in creating the situation in the first place. But his head is just too full of old tapes, looping endlessly, bearing out-of-date information and corny old camp songs. Kumbaya, indeed.

For sheer bloviating fatuity, that comment is hard to beat.

In his January 18 letter, Baywood Park resident Doug Morin uses the word “Orwellian” to describe a recent Trib. essay by CSD Director Julie Tacker. He then goes on to state the “simple truth” that the previous project “. . . was approved by the overwhelming majority of property owners in the prohibition zone.”

EERRRNNKKKKK! People, people, we need to talk. First off, Orwell is the wrong author to use as an example. When it comes to Los Osos, the right book is Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass.

Second, here in Sewerville, the words “overwhelming majority” cannot be used at all. The only vote ever taken on the Hideous Sewer was a mail-in ballot assessment of property owners within the prohibition zone and was required to raise a small amount of money to start the design work. Nearly 37% of those ballots were never returned. So the “overwhelming” vote was actually decided by about 60% of the eligible voters, 79.7% of whom approved of the preliminary assessment, 15.8% of whom did not. Seventy-nine percent of sixty percent does not constitute “overwhelming.”

Plus, there never was another vote held once the final costs were known. That lack of a vote was one of the lawsuits that, to my knowledge, still has not been settled. So who knows what kind of “overwhelming” approval that vote would engender.

Worse yet, in the recent recall/Measure B election, about 40% didn’t bother to vote either (though that did include the entire group of registered voters, not just property owners.) Maybe there’s something in the water that puts 40% of Los Ososians out to lunch?

And finally, while sewer projects are not rocket science, the words “simple truth” simply can’t be used to describe the Hideous Los Osos Sewer Project. It is impossible to say anything “simple” about our various projects without trailing carloads of footnotes and addenda. “Simple” it ain’t and has never been.

So, we need to park those words. Pleeeeeze.

Monday, January 16, 2006

And Now, Let's Hear From Our Other Guest . . .

The following is from Los Osos Technical Task Force member, Gail McPherson. The "dreamers" and the Tribune have recently been happily conflating the idea that disolving the CSD will be fast, easy, quick and poof! a few signatures here and there and the Sewer Plant will rise like Phoenix from the Tri-W site, the big, bad ogre Briggs will stop snarling and go away, all will be forgiven and like magic Los Osos' problems will disolve like morning mist.

In speaking with Paul Hood of LAFCO, that smiley-faced fairy tale is far, far from the truth. I do hope he'll come talk to the community at a CSD meeting.

What's interesting about some of the steps outlined below is the puzzling question: Why didn't the old CSD do those things, i.e. feasibility/affordability study, detailed comparison between systems, a vote on, say, the top two systems & sites (with accurate costs, no "hide the salami" deferreds), followed by a Prop 218-type vote once the full costs were known and so forth.? And, above all, why on earth did the Recalled-3 start pounding all that nice money into the ground before the election? Clearly, there were options. And instead of promoting more disinformation, why didn't/doesn't the Tribune ask those questions -- even now?

I know, the Tribune? Bwa-hahahahah.

If anyone wonders why we're in such a mess today, I would suggest taking a look at the steps NOW being taken and especially the order in which they're being taken. I think therein lies a few clues as to just what started this original train wreck. Nobody can say the old CSD wasn't warned. There were so many red lights and red flags going down that nobody could have missed the signals.
___________________ ******* ____________________


It's true...The dreamers can claim that because it was legally impossible before the election TO BUY LAND, DESIGN A PROJECT OR GET PERMITS. But a project plan was in place and is moving. After all, to gain the ability to represent the majority of the community, TO BUY LAND, DESIGN A PROJECT, GET PERMITS, and deliver an acceptable wastewater project, was the very reason for the recall. And stopping the successful delivery is the only goal of the ousted directors.

The new CSD developed a project report and plan long before the election. Workshops and town hall meetings, reports and display boards allowed the community to hear about the options that would be studied, and had copies of the proposal and costs for the Nelson pond project. The plan is the road map for delivering a project, and the same plan that the CSD has been implementing since the election.

The CSD efforts for a new project hasn't stopped, even as Briggs delivered the complaint for fines, which were ready to go even before the election was certified. Work was in progress even as the ousted board & dreamers lobbied the State and pressured them to pull the funding, and even before the CSD had a chance meet and discuss the implementation plan for the new wastewater project and its steps and process schedule.

The State gave the old CSD until September 20, with additional 90 days to just award the contracts. Construction never needed to start, except for the malicious need to create huge risk of financial damage to the community. Plenty of time was there for learning the outcome of the election before committing taxpayer money or locking in contracts and spending loan funding. Yet the start of construction 20 days before the election tells the motives was to deny the voters a say. The ousted directors made a promise of fiscal destruction if the community voted against their leadership. Just as voters’ objections were crushed for the last 3 years and a vote denied. The CSD ousted-3 worked against the best interests of our community to spend us into submission, obligating the rate payers to $10-$20 mil in debt before the election was certified. That promise was in THEIR election flyers. Surely that would either win them the election or preserve their project!

But they underestimated the resolve of the community. A dose of fear with $11 mil in fines- Won't that dissolve up any hope of a new out of town project? But even with all the assaults, the new board won the election, and with the promise of determination, directors and staff is working on the wastewater project. The Tri-W project is dead. The community can stop arguing against it now and put our efforts on compliance with water quality. The fastest path to a project is to let the CSD do their job. TRI W -It is GONE....dead, and we should bury it. Tri W is no more possible now than was the County project was after the CSD election in 1999.

While the old board tries to kill a wastewater project, the handful of ardent dreamers calling themselves- ironically “Taxpayers Watch” lead by Gustafson and Hensley, try to delay the CSD's progress. They have filed 5 lawsuits, and hope their efforts to date would bankrupt the CSD.

The CSD has stepped up efforts to get the new project off the ground. Dreamers emails indicate a hope the CSD won't have the funds to design and build the project. But they are failing. So now Dreamers hope the threats by the RWQCB of individual fines against citizens will boost their efforts to dissolve the CSD. That is their only hope to stop the potential success of the new CSD, who if not stopped will most certainly deliver a wastewater project.

The CSD is focusing all their work on the project plan, and the process to deliver a wastewater project that addresses the needs of the community. Yes, the plan they still insist CSD doesn’t have. The one presented featuring ponds or the oxidation ditch technology in the negotiations with Blakeslee and the State. The PLAN that the State can fund and the water board must permit, because it DOES meet the regulatory requirements.

The Tri W loan was too high a risk for the State, and I believe they must be relieved to have terminated it. There is litigation, but a new loan application is being drafted, and the State will put the safeguards in place the old loan never had. And that is ok, because it protects us too. Now the "process" has to be followed to assure a 218 vote, and will assure we have a wastewater project that is legal and acceptable.

That means the CSD has to produce a facility report. That report was in an unofficial draft form before the election. The next step is to take the report and elements of the 2001 report through a feasibility study. Here the CSD must give other technology and processes a fair look. That means to put the PLAN up against the other alternatives, to assure we are selecting the best value. To do this we identify the possible land sites for projects, and put a cost table together. The State requires this for the loan, and it is needed for CEQA, and measure B. But could this be accomplished before the election? Of course not.
Why don't we have land?
It was and still is a ridiculous demand by dreamers who know it is impossible, yet give misinformation that the supporters of the recall should have purchased land and designed a project before the election. The process for developing a project must follow the CEQA laws. The funding is actually dependent upon the CSD following a legal process within the loan application. (A process the old CSD fudged over and over and one that could not begin until after the election).

YES The CSD has a plan, and is well into motion because they have all the existing project reports and studies. The CSD will use them in developing the wastewater project. The CSD has elements of the 2001 facility report and the LOTTF alternative report that contains the pond plan that the State reviewed. The plan was the basis of the compromise for funding that was later rejected, but water board staff agreed we could save $25 mil.

The plan is a roadmap to for the CSD to follow the legal process to deliver a wastewater project. More will be presented to the public in the public board meeting and workshops, now that funding and fines are in the legal arenas.

So with the question of a plan answered, as well as land and permits, the defeated directors shift to “dissolving the CSD”. They accused the CSD of causing the debt, and say the new CSD promised no fines, and no loss of funding.
That is another one of their twisted lies.
The Save the Dream election documents actually promised

Recall proponents said, while that might happen in a divided community, if we work together we can prevail. Either way, the new CSD would defend the community. Fear was not a good enough reason to accept bad government, the fatally flawed unsustainable and unaffordable project, or Dreamers corrosive politics.

The DREAMERS worked very hard to bring their promise to fruition both before and after the election. E-mails to regulatory agencies and other documentation reveals the dreamers group was begging for help to assure fines and loss of funding. In spite of the state agencies requirement for objectivity, obligation to work with the new legally elected CSD members, with the authority to exercise discretion, and with the responsibility to protect the taxpayers of the State, the dreamers tried to make good on their promises. (The apparent influence or electioneering with help from the state is particularly disturbing).

As the prior minority board and later the new CSD explained the possibility and the process of fines, and the funding requirements to the public, they were told they were naive. They educated the community, and described the wide range of options and discretion available in the water board policies, only to find they would never consider exercising that power.

The new CSD and this community always knew the fines and funding risks, It had been hammered on them for 7 years, and yet they made these commitments:
1. Work to deliver an affordable and properly sited wastewater project.
2. Work to avoid or mitigate fines to the best of their ability, and defend the community against abuses by the RWQCB.
3. To work to preserve the funding through project amendments possible before construction, and through negotiations for an amended project and compromise after:

a. Willingness for compromise and to provide the legal authority through a 218 vote and passing measure B project approval.
b. To apply and reapply for loans and grants, and provide necessary surety
c. Conduct affordability studies, and apply for loans, grants and funding instruments that assure a wastewater project is completed.
4. To defend and protect the community based on a code of conduct, and their oath of office.

The CSD is working to fulfill those promises, and others made in the 'first 100 days -contract with Los Osos', because THIS CSD HAS the legal authority to deliver a project. This CSD is the only agency that CAN LEGALLY deliver any wastewater project.

Not the county, the state, not the RWQCB, or bitter ex-directors or their supporters. The CSD holds the authority.

The TRI W project is dead. GET OVER IT. It is our hope that all interested parties will recognize this reality, and stop their divisive actions, and work with the CSD to deliver a legal and acceptable wastewater project.

Don't say Move Forward...say MOVE ON>>>>>!

Gail McPherson
Los Osos Technical Task Force

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Broke Back

One of the interesting things that’s gone missing in all the “gay” discussion about Ang Lee’s new film, Broke Back Mountain is this: You could make those two cowboys a straight couple, for example, one black, one white, same setting, same time frame, not change more than a few lines of dialogue and the film would play exactly the same.

And that is because the subtext of the story is ageless: How we humans box ourselves in with paradigms that limit, blight and ultimately destroy our ability to realize our full, genuine selves. There are Broke Back Mountains everywhere. In Saudia Arabia a woman isn’t allowed to drive a car alone because, well, women aren’t allowed to do that sort of thing. In some parts of America, a black man still risks extreme danger for looking “funny” at a white woman because, well, black men aren’t allowed to do that sort of thing. Gays can’t get married because, well, that sort of thing just isn’t done. White men can’t jump, blacks love watermelon, all hairdressers are gay, God hates fags, Mexicans are lazy, women are hysterics, the list of blind, bigoted assumptions is endless.

In the wonderful film, Billy Elliot, Billy had a genuine talent for dancing but everyone in his world knew that sons of miners don’t dance. The Monty Python crew did a wonderful spoof of this theme in their Sons and Lovers skit by reversing things: Mom & Pop were intellectuals and writers while their son begged to become what he always dreamed of becoming – a coal miner.

And so it goes. We hobble our lives because God decreed it, Society decreed it, The Family decreed it, and, well, Everyone knows. And so our made up “realities” continue to bind, blind, cripple, limit and finally destroy our very real lives. Yet with what single-minded ferocity do we cling to our self-created jails.

That we know this truth deep in our bones is what gives Broke Back Mountain such a powerful resonance and such a deep, unflinching sadness.

Friday, January 06, 2006


Regional Water Board member Gary C. Shallcross was quoted in the Jan 6 Tribune story today on the $6.6 million fine they levied against Los Osos as saying “that seeing a community ‘go at each others throats in such an ugly way’ was one of the saddest things that has come before the regional board.”

Clearly, Mr. Shallcross remains curiously clueless about how communities in general and Los Ososians in particular, deal with such a complex issue as sewering a whole town years after it’s built. He is also apparently clueless as to the complexity of this process and apparently believes that accomplishing the task in about 4 years is “reasonable.” It never was “reasonable.” But Mr. Shallcross apparently remains clueless that the time line schedule always was nuts and that all of Los Osos' problems can be traced back to that insane time line and the failure of the previous CSD Board to demand a more reasonable time schedule as newer information came on line.

Sadly, Mr. Shallcross went on, “It makes me sick to my stomach . . . Hopefully someday you’ll all get together and hold hands and sing Kumbaya. But I don’t think that’s going to happen,” once again proving that Mr. Shallcross hasn’t been paying attention to what’s supposed to be his area of concern: Los Osos.

On October, 30th, had Mr. Shallcross been paying attention, he would have heard strains of Kumbaya wafting from the community center as die-hard opponents, one by one, went to the podium for public comment and said of the “Negotiated Deal That Wasn’t Negotiated,” things like, “Well, it’s not what I wanted but I can live with it.” or “Well, I never was really married to the in-town site and if we can get a better plant out of town, I’ll vote for that,” and such like. Kumbaya doesn’t sound sweeter than that.

But Mr. Shallcross wasn’t paying attention. He had old tapes playing in his head and was not able to see what was going on in front of his nose despite three grueling days of hearings. Oblivious, was Mr. Shallcross, except for his single-minded search for assets in Los Osos that could be converted to cash and paid to the Regional Board.

And, for me, that was one of the “saddest things that has come before the regional board.” It made me sick to my stomach – a WATER board that spent NO TIME discussing how to move ahead to fix a WATER and WASTWATER problem. Nope. Not a whisper about water. It was all about money.

And another sadness: Had Mr. Shallcross and his fellow Board members been interested in WATER and WATER QUALITY and WASTEWATER, I have absolutely no doubt at all that the “negotiated deal that wasn’t negotiated” would have gone through, with their help and encouragement, and we’d be on our way to finishing this project.

But doing that would have involved focusing concern on WATER, and that’s clearly not the job of Mr. Shallcross and the Regional WATER QUALITY Control Board: Money and the getting of money, that’s their job.

So, now everyone will wander into court. Too bad Mr. Shallcross is not able to see just how sad that is and just what he has had a hand in making. But his head is just too full of old tapes, looping endlessly, bearing old, out-of-date information.

Kumbaya, indeed.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Calhoun’s Can(n)on, The Bay News, January 4, 06

Old New Year

I gave up making New Year’s Resolutions long ago. Too many are easily made and just as easily broken, usually by February 4th. But I sure did have some New Year’s Wishes, all either broken by now or pipe dreams in the first place. But, here goes:

The first was a wish that everyone in Los Osos would stop suing the new CSD Board until the dust on this train wreck had settled long enough to figure out who the players were. But no such luck. Taxpayers Watch (a group self-identified as being composed of several recalled Board members, among others, and in this case, Joyce Albright specifically) has filed a lawsuit that, among other things, demands that the individual new CSD “ . . . Board members be held personally liable to repay the monies wasted as a result of their thoughtless and wasteful decisions . . . .” Uh, considering how many gazillions the recalled Board deliberately pounded into the ground only weeks before a critical election, I have to agree with Ms. Albright’s accusation, but I have to conclude that she’s aiming it at the wrong Board.

For even more delicious irony, Ms. Albright’s suit expresses outrage at legal settlements made “without cause or legitimate rationale,” and paid out to what she characterizes as the new Board’s “political cronies.” Then, at the bottom of her petition, she asks for – you got it – all attorney’s fees and costs, including, I have no doubt, settlement monies, should the case come to that.

Well, starting out the New Year with full employment for attorneys was inevitable. It’s what happens after train wrecks. Take a number. Get in line. Next stop: Ironyville.

After reading a recent Op/Ed piece by John C. Phillips, a professor of crop science at Cal Poly, I had a fervent wish that we SLO Folks would wake up and smell the rutabagas.

All over California we’re plowing under incredibly valuable cropland to plant houses, relying on cheap oil and energy to get us cheap food from Chile or China. Naturally, we’re heedless of what will happen when the oil runs out and we’re left with no cropland to grow food locally and will find, to our dismay, it’s pretty hard to eat a house. Mr. Phillips’ modest proposal suggested that the good citizens of this county should tax themselves a few shekels to purchase Mr. Dalidio’s Madonna Road drop-dead-gorgeous black bottomland and have it leased out to be farmed organically (avoid excess nitrate runoff and toxic sprays), thereby allowing us to have our own little locally grown, farmers’ market food source right here instead of in Paraguay.

I would also add a ditto for all that rich, yummy, high-grade soil running up Los Osos Valley. Surely we could agree that for Homeland Security’s sake, we’d be better off collectively saving that bottom land to grow broccoli instead of inedible “ranchettes?”

I know. It’ll never happen. We’ve lost all sense of the long-term value of The Public Commons, a failure of vision that we will pay dearly for in our race for the quick buck.

And so, to finish off my short but hopeless List, I futilely wished that a good start to the New Year would be that the following statement from Laurie Zoloth, professor of medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, which appeared in a Dec. 23 L.A. Times Op/Ed piece, be made a centerpiece for ALL our political, legal, scientific, journalistic, business, financial, regulatory, and voter-led and/or governmental decisions: “ . . . Tell the truth, always, we teach students, withhold nothing from your data. It is a categorical imperative for science and indeed for all societies. It comes from Immanuel Kant, whose early writing on truth in the new discipline of science shaped what we teach as core questions in bioethics: What can I know? How ought I to act? For what can I hope? Bioethicists cannot reflect on complex moral issues without a truthful narrative. Policy makers cannot regulate without good facts. The public cannot know what to hope for if it cannot know what is real.”

Do you suppose that simple mandate is too much to hope for in a new year? All we need do to make it so is . . . to make it so. After all, that’s what successful resolutions are all about, aren’t they?