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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Options First, Trial Later? Is that County Mummy Dearest I see standing there suddenly, all smiles and huggie-boos?


First, a May 12 letter to CSD General Manager, Dan Bleskey and Gail Wilcox, Assistant County Administrator, from Paul Hood, Executive Officer of LAFCO. This will be followed by my Nosey Parker Public Comment. And following that, a deliciously accurate recipe by Gail McPherson on just how one goes about dissolving a CSD.

The biggest puzzle to me in what appears to be Mr. Hood’s trial balloon proposal, besides it being curiously cart before horse-ish, is this: Why is the county being asked to play the role of the loving parent . . . now? I mean, the county was free to step up to “joint-partner” while the Great Blakeslee Compromise negotiations were underway. Indeed, they were free to “joint-partner” with various financing options even after the Blakeslee Compromise fell through, yet they said nothing. And when asked to sign on as either a Designated Party or an Interested Party for the CDO’s, their response was Talk To The Hand.

So far as I know, the only “county” response to the CSD efforts to move the sewer came in the form of an Oct 20th letter from Supervisor Shirley Bianchi to State Water Board Chair Arthur Baggett assuring him that “This is a particularly difficult situation since the current District Board either will not or cannot understand any government process. At one point I was asked if the political will exists here in San Luis Obispo County to assume the management of the project [Tri-W] if, for whatever reason, the District were unable to continue with it. Let me assure you that you have my full support, and I believe that the other Supervisors would give great weight to my position.”

In other words, screw the voters and since the newly elected CSD Board was too stupid to “understand any governmental process,” then they certainly weren’t an elected body that needed to be treated as a co-equal governing body. No, indeed. Instead, Mummy Bianchi could be relied on to go behind their backs and take matters into her (and Water Board Chair Baggett’s) own hands.

Oh, did I forget to tell you, Supervisor Bianchi is one of the LAFCO Commissioners, and to my knowledge, she has not excused herself from voting on the dissolution of The Good Old Too Stupid To “Understand Any Governmental Process” Los Osos CSD. Ah, yes, unbiased Mummy Dearest Redux.

So, pass the cheese, please. I smell something cooking here. Rats en brochette, perhaps? Which is why I have to wonder if The County now loves Los Osos ---like a glutton loves his lunch?


LAFCO’s letter:

Subject: Collaborative Options to Dissolving the District

Dear Mr. Bleskey and Ms. Wilcox:

As you know, a proposal to dissolve the Los Osos community Services District has been filed with the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO). LAFCO staff is in the process of evaluating several different options regarding the Dissolution proposal. In analyzing this application, two options have been identified that would call for the cooperation of both the County and the District. These collaborative options could help resolve the situation if the County and District are willing to work together. The options are described as follows:

Option A: Divesture of the Sewer Power from the District. The LOCSD would voluntarily divest itself of the power to provide wastewater and sewer services and the County would voluntarily agree to provide this service. LAFCO approval of this action is required for this option to be implemented.

Discussion. If the District chose to divest the sewer power, they would continue to provide other services to the community of Los Osos; i.e. water, fire, street lighting, garbage, etc. The District would remain as the local agency that provides services to the community and may be able to manage the sewer at some point in the future, subject to LAFCO approval. The sewer power could be transferred to the County through the activation of this power under County Service Area 9. The County would not be obligated to assume the responsibility for the other services. The County appears to be in a better position in terms of resources and financial standing to complete the sewer project. Moreover, this action could be conditioned by LAFCO to limit the liability that would be transferred to the County. Current liabilities, loans, bonds and lawsuits would remain with the District because the CSD still exists, subject to LAFCO conditions for the divestiture as permitted by statute.

Option B: County and District enter into a Joint Powers Agreement. This option would give the LOCSD and the County the opportunity to develop an agreement that would create a “Board” or “Authority” to construct and operate the sewer. The County and District could work out the details of such an agreement that may limit liability and increase the chances that the sewer would be constructed in a timely and more cost effective manner. LAFCO approval of this action is not required for this option.

Discussion: A Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) would create a new governmental structure that may be able to obtain financing at a reasonable interest rate while limiting the liability to the County and the District. Through the Joint Exercise of Powers Act public, agencies may agree to assist one another using a Joint Powers Agreement that establishes a board, commission other agency to provide governance for the project. A joint Powers Agreement identifies roles and responsibilities for the agency. Under Government Code 6546, revenue bonds may be issued by the joint powers entity for the construction of wastewater facilities (6546(g)). It may be possible for a Joint Powers Agreement to be written contractually in such a manner as to limit the liability that might be incurred by the County or the District. The precise details of the JPA would be addressed if the County and the District decide to enter into such an Agreement.

LAFCO is interested in hearing from the District and the County with regard to the potential and feasibility of the above options. These options provide a way to work together to complete the sewer project in a manner that could be more cost effective and time efficient. It may be that after the sewer project is completed the facilities are transferred to the District for operation and maintenance.

We will be including a discussion of these options in the June 15, 1006 Staff Report to the Commission. An immediate response from the District and County regarding these alternatives would be helpful. If you wish the Commission to consider your input on these options, please provide a written response by May 22, 1006.

Thank you for your assistance in this matter. Please don’t hesitate to call me at 805-781-5795 if you have any questions.

Sincerely,


[Paul Hood]



And My Nosey Parker Public Comment to Mr. Hood’s letter

May 19, 2006

Paul Hood, Exec. Director
LAFCO
Commissioners & Staff
County Courthouse Complex, Admin
1042 Pacific St. Suite A
San Luis Obispo, CA 93402


Dear Mr. Hood,

I wish the Commission and all interested parties to consider this my public input on your May 12 letter re the Collaborative Options to Dissolving the District:

Your May 19 letter offers two options to resolve the question of Dissolving the CSD. I’m afraid I’m missing something. Aren’t there four or more options? 1) deny the dissolution petition for lack of substantiated and sufficient grounds to shut down a functioning CSD; 2) substantiate all the charges as sufficient reason for dissolving a functioning CSD; 3) Separate certain functions, i.e.”sewer power;” and 4) some alternative joint power or lead agency or some other negotiated and voter approved system; 5) some other option.

Since what LAFCO decides must be based on criteria that applies to all past, present, and future CSDs equally, I am deeply concerned that “options” are premature at this stage, and would caution that the LAFCO board needs to seriously think about precedent here.

It is no secret that a certain group of individuals wanted a particular type of sewer plant in the middle of town and when the community disagreed with that, these folks moved immediately to dissolve the CSD in hope that The County would immediately re-start a particular type of sewer plant in the middle of town. That they used LAFCO as a political tool to accomplish this one particular goal should give everyone involved with this matter cause for concern. The criteria for dissolving a functioning CSD needs to be based on solid, neutral ground, not political pique or hidden agendas.

So far as I know, the judge who has ordered an audit of the CSD’s books still hasn’t assigned an auditor to complete that task. In her March 24 letter, Gail Wilcox notes that before she can make a recommendation to the BoS “we would need further reliable information as to the true state of affairs at LOCSD.” . . . including various real and actual liabilities (not made up un-hatched chickens) and so forth. If you don’t have information from the audit yet, isn’t a “collaborative option” premature? If you don’t yet have accurate information, (and in the various contractual mediations, things can change quickly, one way or the other), I would strongly suggest, as Ms. Wilcox suggests in her March 24 letter, “that LAFCO take advantage of the provisions of Government Code section 56666, which allows for up to a 70 day continuance of the hearing.”

In Option A, of your May 12 letter, you state, “The county appears to be in a better position in terms of resources and financial standing to complete the sewer project.” THE sewer project? What sewer project? The CSD is now in the middle of a process of updating the wastewater report and depending on what the report says, THEN they’ll know what kind of project will be the preferred one to be presented to the community. Right now, there is nothing that can be called “The” project, unless, of course, you are referring to The [old] Tri-W Project?

In Option B, you again state that “an agreement that would create a “Board” or “Authority” to construct and operate the sewer.” THE sewer? Again, what project are you talking about?

In Option A, you note that divesting the sewer power would be done only if the action “could be conditioned by LAFCO to limit the liability that would be transferred to the County. Current liabilities, loans, bonds and lawsuits would remain with the District [emphasis mine] because the CSD still exists . . . . . .” while Option B notes that the Joint Powers Agreement would “be written contractually in such a manner as to limit the liability that might be incurred by the County or the district.” [emphasis mine.]

Why would Option A stick the district with all liabilities while Option B somehow limits that same District liability?

Option A notes that “The LOCSD would voluntarily divest itself . . .” while Option B says nothing about “voluntarily” entering a joint powers agreement. In presenting the options here, at this time, before the hearings even take place, are you really presenting the community with Hobson’s Choice? i.e. choose one of these options NOW, or else we will go ahead and vote to dissolve the entire CSD?

If that’s what’s really at work here, then shouldn’t LAFCO first offer the full case for dissolution on June 15 (if the proper audited financial information is in hand by then), with full opportunity to rebut their case, and only then suggest or offer options before or as part of a final recommendation?

Once again, I have serious concerns that what LAFCO may be considering must be done in such a way so as not to set an awful precedent – that of using LAFCO as a partisan political tool when the ballot box fails one particular group or another.

Sincerely,

Ann Calhoun


And now, on a lighter note. Some delicious thoughts to munch on by Gail McPherson. What the Irish call “joking on the square.” Or is it? [copy edited for blog posting with permission of author]



While the [recall] vote represented a rejection of the project at Tri W and the lack of acceptance of the exceedingly high cost of the sewer project, and lack of confidence in the [old] board majority, what would it take for the ousted board and a handful of spiteful supporters to dissolve the CSD and regain power?

Lost Credibility, Lawsuits, Claims and Debt, Frozen Funds/ Bankruptcy, and Individual Fines….That and more are the necessary in”greed”ients for a Taxpayers’ Watch Dissolution Recipe. Herewith a 10 point plan of how it works: (keep in mind that a CSD Success spells Failure to Albright and her ousted cronies)

You must ensure the CSD is embroiled in lawsuits and controversy from the first day they are sworn into office. Taxpayers’ Watch (formed from those who lost the election) filed the first of numerous lawsuits the day after the election, before the first ‘post recall’ CSD meeting.
Assure cooperation by Briggs and the Water Board to fine the CSD into bankruptcy. Public records documents between Briggs and members of Taxpayers’ Watch confirm they lobbied and got the Water Board to draft actions for $11 million in fines and individual CDOs as the election was being certified.
Stop the Funds -Assure a preemptive strike by contacting the SWRCB and informing them the board is thumbing their nose at the State and flaunting “they will never pay you back.” Use the 218 requirement to confirm CSD intentions. Request SWRCB pull funds and default on the contract, before speaking to the “lawfully elected lead agency” because they “know nothing about government.”

Project funding that could be reassigned to a project out of town must be aborted: The CSD had the authority to revise the project and the loan with SWRCB approval. Lobbying before the recall election would convince the SWRCB not to listen to the public outcry against the [Tri-W] project, which gave the SWRCB confidence that if they played ball with the old CSD the recall would fail and Voila! an unwanted sewer project would be funded and built.
Stop Negotiations to preserve funding and forward motion on the project. Torpedo-Blakeslee’s compromise-. A lower cost plant out of town was presented, and several parcels were identified. The CSD would be building now, No fines, No default, No lawyer’s fees. NO DISSOLUTION?? This recipe can’t let that happen!
Minimization and usurping lawful authority: Lobbying efforts to assure the SWRCB would NEVER recognize the new CSD as the lawfully elected LEAD agency for negotiations. Launch and maintain huge lobbying efforts to forever etch “anti-sewer-obstructionists” and Los Osos crazies into the SWRCB collective mind.
Announce dissolution and make promises that once the County takes over, there would be no claims or debt, no CSD fines, resumed low interest funding, agency “respect’ and peace will return to the people’s lives. Keep repeating “the recall was close, and not everyone voted”...get the fear factor with headlines about fines and loan default working and go gather signatures. Promise anything…dreamers never delivered on a single promise before except to promise that the CSD would be annihilated if they lost the election!
Anti Sewer Perception, Board is unqualified, inept and naive: Media and public agencies must never view the new board as being capable, (current board is made up of scientists, engineers, planners-all 5 with extensive government experience)
The CSD must never be perceived as in favor of a wastewater project, or capable of delivering one. Assign the 30 years of delays to them as well as millions in wasted public funds.
File more lawsuits against each one, and then claim it’s a waste of public funds to use attorneys to defend the district-as required by law.
Litigation must erode both the public funds and the confidence of the public.
Ratchet up the expenditures for required District legal defenses and then publicly announce the huge waste.
Make up the numbers, a few million on the construction claims, more on litigation. No one will stop to imagine it all can be tracked back to actions by the recalled board before the election to assure this very outcome.
Hide that the ousted Board had active litigation against agencies and individuals, before the election, which the new CSD fiduciary duty required and obligated them to settle at the lowest cost to taxpayers.
Exploit that positive settlement as wasteful and file another lawsuit for waste. Hide this CSD’s lack of fiduciary responsibility. Taxpayers’ Watch will grab the settled Measure B lawsuit, and drive up the cost again.
Keep the media and press focused to assure the perception by the courts and public is the CSD is “anti sewer” and then drum beat the rumor that the CSD was paying “friends” with settlement money.
Claims settled and debt reorganized stops bankruptcy. Freeze CSD funds so the board can’t defend the district against Taxpayers’ Watch myriad lawsuits. Better, assure they can’t deliver a project, settle claims or reorganize debt. How? Get the contractors who worked hand in glove with Taxpayers’ Watch to torpedo the compromise, to lobby the SWRCB and RWQCB against working with the CSD. (Also, do hide their substantial campaign contributions to help the old Board and hope nobody notices). Best of all, the contractors’ loyalty to the old board will be promised payments in the form of full claim recovery. Millions to the contractors, on a bid 45% over estimates, on contracts front loaded to drive up the debt. Yes, millions instead of the pennies on the dollar they’d get in a CSD settlement with the new Board. Reason enough for a Dissolution Recipe. Dinner is served.

67 comments:

Mike Green said...

Option A.
Fall on your own sword!
The county will pick up the funeral and send the bill back to your relatives!

Option B.
Sell yourself into slavery.
The county will oversee the sale and will send the consignment fees back to your relatives!

I guess the Laugh Co(mpany)
needs new material.

Mike Green said...

A few qustions for Shirley,
Isn't an election a governmental process?
And what weight should that process have?
Bye bye Shirley.

Shark Inlet said...

Gail wrote that someone should "Get the contractors who worked hand in glove with Taxpayers’ Watch to torpedo the compromise, to lobby the SWRCB and RWQCB against working with the CSD."

Huh?

I've paid pretty careful attention to what's been going on and I've seen no evidence, nor even an accusation before now, that TW or the old board or the contractors wanted the compromise killed.

Let's think this one through ... why would the contractors want the compromise killed, 2/3 of them were going to continue work on the collection system and the third had the inside track on doing the work (even if delayed by two years)? Doesn't make sense. Without evidence we'll just have to laugh this one off.

Do you have any reason, Ann, for thinking that Gail's wild claim here is actually based on any evidence?

Spectator said...

There is no great wonder why Gail McPherson feels the way she does. After her problems in Riverside County, where else could she find a wastewater job? Los Osos may be her last chance, and she found Los Osos ripe for the picking.

PublicWorks said...

Wilcox presented two possible scenarios to consider as an alternate to dissolution. She clearly did not infer in any way that they were the only potential actions of LAFCO. Once again, you run amok which will only create more misconceptions.

Ann, how you of all people would not want to think of alternates for LAFCO so that they can make a better informed decision is laughable. Notice those options would prevent dissolution. Something most everybody agrees would be a good thing when you take the wastewater issue out of the equation.

Clearly, the correspondance allows for consideration of two reasonable options, in addition to the dissolve/don't dissolve scenario. Sounds like there's an attempt to HELP solve a problem, seems like a reasonable thing to do.

Anonymous said...

Ann,

This is the classic.

IF YOU CAN’T DAZZLE THEM WITH BRILLANCE,
BAFFLE THEM WITH BULLS..T

Great JOB!

Mike Green said...

It isn't reasonable untill what exactly they mean by "Sewer project" is spelled out.
If it's TriW alone then possibly the best thing for us is complete dissolve, That scenario puts the most liability on the County.
Clearly other districts shudder at the thought.
It's no wonder to me that several "trial balloons" will go up.
It's the reasonable thing for LAFCO to do, and not because they are concerned with LO
It's because they are concerned with SLO.

PublicWorks said...

Mike,

Exactly right, and they should be concerned about SLO, that's their job. I'd be horrified at the potential liabilities of LO if I were them.

Also, my bad, I said the letter was from Wilcox, it was actually from Hood.

Mike, no one not even the CSD can say what the sewer project is, so 'sewer project' is more a generic reference where the project includes the whole process of the evaluation, design, and funding.

I disagree that it is not reasonable - the County's ability to finance and as a more 'disinterested' manager takes the local war out of it. So, we can go back to pre-1998 where we hated the County and not each other.

Mike Green said...

Publickworks,
Good Morning!
Its a rainy day, so blogging seems like a good thing to do.
I don't have the same confidance that you do concerning what exactly they mean by "sewer project"
If it means joining into the process started by Ripley, then that is a completly different thing than "TriW for sure"
But getting back to Ann's BIG PICTURE
I think she has a point concerning the use of LAFCO as a political tool.
Hmnnn.

PublicWorks said...

Mike,

Everyone assumes the County just runs back to Tri-W. Why wouldn't they assume the Ripley report. by the time everything gets transferred, the report will be done anyway. If the report indicates it can save $25, there would be egg on every agency (like there isn't already!) if it was ignored or disregarded.

Everything is politics. Ann is politics, The CSD is politics, the County BOD is politics, LAFCO is politics, hell I'm politics.

You're about the only true non-political voice in the state of California.

Is there something wrong with you??

Anonymous said...

The LAFCO options are a joke and clearly a CYA alternative. I think LAFCO needs to put up or shut up. They either need to recommend dissolution and thus transfer all financial liability back to the County (they love that idea) or just deny the petition. I don't think they have the substantiation to justify a dissolution so the dissolution cannot happen unless of course the decision is political.

I think LAFCO should be thanking TWatch for giving LAFCO the opportunity to show some leadership. Someone's gotta make a hard decision here with real consequences: Dissolve LOCSD - suffer the wrath of the rest of the County; deny petition - suffer the wrath of TWatch and their cronies. My suggestion to LAFCO is not to be a bunch of pansies and make the hard decision. My suggestion to the LOCSD is to force LAFCO's hand and not accept anything but an "up or down" vote so they can move on whether dissolved or not. Then we'll find out whose got the cajones.

Mike Green said...

I guess whats wrong with me is what made me what I am.
I yam what I yam and thats all what I yam.

My epitath may be:
He was polite but funny

What is your opinion about using LAFCO as a political tool?

fair game or off limits?

Mike Green said...

To the anon "the cajones"
Not bad,
Stand back and lets you and them fight!
worked over and over in history.

Dogpatch Refugee said...

LAFCO imho, is going to punt. Maybe commission a study. They won't move to dissolve the CSD, despite risking Bianchi's cognitive deficit driven rantings.
F in LAFCO is for FORMATION. It is against their own natural political interests to get rid of functioning local government.
"LAFCO staff is in the process of evaluating several different options regarding the Dissolution proposal."
& floating a couple of very prelimnary, as CYA as they can get, trial balloons. Or are they bait?

No doubt , unless they ARE really political tools, ALL of the practical alternatives, as enumerated by Ann, are being "evaluated" by LAFCO staff & will be considered by their good Board.
Then they'll punt, see Ann's option #1 or variation.

Anonymous said...

public works said:
"If the report indicates it can save $25, there would be egg on every agency (like there isn't already!) if it was ignored or disregarded."

I love this... let's dissolve the NEW CSD and then hold it against the county if they dont follow the cheaper plan the NEW CSD came up with.

Egg on their faces? I would say that's an ostrich egg omelet on the face of anyone that supported dissolution.

With good reasoning like this, who needs bad reasoning.

PublicWorks said...

There's a whole point being missed by anonymous. It's not just about the plan the agency follows (whether it started with the CSD or not), it's also about an agency that is better positioned financially and structurally and politically to COMPLETE a project.

Ostriches stick their head in the sand. Maybe there's a way of getting the best of both worlds.

Mike Green said...

Gee. all these years and the question comes up about who could REALY complete a "sewer project"
A BIG project
The biggest project
A stupendously huge project.
Well, the tinyest poorest town (that wasn't even a town) in San Luis Obispo county could!
Yep! thats us "Mighty Mouse Town"
Sheesh, you think this mess could have been headed off at the pass?
I wish I was an ostrich!

Mike Green said...

anyone got a cliche?

PublicWorks said...

Los Osos? Cliches?

Cliches and slogans are what Los Osos does best.

Cheaper, Better, Faster. (Pricier, Worser, Slower)

Move Forward. (that one actually was ok, although it was missing the dam the torpedoes part).

ThreeCall. (- and then we'll figure out what to do)

Contract With Los Osos (more like put a contract out on Los Osos).

We Have a Plan. (ok, where is it? shoulda been 'We have a dream')

Save the Dream (see previous comment)

Wrong Project, Wrong Place, Wrong Time, (almost had it right, left out Wrong Agency)

Dissolve Now (soon to be followed by Dissolve Next Election, or If at first you don't succeed ....)

Dissolution is not the Solution (or, our counter slogans are always better than your slogans)

Churadogs said...

In a perfect world, full of ethical, competent people doing the right thing, no hidden agendas, no ulterior motives, no secret manipulations, these LAFCO proposals would be a no-brainer. But we don't live in a perfect world. (I would suggest you all re-read my previous posting -- the Letter sent regarding MWH. Set aside any strictly legal issues the letter raises and think about the "ethical" issues that are left.) There is, rightfully, so little trust left out here with anything sewerish that it's no wonder that any gift horse will have his dentures examined thoroughly.

The broader issue concering LAFCO is one that struck me immediately. The TPWers and Dreamers turned to LAFCO for dissolution IMMEDIATELY after the election. That was very striking to me and I wrote about in my column on Medea in Sewerville. The Recallers, by comparison, spent forever "petitioning" their government, running candidates, attending meetings, lobbying for the committees to be set up again, and finally resorted to a recall. Not once did they rush to petition LAFCO to dissolve the CSD. I found that striking. Still do. What the Dreamers did was like a group of people moving to dissolve the U.S. government because George Bush got elected, instead of running different members for congress and senate, working for constitutional amendments, impeaching the guy, whatever. Nope. Right out of the bos, Eliminate the government and petition the Queen of England to take us back. Very strange.

Which is why I have grave concerns that LAFCO not be trapped into allowing itself to be used as a partisan political tool over a single issue. LAFCO has a far larger responsibility involving the bigger issues of credibility, integrity and adherence to a fair, transparent process, the rules of which must to be applied equally in all circumstances.

Mike Green said...

Ahem,
"What is your opinion about using LAFCO as a political tool?

fair game or off limits?"
Also,
"But getting back to Ann's BIG PICTURE
I think she has a point concerning the use of LAFCO as a political tool.
Hmnnn."
Do I have to read ALL of it again?

Good morning Ann,
This was a great article, thanks

Anonymous said...

What chance does any movement have of "disolving" the US government? Where is that mechanism in our government system?

To selectively choose which proceedure to envoke is based on strategy and timing.

Churadog says:

"Not once did they rush to petition LAFCO to dissolve the CSD."

One could argue that the recall handlers felt it would not be successfull or they never thought of it.

The fact that the necessary petition signatures were raised in days suggest that there was strong feelings against the current CSD.

Paraphrasing a previous poster, be very afraid of those that wish to dictate which remedy to utilize. If Churadog doesn't like dissolution then rail against the mechanism not the envokers. Rally the troops to remove this capability.

Any other position is simply more agendizing, which presumably this current blog is arguing against.

Shark Inlet said...

Ann,

I think that I know why the Dreamers turned to LAFCO so quickly. They believed (and history has shown them to be right) that the new board would make choices that are unwise and that ultimately will raise our bills and will delay the solution to groundwater pollution.

The Dreamers knew that if the recall was successful, the new board would at least spend a considerable amount of time and effort trying to live up to their campaign promise of moving the sewer (even if very costly).

Do you expect that Democrats should let Republican presidents get their way for a year or two before working to change things? I don't. Similarly, TW should be allowed to use any non-criminal means they feel like using to solve what they see as the problem.

I suspect that the reason that the CCLO/CASE folks didn't argue for dissolution back in 2003-2005 is that they realized the County would choose either to pursue the plan they were working on before the CSD took over or they would pick up where the CSD left off ... essentially CCLO/CASE didn't want the County to choose, they wanted to make the choice themselves.

Taxpayers watch is now so desperate (they don't feel that we can afford to wait until November to take back the CSD and start their favorite project up again) that they are willing to assume that things will be better if a dissolution were to occur. Based on interest rates, likelihood of contractors being willing to work with either group and the likely speed of getting construction started with either group, I tend to agree.

Anonymous said...

> I think that I know why the Dreamers turned to LAFCO so quickly. They believed (and history has shown them to be right) that the new board would make choices that are unwise and that ultimately will raise our bills and will delay the solution ...
>
> The Dreamers knew that if the recall was successful, the new board would at least spend a considerable amount of time and effort trying to live up to their campaign promise of moving the sewer (even if very costly).


Gee, ya think? Isn't that what the recall election was all about? To do anything else would have gone against the very reason for the election. Except the majority (albeit slim) considered it *wise* to step back and re-evaluate not unwise. The TW response is sours grapes pure and simple.

>Do you expect that Democrats should let Republican presidents get their way for a year or two before working to change things? I don't. Similarly, TW should be allowed to use any non-criminal means they feel like using to solve what they see as the problem.

Interesting analogy. We had a very similar situation in our national elections not too long ago. The vote was even closer than the recall election and there was more than sufficient grounds to question the validity of the vote itself. But I don't recall the Democrats moving to dissolve the government.

> Taxpayers watch is now so desperate (they don't feel that we can afford to wait until November to take back the CSD and start their favorite project up again) that they are willing to assume that things will be better if a dissolution were to occur.

Yes, they are desperate. So desperate to win they are willing to dissolve due process. The process of government is seldom fast, seldom efficient, seldom cheap and often wayward. But we buy in to its inefficiencies because we respect the process. I learned in kindergarten that in every election there are going to be losers. Apparently some people missed that lesson. I also learned early on that some people are very sore losers. Most of us feel pretty strongly about things we vote on but we've learned to accept defeat, no matter how distasteful, and move on knowing that the process is more important than the results of any single election. Some people seem stuck on that lesson too.

Yes, fair process is expensive. But its still less expensive in the long run than no fair process. Suck it up. If you start a game finish the game. Knocking the game off the table when you draw a bad turn is .... well, its just childish. Grow up.

Dissolving the CSD isn't criminal. And it is fair within the rules. Barely. It reeks of sore losers and sour grapes. Especially when in order to win fellow citizens must be purposefully hurt (see previous May 14, Ron's Yin-Yang blog and May 16, Whose Ethics blog). This is where fair rules and ethics intersect. It may be fair but is it right? This is a classic delimma: When does the ends justify the means? That is what we're really addressing here.

Shark Inlet said...

Dissolution seems just as fair as does a recall. I voted against the recall of Davis, too.

Speaking of purposefully hurting fellow citizens, how about my friend's mother who lives in the Cuesta trailer park. She could barely afford the TriW sewer and all bets are that the new project will cost her 50% to 100% more. Is that fair?

I think that both sides are (quite reasonably) complaining that the other side aren't hearing their (very real and valid) concerns. The problem here is that one group cares about keeping their costs as low as possible and the other group cares about killing the TriW project in favor of something else. The two sets of criteria don't really allow for much compromise ... and Los Osos is getting hosed in the process.

The problem is that when the decision was made to pursue a TriW project (2001), everyone was happy as a clam with the proposed project. It was only as changes were made to it to accomodate the CCC and RWQCB that people got unhappy enough to want the project moved. However, by then, it was too late to move the project without considerable additional cost. People complained about the cost so the board chose not to pursue another design because of the associated delay and costs of delay and likely RWQCB enforcemnt action. Not an unreasonable decision.

The question as you point out is whether the ends justify the means. Is moving the WWTF from TriW worth it? Is it worth spending and extra $100 or $200 per month just to have the WWTF elsewhere?

I say that it is not but it seems that the current board is committed to their goal of moving the WWTF even when they've been told it will cost a buttload. They seem to ignore the cost calculations. I hope that Ripley's analysis makes these real costs clear to them and I hope that Ripley builds inflation and interest rate considerations into the evaluation.

*PG-13 said...

Troll no more. I've been reading this blog for over a year but I've only recently begun participating. I'm choosing now to participate with some regularity so it is only *fair* I lose my anonymous tag and post with a name. Shark Inlet made me do it so blame him for me ;-]

> Dissolution seems just as fair as does a recall.

It is in the game rules so yes it is fair. I believe I said it was fair. It still reeks of sore losers and sour grapes. You say potato I say tomato.

> Speaking of purposefully hurting fellow citizens, how about my friend's mother who ... could barely afford the TriW sewer and all bets are that the new project will cost her 50% to 100% more. Is that fair?

Sorry, this is skewed logic. You're mixing fair means with fair ends. They are not necessarily associated. I feel for anybody who is getting pinched in this situation. I am heart more than anything else. Which is exactly why I want good process to work and to minimize decision making based on bruised egos, smelly politics and sneaky deals. I believe your friend's mother will be better served by good decision making than by jumping to a tainted solution.

First of all, Tri-W is no longer cheap. That's over. You're replaying old tapes. As you admited before, that column in your spreadsheet is no longer in play and should be reomoved for the purpose of on-going decision making. Whether it is still cheaper than other options has not yet been proven. You say it has but it hasn't. Like you I believe numeric analysis of practical options is the first step in appraising the situation and making a wise decision. It baffles me why this *still* hasn't been done. Your interpretive history not-withstanding we're still waiting for decent evaluative analysis. So to claim Tri-W as your friend's mother best bet - and anything else unfair - seems odd. I understand (indeed I share) your anxiety but not your conclusion.

> Is moving the WWTF from TriW worth it? Is it worth spending and extra $100 or $200 per month just to have the WWTF elsewhere?

I don't know whether we can make that claim yet. I've worked with your spreadsheet some and noted some irregularities in how costs seem to be handled differently in the Out-of-Town column versus the Tri-W column. It seems Tri-W is given more push than brand X. I'm not saying Tri-W is more expensive. I am saying I'm not getting the same deltas you claim. And I can add other columns representing system options which appear cheaper than either Tri-W and the Out-of-Town sewer as currently modelled. Unfortunately I don't have the wherewithall to prove these systems beyond my back-of-the-envelope analysis. Who knows, if some comparative analysis is ever actually completed there might then be a means to compare other options too. That's my hope. Not much hope really but it does spring eternal .....

Shark Inlet said...

Ends and means ... if the way we can get the sewer out of town is to raise the costs, the increased costs are, indeed, the ends to the means of moving the sewer.

If you disdain sneaky deals and smelly politics, you should be at least a bit hesitant with the current board. To me they seem no better than what they accused the previous board of being.

TriW was never cheap even at $100/month it was not cheap ... what is worse is that our current choices seem to be $300/month for TriW or $400/month for out of town. I am not claiming that my analysis is definative by any stretch. However, it is my best guess based on following sewer news. As such, if the current board is committed to following their current plan, I am predicting that at best they'll get a $400/month plan. If they choose to start up construction on TriW ASAP, it will only run us $300/month. However, it is fair to compare either figure to whatever costs the former TriW project would have been. We can reasonably view the difference as the cost of the recall. There may also be a benefit of the recall if the WWTF is moved. The question is whether the benefit is worth the cost. Perhaps you are reluctant to believe that my guesstimates are even close, but what's your guesstimate-based prediction of the cost? With the the spreadsheet you can make changes, you can eliminate what you consider my biased numbers and put in your own. I would even appreciate it if you would post your version (perhaps with some explanation of the changes you've made) in the Trib forum (forums.sanluisobispo.com) and let us know here that you've done so. I would love to see your additional columns!

I appreciate your hopefulness. That is where I stared out a year ago and after looking things over a bit I figured out that the recall effort was based in little more than hope. I would be very happy to have someone give me a reason to hope again!

Please register there as pg-13 or something like that and put your version online...


In any case, glad you've picked a name and welcome to the discussion!

Anonymous said...

Why not $500-$600 a month? i guess the sky is the limit. Are you kidding me? At $300 a month, most people will have left town.

Shark Inlet said...

If you think $300/month looks bad, you might want to encourage your CSD to jump onto TriW now instead of pursuing an out of town solution which will cost even more...

Yes, I believe that there are many who will be forced to move out of town. For a wide variety of reasons, this will be an economic nightmare for many and only those with wealth will be able to afford to stay.

Is this good? No.

Is this something being made even worse by the current board? Yes.

Mike Green said...

To the esteemable Sharkey,
I have to call you on this one:

Shark sez: "TriW was never cheap even at $100/month it was not cheap ... what is worse is that our current choices seem to be $300/month for TriW or $400/month for out of town."

A hunded dollars a month?????

Welcome pg13!

Huge grains of salt needed around here, but the more the merrier
.

Shark Inlet said...

Mike,

Even when the estimated cost was $100/month there were people complaining about how much it would be. Honestly, if it costs most people in most towns far less than $50/month for sewer, $100 is too expensive.

Mike Green said...

I may be getting a little senile here,
Seems the ONLY time I ever heard that a WWTF at TriW would cost anything close to 100/mo was when it was THE PONDS OF AVALON.

That is an apple TriW is an orange

I love that cliche

PublicWorks said...

The 'Ponds' were supposed to be about $40/month. But there were a BUNCH of horrible assumptions.

Namely, there's this thing called the prohibition zone - the 'Ponds' plan defied it. The Solutions Group did not mislead anybody about not sewering the prohibition zone. And they didn't mislead about the location - smack dab in the middle of town - so all the talk about 'downtown ' being a bad site for treatment, noxious odors, etc. is incredibly comical and disingenous of the CSD.

The town 'bought' both the 'Ponds' and the 'Plan' anyway - I guess the lesson is that having a plan or not having a plan is irrelevant - people will vote based on promises no matter what.

The original estimate for Tri-W was about $100/month. But that was before detailed design was done.

If you doubt Shark, keep in mind that whatever 1st estimate is given on any new design, it's bound to be low by at least 20-40%. If you don't believe that, then I suggest you review about 5-6 public works projects in California and look at what the initial estimates are and what they were at completion.

Look at the not-even-stared Pasadena freeway extension in LA. In the 50s when first proposed it was in the $10-$20 million range(this is a really old recollection). The cost, if it ever is done, will be over a billion. Inflation and interest rates are a killer.

Costs can typically double every 6-7 years, so even if the new plan was half the cost of Tri-W, it would likely end up costing the same (at best), plus by time you add up all the other costs incurred to date, fines, litigation, mitigation, etc., it COULD hit $400.

Of course no one wants to pay $400 or $300 or $200 or even $100, but a number of people get on and get angry at Shark for doing a simple reasonable financial check. Not doing the financial planning, as Shark has done, is sticking your head in the sand.

Sewertoons said...

It is interesting and sad that all this discussion of cost is done here on this blog. Do any of you out there who attend the financial committee meetings talk about THE COSTS? Or is that as off limit there as it is at a CSD meeting?

Every time I show up with some meaty question, the topic has been removed from the agenda and you can't talk about it, or you have to be able to stay up until 11:00pm or later to be able to talk about it. I can't help but think this is by design as I'm sure the board does NOT want to talk about it. (I do watch all the meetings that I don't attend and the re-runs on Channel 20.)

Any comments anyone?

*PG-13 said...

> If you disdain sneaky deals and smelly politics, you should be at least a bit hesitant with the current board. To me they seem no better than what they accused the previous board of being.

I do admit to a little disappointment in the new CSD. I was expecting a more thorough examination of more than one alternative to Tri-W. Tri-W was picked without open comparison to other alternatives which gave Better, Cheaper & Faster a hollow ring. And now they seem to be doing much the same thing with their own agenda. And I believe it would be still more malfeasance, but this time on their watch, if they sold the Tri-W site before completing their cost analysis of the out-of-town site and comparing it to similar analysis for Tri-W. Completing this analysis implies they need to have defensible numbers and a legitimate plan for the out-of-town site. No more cheap fudging just to push an agenda. And then compare apples to apples. If they do any less I will be as disapointed and disillusioned as you are now.

Despite my current mild disappointment, given the ugly situation they inherited from the previous CSD I'm willing to give them time to make good on their claim. Certainly more than the few weeks they've had since they assumed leadership. The old board had years to create this mess. I don't expect a new board to right the ship in just a few weeks. Especially in light of the obstacles the TW'ers keep throwing in the path.

And yes, I know the meter is ticking and time is money. Always has been. Nothing new there. But driving fast in the wrong direction is not saving money. It's taken how many years to get to here? And now we gotta hurry? I still have some small confidence that saner minds and less ego will prevail in the CDO/great pumping/abusive penalties fiasco. And that a good solution is worth the effort.

I am working up some numbers and using your spreadsheet to appraise some alternatives. However, I hesitate to post things that can't be legitimately defended. And I don't have the time to research and gain the expertise to make those guesstimates. Plus, to be honest, I don't think the climate is receptive to anything other than Tri-W and whatever Out-of-town sewer the new CSD cooks up. I think they're both off in the weeds but we're gonna be stuck with one or the other. I think Mr. Venhuizen, aka the Water Guy, is closer to the cheapest, bestest and fastest sewer. (see the May-June Rock.) Sadly, his solution is about 20 years too late. Subsurface irrigation drips won't pass today's acid test. But there is value in his continuim view and I believe a strong case can be made for a hybrid on-site biogenerators + a smaller, cleaner and cheaper collective system. Possibly on the Tri-W site. But until there are a standards against which to measure alternative solutions (read: cost estimates for Tri-W & O-o-T) no alternative will ever be considered.

Still hopeful

PS - Is the Trib Forum the best place to post a spreadsheet so others can see it and/or download it?

Shark Inlet said...

*pg-13,

Sounds like you and I agree about most things so far ... but I just have a bit less faith in the current board than you do. I think they should have done some cost analyses (along the lines of what you are I are doing) before even running and they should have presented their results in public for verification.

You shouldn't be hesitant to put numbers online that you can't Defend with a capital "D". You should put them out there for us too look at and point out which assumptions you feel stronger about and which numbers are a bit more sketchy.

You are right that the new group seems to have made choices which will lock them into STEP and whatever site Ripley thinks is best much the same way that the previous board seemed to stick with TriW no matter what. (I agree with that choice of the former board, but they really didn't do a great job convincing us about why their TriW choice was the best.)

For posting my spreadsheet I chose the Trib forum because one can add attachments to one's posts there. Otherwise it would seem that you have to get a website somehow and put the file there so you can make a link here to the file on your website...

Churadogs said...

Publicworks sez:"Namely, there's this thing called the prohibition zone - the 'Ponds' plan defied it. The Solutions Group did not mislead anybody about not sewering the prohibition zone. And they didn't mislead about the location - smack dab in the middle of town - so all the talk about 'downtown ' being a bad site for treatment, noxious odors, etc. is incredibly comical and disingenous of the CSD."

Actually, it turns out they did mislead the community by failing to mention, prior to the election, that RWQCB had evaluated the ponding system (not the AWIPS but a similar system) and stated that they wouldn't sign off on it and the SRF loans wouldn't be available because it was a "new system" and they needed X # of years of data, etc. The Solutions Group "forgot" to mention that to the voters.

Publicworks continues:"The town 'bought' both the 'Ponds' and the 'Plan' anyway - I guess the lesson is that having a plan or not having a plan is irrelevant - people will vote based on promises no matter"

I believe the cost was the real driving force behind the decision. Not having critical information that the Ponds of Avalon would not be allowed or cheaply financed, not having the final mitigation numbers (which doubled the original cost since the ponding footprint was so large), the voters were told firmly, again and again, that no matter how you looked at it, the Ponds would cost about $38 a month. The County's plan (traditional gravity, plant at Pismo St.) was pegged at about $68 (also carrying hidden, unknown costs of mitigation and etc which likely would have doubled that cost.) So the publicly bandied about numbers: $68 vs $38. Plus the Ponds were touted as being sustainable and not requiring imported state water. AND, the only way to get the ponds was to create a CSD.

In light of the witheld information and the promised results, the vote to form a CSD and get a cheaper sewer seems entirely reasonable. Who knew, until years later, that a whole lot of stuff had been hidden from the voters. (for even more hidden stuff, go to Ron's blog and take a look at the constantly recurring theme of "strongly held community values" keeping the site in the middle of town when it could have easily been re-considered, sans hidden motives.

No, this never was rocket science. BUT making a wise choice depended (still does) on having ACCURATE information. That went missing, alas.

Sewertoons said...

Sad that we have so little of that now, too.

PublicWorks said...

Correct, Ann, there was selective misleading information in 1998. But there WAS a concrete 'plan' that anyone could criticize. That $40/month dissuaded anybody from listening to any critics.

Just like the last election. Selective misleading information. That 'half the cost of Tri-W' dissuaded folks from listening to any critics of 'the non-plan'.

Elections and promises never seem to change.

As to TW creating problems.

Measure B was brought about by the new board, and it's been found illegal how many times now?? The state also sued over it. The new board asked for and created the whole Measure B circus - that was brought to us by Al, Gail, Biggs et. al. as Ann has stood silent about investigating any issues, ethics, or credence associated with it.

Shark Inlet said...

Ann,

If it was wrong for the Solutions Group to not make it clear that the RWQCB would not allow a particular ponding system similar to the AWIPS system so we wouldn't get a SRF loan ... why is it okay for the recall candidates and new board to not make it clear that the RWQCB would not allow a STEP system similar to what they are proposing? Is the difference that the Ripley study isn't yet complete so we don't really know (down to the last jot and tittle) what the new group is proposing? By that logic, the Solutions Group cannot be blamed either because they didn't have a plan developed by an official engineer until a few years after they had been in office.

Perhaps if we apply the same standards to the board you hate and the board you love we will be better off as a community.

Both groups were hopeful that they could convince the RWQCB to bend a bit on their requirements. Both groups have been disappointed. The Solutions Group folks seemed to learn their lesson (to bad they didn't leave well enough alone) and the new group hasn't yet done so. Pity that everytime our elected officials need to learn a lesson it costs us money. Perhaps we need to learn a lesson that electing hopeful people is a mistake.

Just because I haven't mentioned it yet today and because Dogpatch likes these comments so much, I'll toss a bone out there ... it would have been nice if the recall candidates would have provided, in advance, their calculations that could have justified their wild claim that they had a sewer plan that was half the cost of TriW. Had they done so, we could have looked it over in detail and seen whether their calculations were based in common sense or whether they were a pipe dream. Similarly, it would be nice if the CSD board simply not sell off TriW and Broderson until after the Ripley report comes in. Presumably then they could give us two options and take a poll or an informal vote (in the spirit of Measure B) before making a decision to go with Ripley's plan instead of TriW. If they do anything else, they will have proved themselves to be no better than the previous board ... they will have shown themselves to be a group of people hell bent on getting their own way no matter what our community wants.

Ron said...

Shark said:

"...all bets are that the new project will cost her 50% to 100% more."

Not my bet.

"... encourage your CSD to jump onto TriW now... "

If there's a God in journalism Heaven, please, please let that happen, for my story's sake.

churadogs said:

"Actually, it turns out they did mislead the community by failing to mention, prior to the election, that RWQCB had evaluated the ponding system..."

They also failed to mention that former Supervisor, Bud Laurent, "hand delivered," according to a source close to the story, a list of serious flaws with their plan that county engineers prepared -- flaws that would have killed it early in 1998, according to the source, and flaws that "any developer would have had to deal with." But, according to the source, "the Karners just sat on it."

They also failed to mention that they misled Norm Hantzsche, at Questa Engineering in 1998 about the supporting data concerning their non-project. I wrote about that here. (That's one of my favorite posts. That stuff about the "fatal flaw" is so interesting.) If they had been up front with the lack of supporting data in the summer of 1998, the Coastal Commission would have issued the county a development permit in June, 1998, and this blog doesn't exist today.

They also failed to mention that the Coastal Commission conducted another comparison that corroborated the Questa Study results -- that the County's plan blew away the Solution Group's non-plan on every point in the study.

So, to summarize, throughout 1998, before the election that formed the CSD on the coattails of that "better, cheaper, faster" project:

- The RWQCB was telling the Solution Group that their project wasn't going to work in Los Osos.

- The County of San Luis Obispo was telling the Solution Group that their project wasn't going to work in Los Osos.

- The independent engineering firm, Questa Engineering, was telling the Solution Group that their project wasn't going to work in Los Osos.

and

- The Coastal Commission staff was telling the Solution Group that their project wasn't going to work in Los Osos.

But the Solution Group thought it would be a good idea if they "just sat" on all of that.

churadogs said:
The County's plan (traditional gravity, plant at Pismo St.) was pegged at about $68..."

"... a ruinously expensive sewer system."
-- Pandora Nash-Karner, describing the county's project in a 1998, Solution Group newsletter.

Am I the only one that finds it a tad unusual that the exact same location was needed for the early CSD's second project, that was needed for the Solution Group's initial project -- a project that required ten times more acreage?

What an amazing coincidence.

PublicWorks said...

Bottom Line,

The Solutions Group should have had no standing with the Coastal Commission, they were a political entity. They were not an agency. The Coastal Commission had no reason to give them any credence until a CSD had formed. The Coastal Commission should have not played activist and should have issued the permit by summer of 1998, Questa report or No Questa report.

Then, if the CSD formed, the CSD would have needed the burden of proof to change the project, and the RWQCB would have had ample reason to fine the CSD.

As Ann has indicated, these agencies should be immune from politics. The Coastal Commission often acts with political bias rather environmental bias.

Every political organization
'sits' on information that runs counter to its goals.

The County plan would not have been $68/month either. Anybody that believed that was nuts.

If the Coastal Commission did their job, there'd be no blog.

*PG-13 said...

PublicWorks> If the Coastal Commission did their job, there'd be no blog.

Oh! That hurts! Just think. If, circa 1998, the Coastal Commision had done their job; if the Solutions Group hadn't squashed feedback from the county, the RWQCB and the Questa Study; if they had been up front about lack of supporting data relating to their non-plan; then kids would be laughing and dogs would be barking in Los Osos today. Instead of political intrigue, a never-ending series of meetings, CDO's, an increasingly expensive sewer-to-be and reading this &@#%! blog every day we would be out walking on the beach right now. (sigh)

Dogpatch> Answer for the Blood sucking bugs that bred the pond of Avalon: Karma.

But why oh why must we share in it? Were we all so bad - in this or in a previous life - to earn this? Will no amount of prayers, good deeds, burning incense and/or offerings end this cycle? Jeeesh. Its enough to force one to drink and/or church.

namaste'

Anonymous said...

See y'all at the Merrimaker!

Shark Inlet said...

I wrote "...all bets are that the new project will cost her 50% to 100% more." and Ron replied "Not my bet."

You caught me. My bad, I should have written all fact-based bets by individuals who have actually done cost calculations are on the new project costing at least 50% more.

PublicWorks said...

And that is exactly why bars stay open until 2 on Saturdays, and Church starts late on Sundays.

Mike Green said...

Pray and Drink! sounds good to me! voting hasn't been to good.

Maybe we should rent out the red barn and have a good ol fashion Los Osos alcohol revival!

wash away our past sins in alcohol and pray to the Water Gods!

Anonymous said...

Is it Karma! Is it the Tao of the universe? How did this happen ?? we have the most excellent Board,Intelligent educated and honest! WOW! and This is what they were educated in. Civic planning and environment and Biology this is thier passion!! PERFECT ! Los Osos is this beautiful unique golden bowl that has wonderful water and our community leaders are fighting to save this remaining golden bowl. If we retain are right to our own water we will be able to save our land and ourselves from the rape of all rights and of every right to owning our personal property.

Mike Green said...

Looks like anon took the alcohol part pretty literaly

Sleep well anon,

we will see.

Anonymous said...

No rape of rights for me!
I own property and ......
I demand we retain are rights to scotch & water!

Amen!!!!!

(hic ... )

Churadogs said...

Publicworks sez:"Then, if the CSD formed, the CSD would have needed the burden of proof to change the project, and the RWQCB would have had ample reason to fine the CSD."

Here's the puzzle. The RWQCB had already ruled that the Ponds wouldn't work and be allowed so prior to the CSD taking the oath of office, why wasn't he preparing CDO's and ACL's as he did with the recalled board. Asked why, under oath at the ACL hearing, he didn't do just that for years while the newly formed CSD Board futzed around, he replied that he "wanted to be helpful."

Yet before the recall election had even been certified, there he was busily preparing ACL's and CDO's. If memor serves, one of the Sept 28th email's from Briggs to Pandora includes the following telling detail: " . . .I've already received and reviewed a draft ACL complaint, so we're rolling. I'm shooting for getting an ACL to the District next week, even before the new bd [board] can meet. I want them to understand what they will be stepping into before they vote on any motion to delay."

Equal treatment by a regulatory agency? I think not.

Anony-Mouse sez:"Is it Karma! Is it the Tao of the universe? How did this happen ?? we have the most excellent Board,Intelligent educated and honest! WOW! and This is what they were educated in. Civic planning and environment and Biology this is thier passion!! PERFECT ! Los Osos is this beautiful unique golden bowl that has wonderful water and our community leaders are fighting to save this remaining golden bowl. If we retain are right to our own water we will be able to save our land and ourselves from the rape of all rights and of every right to owning our personal property."

Here's the terrible, terrible irony. The Banin Plan has not been updated since beyond forever, new water studies have and are only now being completed, new, leaps-& bounds onsite technology is becoming effective and affordable, state-wide AB885 will be (supposedly) in effect Jan 1, more and more regulatory agencies are babbling now (finally) about "sustainability," yet here we have OUR regulatory agency, in a Dec 22 letter reply to me from Briggs, stating ". . . we have very limited information on the effectiveness of MBR technology applied at individual residential units." And if you watched the April 28th CDO hearing, you would have seen the RWQCB's Mr. Science Guy absolutely, embarrassingly clueless about onsite systems and biology (Dr. Wickham made absolute mincemeat of the RWQCB's whole mad pumping scheme.) So, there we are, poised on the brink of innovative solutions, mixed use solutions, 21st century solutions while being terroized by a medieval mentality into taking a 19th century path to a water and wastewater management plan that will be out of date even before the first shovel is dug. Indeed, if I understand correctly, the Tri-W project that so many agencies are pushing so hard to get back on line, is already outdated.

This is insanity. And the terrible tragedy (karma?) is if the citizens of this fair burg allow themselves to be lied to and bamboozed ("Wheaties, Now CONTAINS NO COAL!!") and terrorized and herded(baaaahhhhh) off the cliff again, while all around them are far better choices to be made that can ONLY be made by cool, rational, considered judgements by both citizens AND government agencies that are not insane.

Question of the year: Is that too much to ask for? This community has been failed repeatedly by the very agencies that were supposed to be "safety nets" and checks and balances against such self-inflincted catastrophes. Will those agencies fail again? Will the people of this community fail themselves?

*PG-13 said...


> Here's the puzzle. ....
> Here's the terrible, terrible irony. .....
> This is insanity.... while all around them are far better choices to be made that can ONLY be made by cool, rational, considered judgements by both citizens AND government agencies that are not insane.
>
> Question of the year: Is that too much to ask for? This community has been failed repeatedly by the very agencies that were supposed to be "safety nets" and checks and balances against such self-inflincted catastrophes. Will those agencies fail again? Will the people of this community fail themselves?


That last one was a rhetorical question, right? Given the history leading up to the current ugly and distrustful situation (see any and all of the blogs, websites and news coverage of this sordid and nefarious affair) does anyone really think the citizens of Los Osos and/or the agencies which have consistently failed them so far can do anything different? Get real. To expect anything different than more of the same is the ultimate Los Osos Dream. Simply put we can't get there from here with the people, systems & processes which have created this mess. As you point out they're all insane. Insanity rules. There are too many agendas competing with each other and the well has been poisoned beyond use or repair. However you draw the lines either the old CSD/TPWer's win, the new CSD wins, or the "Regulatory Agencies" win. Or some skewed combination thereof. Whichever of these agendas wins Los Osos loses. There is no Win here anymore for the citizens of Los Osos.

Yeah, an argument can be made that the citizenry brought much of this on themselves. But that's irrelevant now. The goal is a future solution not forever rehashing the past. We're at an impasse. If the citizenry can't do it; and if the quote/unquote Regulatory Agencies which are supposed to serve as impartial and technically competent advisors, but have proven themselves anything but that, can't do it; Who or what is left? Is there no legal precedent for bringing in an outside truly impartial and technically capable consultant to broker a sane and practical solution? One can say that's what MWH was supposed to do but they were clearly too much in the pocket of the CSD (or vice versa) to provide effective oversight. Besides, they were hired as managers not leaders. Managers manage where leaders point the way. A subtle but important distinction. I'm probably preaching to the choir here but doesn't it seem like its way past time for somebody/anybody to clearly identify the possible (read: practical) options, put some real numbers on the board, compare the options, make a decision and move forward? Its been said time and time and time again this isn't rocket science. It's a #@%*^! sewer for godssakes. Granted, there are some eco-geo-environmental sensitivities and a boatload of political baggage. But still, its just a sewer. There are solutions. And there are experts out there knowledgable about these solutions. Hire a pro. One who cannot be bought. Right. One who will assess the problem, assay ALL possible solutions which solve the problem, and cost-justify a final solution. Then hire somebody to oversee building that system. Clearly NOT MWH.

OK, I over simplify. There are many details but ..... they're details! Plans deal with details. Citizens shouldn't be voting on details anyway. There are way too many cooks in the kitchen each trying to season and stir the pot. We need one cook and one pot.

Yeah, financing also needs to be arranged. That's not a minor detail. But we can't do that 'till we have a plan, right? That's where we stumbled once before, revisionist history not-withstanding. We arranged non-contingent financing on a To Be Determined Plan.

I'm reminded of one of my favorite scenes from the original MASH. "We're the pros from Dover, here to operate on the general's kid, ...." We need to find some pro's.

Shark Inlet said...

Ann,

You seem quite quick to accuse Briggs of bias. Please remember that the context of Briggs' decision as well as key details about the proposed changes to the previous plan a the time are different.

I won't argue that the differences are huge (two "new" groups both proposing to do something that RWQCB staffers have already said is likely to not fly) other than in one area. The TriW plan had already gone through all the steps necessary to begin construction. The County plan before the CSD was created was not nearly as far along. Stopping construction is much more of a setback from the RWQCB point of view of getting a WWTF online ASAP. Two years lost versus five or more.



I am also troubled by the fact that you seem to give Wickham more credence than he deserves. Again, if he is anything like an expert these matters, he should not have ducked the question about "where are those nitrates coming from" that everyone knew in advance he would be asked. He could have asked the CSD for more information in advance. Instead, he claims to have only looked at 1983 numbers ... he didn't bother asking for any before or after that point in time.

Now, as an expert at onsite systems he shouldn't need that information. However, because he was testifying as the CSD's expert he should have been better prepared to answer that question. It was clear to all that he was trying to do everying in his power to avoid saying that the only theory that matches the observed trend in nitrates is ... septic systems.



If you want cool, rational considered judgements by both citizens and government agencies, presumably you would want to have both groups know the exact state of financial affairs right now as well as goog guesses about the costs of various possible options. Unfortunately, the Ripley study won't have results until after the LAFCO meeting is scheduled. Maybe LAFCO will be willing to wait, but if not, the CSD and those opposed to the CSD would at least want to estimate the size of the costs of various options.

PublicWorks said...

PG,

There is a win, or at least a stop to the losing streak. But a does of reality is needed. The time is now to determine who that manager is - why is a Ripley report needed to figure out who should manage it?

There will be questions after the Ripley report, then more questions along the way.

You can do financial planning before the report. In fact, it couldv'e been done before the report even started. Waiting to do financial planning is always a mistake. Shark's been doing for 6 months.

The cost range(s) of alternates were there in November. Debts are known now. So a reasonable case for putting out the concrete financing options can be put on the table now to decide who should manage this. Grants are chicken and egg, and waiting for grants will lead to paralysis.

And no more of this borrow from Peter to pay for Paul shell game.

As to Ann and the RWQCB 'lack' of fines in '98, it's a valid question. But there's a big difference. Coastal had interceded, and a new agency was in charge. And the beginning of the great Coastal/RWQCB pissing match. Besides, just because the traffic cop gives you a pass once, doesn't mean you get a lifetime pass.

Ann it wasn't the same in 2005 (even the misleading information being provided was different). Maybe to Ann a new board represents something different, but it wasn't. The CSD didn't change between 9/1 & 11/1, only the board. Just as Ann doesn't want agencies to be political, neither should agencies put a political perspective on the CSD. What if Ripley doesn't have a solution, should the RWQCB just 'work' with Los Osos until another election or study. Sheesh.

Ann just doesn't seem to get it. The CSD (voters) acted on many fronts - stop a project, put in restrictions, and no proposal on the table. And the regulators are supposed to just smile and say 'well, just take your time and get back to us whenever'?

The answer is right in front of everybody - go back to November. Remember, compromise.

Shark Inlet said...

Publicworks has something very wise to say when he (she?) writes:

"The answer is right in front of everybody - go back to November. Remember, compromise."

The key reason the "compromise" got such large fraction of folks to sign on is that it allowed for a reasonable amount of looking around for alternatives but it put a cap on that amount of time and money so those who are afraid of spiraling costs can have some guarantee that it can't get but so bad.

Both groups win ...

Here's my (loaded) question. If the compromise was such a good thing, why has the LOCSD board essentially backed away from key componants of the compromise? Were they only willing to swallow the bitter pill of TriW if there isn't some other project ready for construction within two years because they could keep the low interest rate? Why were they so motivated to take the deal then when they don't appear willing at all now?

*PG-13 said...

Shark > The TriW plan had already gone through all the steps necessary to begin construction.

Everything except an open statement of costs and impacts as compared to to any other alternative. Read my lips. Better, Cheaper & Faster are comparative adjectives. You can't use 'em if their object has not been assessed relative to another object. A single sewer plan can be good, cheap and/or fast. But it can't be better, cheaper or faster. So to say Tri-W had gone through all the steps necessary to begin construction as the Best, Cheapest and Fastest plan is simply untrue.

Works> There is a win, or at least a stop to the losing streak... The time is now to determine who that manager is - why is a Ripley report needed to figure out who should manage it?

You're right. No need to wait for anything at all before selecting an impartial knowledgable consultant to serve as king and tribunal for all things sewer. The sooner that's done the better. The point I was making is that that agent cannot be any of the previously participating parties that got us here. They've all proven themselves incapable of impartial numbers-based decision making. They've all had plenty of time to state & make their case. Their arguments and 'facts' are on the table. What else other than obscruation do they offer now? The easiest way to get rid of old baggage is to leave it behind. Anything else that needs to be known in order to make a numbers and fact-based decision can be discovered more quickly with much less angst by an independent agent. Use of such an agent is not predicated on keeping or dissolving the CSD. It simply removes the CSD - whatever its spin - from plan definition. We can't set aside the regulatory agencies quite as easily. They still have their roles to play. But they should play only those roles and nothing more. The various regulatory agencies need only specify and sign off on design objectives - not the means to get there. That's the way they're supposed to work, right? Its up to the agent, who is presumably just as knowledgable (and apparently very easily more knowledgable) as their staff experts, to help them determine whether a proposed plan meets the objectives.

Works> The cost range(s) of alternates were there in November.

Really? Are they still there? Anybody else seen 'em? I'd love to look at them.

... Debts are known now. So a reasonable case for putting out the concrete financing options can be put on the table now to decide who should manage this.

Yeah, we're getting closer but only if we continue insisting for this data. Everybody wants to talk about financing options but nobody wants to discuss the specifics of design options. Curious that.

> The CSD (voters) acted on many fronts - stop a project, put in restrictions, and no proposal on the table. And the regulators are supposed to just smile and say 'well, just take your time and get back to us whenever'?

No, not at all. They're supposed to do pretty much what they did. But in a much more straightforward and clear manner. No egos, no agendas, no spin. They set the objectives and some criteria which our sewer desgin must meet. But the objectives must be appropriate and scientifically based and their design parameters not antiquated. If we quit stomping on their toes and feinting left while running right they will probably be much more willing to listen. Especially if we are speaking with one voice through a knowledgeable sewer expert invested with the power to get a sewer built.

> The answer is right in front of everybody - go back to November. Remember, compromise.

That isn't compromise. That's the fast easy path without due process. It's tempting to want this brouhaha to end. And its tempting to be believe that Tri-W is *still* the Better, Cheaper and Faster option - even when that has never been validated. Faster & Easier yes. Better & Cheaper still indeterminate. I must admit, given the developments of the last few months I've come to appreciate the earlier Tri-W plan more than I did at the time of the recall. My appreciation however is based more on a longing for lost opportunity and what might have been than on appreciation that it was the Better, Cheaper & Faster option. The old CSD didn't sell me and they years to do so. What can I say? They struck out. And the new CSD has one swing at one at-bat to hit a home run.

PublicWorks said...

PG-13:

I was referring to compromise in general. To be receptive and open to compromise for the design, siting, and project authority.

“They set the objectives and some criteria which our sewer desgin must meet. But the objectives must be appropriate and scientifically based and their design parameters not antiquated.”

You said it yourself. So how does one proceed when the regulator’s parameters are not sophisticated (or flexible), but their enforcement powers are? The old board discovered that, and the new board had the benefit of the old board’s experience, but somehow they had this fantasy that ‘we’re different’.

“Everything except an open statement of costs and impacts as compared to to any other alternative. Read my lips. Better, Cheaper & Faster are comparative adjectives. You can't use 'em if their object has not been assessed relative to another object. A single sewer plan can be good, cheap and/or fast. But it can't be better, cheaper or faster."

True. There’s always some apples and oranges comparisions because the systems and impacts can be difficult to quantify/project and experts have their own preferences from experience.

“Really? Are they still there? Anybody else seen 'em? I'd love to look at them.”

There was a working comparison last fall. It wasn’t perfect as I recall, (inflation was poorly defined, and treatment level differences were not accounted for) but it was a working format.

“Everybody wants to talk about financing options but nobody wants to discuss the specifics of design options. Curious that.”

I’m not so sure about that. he initial steps need financing, financing/funding is really just as important, when you’re staring at re-structuring to do anything. We’re still accumulating fines as we speak, and individual liability is accumulating as we speak.

Mike Green said...

Publicksworks for Secretary general of Los Osos
"I was referring to compromise in general. To be receptive and open to compromise for the design, siting, and project authority".

Imagine!

Mike Green said...

Here is what we need to do, it's not my idea, I heard it from Sam's representative at the first meeting of the doomed.

"Speak with a unified voice!"

Everyone I talk to thinks the folks in Sac. don't know s#$*t about us.-WRONG-
Los Osos is a big thorn in everyones side!
no matter what comes out of LAFCO we need to get behind it and get going!
Then we need to get drunk and pray pray pray for some state and federal help.

Churadogs said...

Inlet sez:"The County plan before the CSD was created was not nearly as far along. Stopping construction is much more of a setback from the RWQCB point of view of getting a WWTF online ASAP. Two years lost versus five or more."

If memory serves, the Coastal Commission was about to give the county it's permit to build. The site had been chosen, the design pulled off the shelf. That's pretty darned close, to me.

Inlet sez:"I am also troubled by the fact that you seem to give Wickham more credence than he deserves. Again, if he is anything like an expert these matters, he should not have ducked the question about "where are those nitrates coming from" that everyone knew in advance he would be asked. He could have asked the CSD for more information in advance. Instead, he claims to have only looked at 1983 numbers ... he didn't bother asking for any before or after . . ."

That's because there is no other information. There were the county funded "under the leach fields at three different sites" denitrification studies ca. 1991, studies that surprised hell out of everyone because they showed denitrification actually taking place -- something that defied the "textbooks" to that point; the study was also the first time that had ever been looked at in the history of the world, and then more recently the ongoing well monitoring & etc. Other than that, there are no "studies" of where nitrates are coming from. They've never been done. which is why Wickham stated that you could build a $200 million sewer and STILL have high nitrates in the water.

Inlet Sez:" If the compromise was such a good thing, why has the LOCSD board essentially backed away from key componants of the compromise?"

A better question is, why did the STATE put in the "poison pill" of bonding requirements, no suing for breach of contract, etc. That "compromise stunk from day one, especially in light of the way that original SRF loan was let out. Had the state been honest about what they had done, agreed to settle squarely with their own screwups, and been sincere in a "compromise" (remember the "negotiations" that weren't "structured negotiations?") then I think things would have moved ahead. But I don't think The State was playing straight.

PG sez:"And the regulators are supposed to just smile and say 'well, just take your time and get back to us whenever'?

No, not at all. They're supposed to do pretty much what they did. But in a much more straightforward and clear manner. No egos, no agendas, no spin. They set the objectives and some criteria which our sewer desgin must meet. But the objectives must be appropriate and scientifically based and their design parameters not antiquated."

Amen. That's the way it's SUPPOSED to work, but to date, it's been Hobson's Choice, using totally out of date criteria. (The RWQCB and the county could both require a basin plan update and incorproate AB885 into the plan right now, and also consider the possibility that some exceptions to AB885 be considered. For example, let's say, for the sake of argument only, that the Pirana system (under the firehouse) deliveres 2 mgl of nitrate to the groundwater while the discharge pipe of any sewere treatment plant delivers 7-10 mgl to nitrates to the groundwater. Which systems would clean up the waters of the state of California better? One is legally allowed, the other isn't. What's with THAT?? In short, the technology and "science" needs to be updated for this area even as we speak. But so far as I can tell, nobody's interested in doing that. It's full speed ahead to build something, ANYTHING, just to get SOMETHING done, never mind if it works well or poorly. That's nuts.

Anonymous said...

churadog says:
" For example, let's say, for the sake of argument only, that the Pirana system (under the firehouse) deliveres 2 mgl of nitrate to the groundwater while the discharge pipe of any sewere treatment plant delivers 7-10 mgl to nitrates to the groundwater. Which systems would clean up the waters of the state of California better?"

Is the logical conclusion of this hypothetical to mean that LO does not need a sewer, that the millions of sewer systems world wide are needless and all that is needed is a "Pirana"?

Let's spread the word!

Mike Green said...

To Anon "the word"

Actualy, the logical conclusion is yes.

When technology moves foreward it inevetably makes things obsolete.

I hear the word!

Shark Inlet said...

Ann

Your questions are good ones.

Why did the state put in a bonding requirement? Because without such a bond, they would not be assured that they would be repayed should the LOCSD stop construction on a whim just like they did in early October, 2005.

Why did the state put in a requirement that the LOCSD wouldn't sue for breach of contract? Because the LOCSD was threatening to do so and it would be good to prevent similar actions in the future from this group of yahoos.

The state didn't have any screw-ups when providing us the loan ... other than they chose to give us the money without collateral. They'll require 218 votes for future SRF loans because we decided to try to stiff them, something that hadn't been done before.

You claim the state wasn't playing straight. If the LOCSD board had been, they would be willing to stand behind compromises in the October agreement. So far, they've backed way off those compromises.

Again, should the LOCSD want to get any cooperation from property owners in the district they'll need to do something reasonable to limit the potential costs of pursuing an out of town WWTF.

Churadogs said...

Inlet sez"The state didn't have any screw-ups when providing us the loan ... other than they chose to give us the money without collateral. They'll require 218 votes for future SRF loans because we decided to try to stiff them, something that hadn't been done before."

I'm not a lawyer and I dont' play one on t.v. but, until this all goes to court so real lawyers and judges can sort it out, I still don't know whether that original lack of a 218-type vote makes the entire SRF loan "tainted" and hence illegal, hence void, which would mean that the entire house of cards was bad from day one. And IF that turns out to be the case, who's responsible for making sure state loans are done properly? The state? The CSD?

Inlet sez" You claim the state wasn't playing straight. If the LOCSD board had been, they would be willing to stand behind compromises in the October agreement. So far, they've backed way off those compromises."

If memory serves, on the last "non negotiated negotiation" sent back by the state contained a bonding requirement that was impossible for the CSD to meet, so on that basis alone it was turned down. The question then has to be, if both parties are sincere about a compromise, and one party sets the bar to a level that it knows, in advance, will be impossible, is what's going on a "compromise" or even a "negotiation" or has it become merely a game of gotcha and tag, you're it!

Shark Inlet said...

But Ann,

Before the state refused the CSD's offer because they wanted the bond, the CSD was willing to agree to build at TriW should they not be able to site, design and permit an out of town plant before two years had passed. That willingness caused property owners to be open to compromise with the CSD plan of exploring out of town options. Without willingness to put a cap on the timeframe and thus the costs by the CSD, many property owners would view dissolution as a far more reasonable solution.

Please hear me on this important matter ... if the CSD takes a "we're willing to work with the County but only if we get to call all the shots" tone like Lisa used during the last meeting ... I think the CSD is far more likely to be dissolved. Unfortunately if that were the case, if the CSD shows no flexibility on the WWTF issue, they may lose the ability to control other important matters, especially other water issues. This would be a huge risk.

Churadogs said...

Inlet sez:"if the CSD takes a "we're willing to work with the County but only if we get to call all the shots" tone like Lisa used during the last meeting ... I think the CSD is far more likely to be dissolved."

On a project of this size, isn't there usually a "lead agency?" i.e. either the CSD or County engineering as point-man, so to speak. If you have a co-equal Board (made up of who? equal members of the CSD and County engineering? or 1/3 CSD, 1/3 County Engineering & 1/3 RWQCB?) and they come to a logerhaed and are deadlocked, what then? Would a "balanced board" result in more delays?) In short, if the CSD is the lead agency on this project (logical since the CSD has always been about "local conrol" and works with the support of the county (for bonding, financing heft, etc.) that would be one solution. If LAFCO decided to remove, on their own, the sewer component entirely, then Los Osos loses all local control over what will be built where. Is that what folks here want? Does county engineering want that liability? Will that move any project forward quicker or trigger even more lawsuits and delays? And final unanswered question: Is Tri-W dead? The SRF loan is gone and would have to be reapplied for.(I understand the CSD has reapplied and is "standing in line.") We hear that the SRF loans NOW require that projects be "sustainable." Is Tri-W sustainable? (whatever that means) Does the county have a different plan that is "sustainable" that would be ready to go quicker than what the CSD is working on?

In short, I see "dissolution" as a cover for "build Tri-W," but nobody can tell me that Tri-W can be turn-keyed again in the first place. That may be the "dream" of some folks, and the illusion of building Tri W can be used to politically manipulate the public into one camp or the other, [or using the the CDOs to scare them into signing on for dissolution under the false belief that dissolution will somehow "save" them & etc.) but there's also practical realities on the ground now that may make that impossible. And if that's the case, then "dissolving" the CSD will accomplish nothing but more delay and will result in the inability of the community to have any say in any wastewatersewer plans -- no vote,no choice, no input, you'll get whatever placed wherever the County decides and at the price the County decides.{Irony, that was the very reason the CSD was formed in the first place: local control. And to know the very people who started the CSD are now in the forefront of killing it prompted my "Medea in Sewerville" column -- strange, dark doings that go far deeper than simple engineering or budgets) Again, is that what you want? Or what the community wants?

PublicWorks said...

Churo says:


"That may be the "dream" of some folks, and the illusion of building Tri W can be used to politically manipulate the public into one camp or the other, [or using the the CDOs to scare them into signing on for dissolution under the false belief that dissolution will somehow "save" them & etc.) but there's also practical realities on the ground now that may make that impossible. And if that's the case, then "dissolving" the CSD will accomplish nothing but more delay and will result in the inability of the community to have any say in any wastewatersewer plans -- no vote,no choice, no input, you'll get whatever placed wherever the County decides and at the price the County decides.{"

Ann, where do you make this stuff up? Nothing is dead. What 'practical realities' do you mean. Talk about phoney phacts.

This 'local control' buzzword is a myth. There is only representative government. The question is what is the price of another layer (not always a good thing) of local representation (not local control).? More layers (like a CSD) typically delays, not speeds decision making. Yes, a transfer of authority could delay some decisions.

It is not cut and dried that having a 5 person representative board for MULTIPLE services is necessarily the best and most efficient form of government. There are benefits to have administrative costs spread across a larger entity (i.e., you buy 1/4 public works manager, 1/4 engineer, 1/4 administrate, 1/4 etc. INSTEAD of a full-time GM with your tax dollars.)

Ann is making a very simplistic view of goverment to throw out the catch phrase 'local control'. A CSD specifically (as Seitz has repeatedly pointed out) very limited in it's scope and so is also very limited in it's resources without basically going begging to property owners for taxes.

Financing can mean the CSD will be hampered far longer than another agency could. Lack of a wastewater director (something I never understood why the CSD didn't hire from the get-go)can delay the process. The County had Gibson, and like all things sewer, he of course became the lightning rod.

I just laugh how Ann caches 'dissolution' always in a negative light as if it must be a sinister idea. It is what it is - another choice, and when Ann provides NOT ONE reason to even consider it, she PROVES she either has NO THOUGHT process (or at least is unwilling to engage in it) towards a constructive dialog on weighing pros and cons.

To simply regurgitate that a transfer of authority represents longer 'delay' is naive. Manipulation works both ways, and the CSD (and community) has a history of blindly knee-jerking itself around from BOTH points of view.

Lisa's decision to just point blank say 'we're not interested' was knee-jerk at it's best.

The old board's decision to just proceed without getting a construction management competitive bid was knee-jerk.

The recall was knee-jerk, (let's see they waited about, oh, two weeks after an election to do it.).

The dissolution was a lesser knee-jerk, but it didn't start for about 3 months (until the SRF/project was basically on life-support).

The CSD formation was knee-jerk.

The CSD stopping construction was knee-jerk. How much public and staff input went into that decision, Ann? About 5 seconds. Is it any wonder the fines happened in a equal knee-jerk amount of time.

Ann reads e-mails and makes a knee-jerk response.

'Local Control' or 'local knee-jerking' is maybe a more appropriate question for Ann to ask.