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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Stand Down! Time To Do A Little Homework

Assemblyman Blakeslee’s “Breakthrough Proposal,” (the BBP) is making the rounds to all the warring parties. Basically, he’s asked them all (politely) to shut up and sit down and read his opening proposals and to begin considering their own offers or counter offers so the delicate dance of negotiating can begin.

Let us hope it will be a real negotiation without one party later saying, “Oh, heh-heh, the negotiations weren’t really negotiations.” Time to get serious. Failure here is not an option.

And I hope everyone in and out of Los Osos who’s interested in the outcome of the Sewer Wars, will take the time to track down and find the various original documents that are now in circulation. Hopefully, the CSD staff, when they get some time, will post the various Official Documents on their web site. In the meantime, copies of Assemblyman Blakeslee’s “Final Framework Resolution,” the CSD Resolution 2006 (June 8), as well as the CSD-authorized letter to Paul Hood of LAFCO, discussing collaborative options on a possible partnering with the County on the sewer issues, and so forth, should be available at the CSD office.

Every party in this process will have their own “deal-breaker” non-negotiable items. Right now, the language is deliberately vague in order to give all parties a chance to “fill in the blanks,” the details of which will be subject to debate, discussion, modification, rewrite.

And since the community is a vital part of this process, I hope they will all get involved to make sure their input and concerns are part of the mix. In addition, I can only hope that the community will take care not to fall prey to any fear tactics or spun “Truth” being hyped by one group or another or misleading headlines or half-baked media stories or wild suppositions and What-Ifs. Instead, I hope they will take the time to track down the actual documents and read for themselves what they actually say, attend any and all meetings to hear and comment on what’s being considered, and pay close attention to what actually gets votes on , since what is officially done is critical, not merely what is said. This community will have to pay dearly for everything that’s about to be done or un-done, so it needs to pay attention and make sure it becomes an active and open participant in the process.

“Stand down” does not mean idle, apathetic snoozing. It means get prepared, get informed, get creative, get smart, and above all, get involved. To start, the Board of Supervisors will begin a review some of the conditions of this proposal on Monday, June 19, in the new BoS chambers, at the County Government Center, 1055 Monterey St, starting at 2 p.m. The meeting will include public comment. So, be there, or at least send in your snail-mail or email comments. The county's involvement at this juncture is critical so the BoS needs to hear from all of you.

12 comments:

*PG-13 said...

Stand-Down, Step-back and be willing to Negotiate - phase 1:

This seems like a good development. At least it doesn't seem like a bad development which has been more the norm. So let's all give a nod, an attaboy or a prayer - whatever your religion - toward making it work. Wouldn't that be nice? I agree with Ann:

> Failure here is not an option.

So what would help to make it work?

Having only heard about but not having actually read Assemblyman Blakeslee’s “Breakthrough Proposal” (the BBP) I would like to suggest some things that might help this process along. These might already be in the BBP. If not, I propose they be included:

(1) Could somebody (preferably Blakeslee or some other non-invested party) please post a list of the 'Original Documents' and any other documents, proposals, studies, commentaries, etc. that are pertinent to this process? Heaven knows there has been a load of commentary & correspondence & what-not but most of this has been derivative in nature. There are probably only a dozen, maybe two dozen, root documents which officially and objectively document the issues. What, specifically, are these documents? And everybody must refer to them - and to them only except by compromise agreement - in these negotiations. Ya gotta start somewhere to frame the problem and establish common language and, hopefully, a common objective at least at some high level of abstraction.

(2) Could these somebody's please post this list of Original Documents so the rest of us can see it? Better yet - this is the information age - when this list is posted could it also be linked off to the documents so everybody has equal access to them? Any documents not already available on-line should be scanned and published so they are available on-line. Sorry, driving to Sacramento in order to read a document between the hours of 9:00-4:00 is just so last century. If legal issues preclude the publication of any such documents then (1) change the laws or (2) publish an annotated summary of the document which provides the key information people need to use that document in their discussions.

(3) Who specifically is participating in this process? Please list the organization, the person(s) responsible for representing that organization, and an explicit description, with limits, of their authority. This is to prevent a body from making compromises and agreements which are then taken back off the table because they weren't authorized to make such concessions.

(4) Who, specifically, is NOT participating in this process? And why? What is their buy-in, and their limits, to any conclusions that are reached by the other parties? Early on it must be determined whether the players at the table have the power and the means to make whatever comes out of the process fly. If they don't then what is their leverage? We need to know right up front whether this is yet another exercise in futility.

A list of the participants and non-participants should be published on the same site which lists the documents. Now that we have a common language (the list) and the players .....

(5) Each party must list their primary issues and publish them to that site. Each issue must be described in 100 words or less. Issues have to be reduced to their most basic level. In most of the previous discussion there is far too much interpretive spin which creates confusion and imprecision. Reduce your issues to their essence. Identify them as a scientific issue (pollution, environmental, etc.), a financial issue (funding, total costs, etc.), a governmental issue (rules & reg compliance, etc.), an ego issue ('nuff said), a life-style issue, hell, I don't know, just give it a tag ..... Quality is more important than quantity. You can list as many issues as you need to describe your perspectives but duplicates and cross-overs are counter-productive.

(6) All parties agree to some commonly acceptable procedural rules of order, time(s)& place(s) to meet, seating arrangements (I say that only half facetiously), a projected timeline, a procedural chairman, etc.

(7) I don't know whether to ask for incremental public disclosure of the process. I think that's an appropriate thing to expect. But it might also de-rail negotiated compromises. Good negotiated compromises are seldom public compromises until after the fact.

I'm sure there are many other things that should be added to this list. I simply post this as a start. Remember, the intent is for community success not special interest success.

Shark Inlet said...

PG ...

You can read Sam's proposal (as it is) at: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/multimedia/sanluisobispo/archive/lososossewer.pdf.

The County reply is also online at the trib website at: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/multimedia/sanluisobispo/archive/sewercaution.pdf.

Overall the proposal sounds pretty good to me.

Essentially the LOCSD has to give up their desire to control the site, collection system and type of WWTF. That's what they give. What they gain is the ability to get a WWTF financed. Right now the LOCSD has no ability to finance any project, even if they wanted to. The LOCSD doesn't get to give up their debts.

The County has to put a few million on the table to finance a few things before the LOCSD voters step up to the plate to pay their bills. Other than that, the County only does something if property owners agree to pay.

The RWQCB puts some fines and stuff on hold. They give up a lot. However, what they gain is the ability to get a project started sooner. A lot sooner. The LOCSD right now cannot start construction on a Lego house without going into debt.

The SWRCB gives up some many many millions of dollars in another SRF loan. What they get is a project sooner.

The Los Osos property owners give up their desire to avoid paying the real costs of building the thing and their ability to micromanage and dictate every aspect of the project. However, we get a project far sooner than otherwise. Furthermore, we get to avoid some fines, we get a SRF and we may be able to avoid CDOs entirely unless we do something stupid again.

All in all, everyone gets something that makes the deal worthwhile. In my mind the two sticky points are:

1 - Will the LOCSD be willing to simply walk away and let someone else make all the decisions?

2 - Will the County sign on?

If the current board refuses, we're horribly hosed. Sam has done a wonderful job of cutting thru the crap and figuring out the best way to get things back on track. I don't think the County will refuse because they'll worry that LAFCO or the State will simply dump the project back in their laps without them having some ability to influence some of the terms of the deal.

PublicWorks said...

Shark,

You hit the nail on the head. The CSD has zero to negotiate with, other than hope.

re-starts on Tri-W next month.

It isn't all that great for the homeowners (as usual, they get stuck with all the risk), but then when has it ever been?

If a 218 vote fails (with or without this legislation), God help us.

PublicWorks said...

Shark,

Missed half a sentence in the previous post, the agreement doesn't mean that the County
re-starts on Tri-W next month.

They will get to evaluate all options, including any study.

Shark Inlet said...

Publicworks,

The reason the homeowners are going to be stuck with the risk and the cost is that they homeowners "waaaaaaaaay back" in the 1980s refused to take the grants ("free money!") offered to them to pay for a sewer. If we had done so we would be paying less than $50/month now. The funny thing is that they said "no thank you" then because it was too expensive. Everytime we say "no it is too expensive" we are making the choice to make the project more expensive. Stupid, really.

Essentially, the real reason the homeowners are getting stuck with all the costs and all the risk is the same reason that college costs are going up and grants aren't ... we have a desire in our society to get more for less. In particular, if we were willing to pay more in taxes in this state and nationally, college education and public works projects would be funded more fully by the feds and the state.

It would be interesting to hear Dave Duggin's comments on that.

Anonymous said...

I can honestly say, and maybe many homeowners agree, I don't know how I would vote on a 218 vote. I would have to be convinced, beyond a SHADOW OF A DOUBT, that control of the project would be COMPLETELY out of the hands of a Julie Tacker, and Gail McPherson, and Lisa Schicker, and Al Barrow, and the rest of the no-sewer hoards who no doubt will be marching down to every BOS meeting with threats and ramblings and all their old song and dance. If the BOS could convince me they could control these people, I might consider. But I think that's a pretty big IF.

Churadogs said...

A CAUTION for all: The "county reply" mentioned above with the Tribune site given (thanks!) is the STAFF's recommendations, NOT "the County's" reply. The COUNTY hasn't "replied" yet. There are also NO "negotiations," yet. So far as I know, Blakeslee has NO LEGISLATION, yet. The BoS hearing Monday MAY be the the opening step to hear public comment, get board direction, vote to decide to participate or not, request more info, stay at the table until everyone checks in with their input, have a sit-down to determine even the structure of a "negotiation," & etc)

That's why even direct documents MUST be looked at cautiously. There's Staff and Board and that's why I cautioned that people need to pay attention to what get's VOTED on, not merely discussed.

Shark Inlet said...

Fair warnings, Ann.

I just think that the reason this is getting so much press and hope is that we all know that without the Blakeslee thing going somewhere, the LOCSD will be dissolved and bankrup by the end of the year.

Sewertoons said...

And if the LOCSD is dissolved, the county gets this whole mess back - of course that is where it all started.

Guess they BETTER step in before it comes back to them in a way that affords them no debt control. Bankruptcy IS coming down the pike without help, and when that happens, LAFCO MUST dissolve.

Anonymous said...

After reading shark inlets take on the Blakeslee proposal, it sounds to me like were going to get TriW shoved down our throat once again. Heck, we might as well bring back the old board. No say in type, location or anything else pertaining to the sewer. It sounds like our end of the bargain is to give up.

Shark Inlet said...

To our anonymous friend ...

I won't presume what the County will do should the compromise work out. The County's terms for signing on would be (a minimum of) total control of the project site and design.

If you want to worry that this means the County would adopt TriW and if TriW doesn't appeal to you, I guess you should oppose such a compromise. On the other hand, the CSD has essentially already admitted that they are already dead in the water.

What does this all mean?

There will be a WWTF. It will be expensive. The County or the State will pick the project. They might pick TriW, we can't prevent this. We can, however, encourage the process along as quickly as possible. That is what we can do to save at least some money.

Note: if you don't like TriW, the fair group to blame would be the solutions group ... and yourself. That is, unless you were involved in meetings in 2000 and unless you opposed the site then. Any opposition since the site was selected and approved by the County, RWQCB and CCC has only done one thing ... raise our bills.

Anonymous said...

Ok shark inlet, i'm probably guilty. I haven't participated a great deal other than to vote on anything that was presented to me. Which come to think of it, the only vote was on the assessment, which I voted against.
I don't attend the meetings because it is hard for me to hear in that type of setting.
I have however, watched on tv for as long as it's been on and to hear from the dissolutionist about how intimidating or uncomfortable it is laughable.
And please, don't ever include me in with Solutions group.