Stop or I’ll Pull The Pin!
Fatal embrace or the start of a beautiful friendship?
I’m sure that’s the question the Board of Supervisors and the Sewerville Denizens of Dogpatch were asking themselves yesterday when the BoS voted 5-0 to: 1) Support legislation that allows the County, at its discretion and upon confirmation of conditions [outlined in the supplemental report] to assume responsibility for the design, construction and temporary operation of a community wastewater treatment system in Los Osos and 2) Approve the key elements of a legislative solution [the Blakesleee Breakthough Proposal or BBP] outlined in [that report] as required conditions for the County’s agreement to assume responsibility for this project; and 3) Approve the Los Osos Wastewater Treatment Project strategy and objectives included in [that report] in order to minimize County taxpayer’s risk and provide the highest probability for success on this project.”
The problem with the vote was to be found in some of the details of the attached report which outlined a series of steps the county would take IF the legislative Blakeslee Breakthrough Proposal actually happens and all the other parties come to the dance. Since some of the report seemed to have been written for the upcoming LAFCO dissolution hearings consideration and since County staff hadn’t gotten the various latest tech memos concerning the Project Update Report, some of the troubling details were most likely out of date. One solution to resolve any of those troubling details was for the CSD’s engineers and/or technical advisors and/or consultants to immediately get county staff up to speed and into the loop.
While there was some angry foot stomping after the meeting adjourned as well as understandable mutterings of distrust and cries of betrayal, one critical question was raised that requires serious thought on behalf of everyone on either side of the Sewer Wars and here it is:
IF the County has set up the same process as the CSD is already using to evaluate alternative systems and sites, a process which includes input from the community, utilizes a technical advisory committee, conducts a community advisory election on the top site alternatives [again with best guestimates as to costs], co-equal analysis under CEQA for top site alternatives, includes a supplemental Environmental Impact Report, considers input from the CSD on water management objectives, [THE critical issue], then includes a Prop 218 assessment vote by homeowners on whatever system emerges as the top candidate (again, with a best guestimate as to full cost), in short all of the things the CSD’s process is set up to do, then does it matter who’s in charge since the process will be the same and the citizens will be ultimately voting on what they want to buy and where they want to put it, which is what the Recall and Measure B vote was all about in the first place?
THAT is the question that needs to be answered. Since elected boards consist of human beings, one human answer on the part of the CSD must involve the human ego: After so much painful labor, nobody wants to see their “baby” taken away by a Wicked Stepmother. But, suppose Mommy is facing death by deliberate murder? Is there also not another strong human wish to make sure that Mommy’s last will and testament concerning her “baby” is written by her before the kid is taken away and she is pushed off a cliff?
And on the part of an all too human Board of Supervisors, with their own long, dismal record on all things sewerish, they are faced with a Hobson’s choice of their own: Get the baby and leave the bathwater OR do nothing AND STILL get the baby AND the bathwater AND the dirty diapers AND all the furious relatives AND their lawsuit-waving lawyers including RWQCB’s Roger Briggs screaming FINES!FINES!FINES!
So it comes down to the possibility now of a truce between two antagonists – one is armed with a machine gun, the other has strapped bombs on his chest and is holding the pin. The county is demanding power and authority over this project (who buys the ticket, picks the show) while knowing full well that the bearish folk of Los Osos have proven themselves fully capable (twice now) of getting to the box office, taking a gander at the choice of movie, then pulling the pin.
Talk about a dangerous date.
On the plus side, the county has a real incentive to – this time – get it right. The Regional Water Quality Control Board has a real incentive to – this time – get it right. The CSD has a real incentive to – this time – keep it right. And the Denizens of Dogpatch have a real incentive to – this time – get it right.
So, again, the question: If the process set up by the County is the same as that set up by the CSD, and that same process includes an advisory and assessment vote by the citizens who are going to be buying whatever is presented, then what’s the problem?
Distrust? That’s a two way street. So, maybe it’s time to take a page from Ronald Reagan’s SALT playbook: Trust . . . but verify. The county may have the gun, but the Los Osos Bears have the suicide bombs. Not a pretty picture, but one that may have a pretty ending.
The old recalled CSD Board, for human reasons, acted in such a way so as to ensure that the citizens of this fair burg would be financially punished for daring to disagree with them. That board majority failed, for human reasons, to put the good of the community ahead of their own desires. The result was a financial Gotterdamerung.
I hope that this time, the newly elected CSD Board, for human reasons, will make different choices . . . for the sake of the community.
So, step one of the Blakeslee Breakthrough Proposal is underway. It’s a fragile thing, one that can be destroyed by any of the stakeholders. As with all things Sewerish, stay tuned.