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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Calhoun’s Ca(n)nons , The Bay News, Morro Bay, CA, For Sept 28, 06


Tin Ears & Price Tags


To be persuasive, we must be believable. To be believable, we must be credible. To be credible, we must be truthful.
Edward R. Murrow.




When I read in the Tribune that Los Osos CSD board member Julie Tacker had been hired by developer Jeff Edwards on Sept 1 to work as “an environmental-permit consultant on his estimated 12-development projects . . ,”one of which includes possible plans for locating one of his huge projects at the Tri-W property, what immediately came to mind was a scene from Robert Bolt’s play, A Man For All Seasons.

In it, Richard Rich, a former student of Sir Thomas More, has perjured himself before the King’s council, thereby ensuring More’s death sentence. As he’s leaving the chamber, More asks about the new chain of office Richard is wearing and is told that Sir Richard was appointed Attorney-General for Wales. To which, More replies, “Why, Richard, it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world . . . But for Wales!”

But for Wales? Caesar’s Wife knew, in her cunning political bones, that not only does one have to actually BE above suspicion, but one must APPEAR to be above suspicion. This is especially important in a community full of hidden agendas, shadow players and many, many long knives. A tin-ear will cost an elected official dearly, and the case of Ms. Tacker, raises the same question Sir More posed: What consultancy fee could possibly be high enough to compensate for what will be lost?

Well, Los Osos, like Wales, is a small potatoes place and prices for things like “reputations” are bound to come pretty cheap.

But, Ms. Tacker’s new consulting job does carry with it some comic possibilities. Jeff Edwards is running for the CSD Board. Should he get elected, think of all the delightful Alphonse & Gaston routines of The Jeff & Julie Abstention/Recusal/Conflict-of-Interest Show. Not to mention the awkward reality of a Boss and His Employee both pretending that their relationship doesn’t present very real ethical questions about their ability to freely make independent decisions – a vital requirement for any elected Board members.


On a more serious note, Ms. Tacker’s new employment is a perfect illustration of just why this community needs to stay awake. We are surrounded by chaparral, thick, dense and filled with critters you can hear skittering around but often can’t see. It’s the same in our little human community. There’s so many busy little fingers stuck into so many pies, so many hidden agendas at work, so many foxes, so many chicken coops, so many vested interests and sly thumbs-on-the-scale that it’s easy for the community as a whole to be forgotten in all the rustling self-interested busyness.

While The County has now taken over the sewer project, only a complete fool would think that this town is “saved.” It isn’t. The same Sewer Players who set in motion a series of wrong choices and missed opportunities that culminated in the Sewer Train flying off the cliff are all back at work driving spikes and laying new track.

And the people in this community who snoozed in their Barcaloungers, knew but didn’t want to know, swallowed horse-pucky as truth, and spin as fact that resulted in a profoundly dangerous disengagement that allowed the train wreck to happen, are showing signs of getting sleepy again.

Big mistake. With a CSD election coming up, work beginning on the new sewer project, the formation of a septic management plan that could help the Regional Water Quality Control Board consider a much smarter phased-in approach to septic tank mitigations instead of community-wide CDOs, it is absolutely vital that everyone in Los Osos pay attention!

There are powerful vested interests working in the shadows to make sure that you get what they want. So, it’s time to connect the dots, follow the money, get to know the players, make sure you know that the person you’re voting for has a track record of actually saying what they mean and meaning what they say, and, above all, Dear and Gentle Reader, you’d better make sure that all of you insist -- loudly and in huge numbers -- that everybody better get their sneaky little fingers off the scales and allow The County-Promised Process to work honestly and fairly.

If you don’t, you’ll get exactly what someone else decides to give you. Again. Then you’ll get the bill. And it’ll be a doozie.

15 comments:

*PG-13 said...

As a young innocent named Alice once said, it just keeps getting "curiouser and curiouser". Although different Alice's dilemma seems strangely similar to ours. It seems every time we approach the bottom of the rabbit hole the hole opens wide and swallows us yet again. And now this? Can it get any stranger?

We're dancing on egg shells. Regarding Julie & Jeff much could be said and much will be said and some already has been said that probably shouldn't be said at all. But how do you not say something? How do you draw attention to the potential for malfeasance without at least some finger pointing? Julie's a big girl. And Mr. Edwards is skilled and accomplished in his craft. They both know what they are doing. And what they are doing is going to draw a lot of attention. It certainly should draw a lot of attention.

Ann > Ms. Tacker’s new consulting job does carry with it some comic possibilities. Jeff Edwards is running for the CSD Board. Should he get elected, think of all the delightful Alphonse & Gaston routines of The Jeff & Julie Abstention/Recusal/Conflict-of-Interest Show. Not to mention the awkward reality of a Boss and His Employee both pretending that their relationship doesn’t present very real ethical questions about their ability to freely make independent decisions – a vital requirement for any elected Board members.

Now I'm even more concerned and feel a need to know about the grounds for identifying conflict of interest and the means to enforce recusal if it isn't volunteered? What is the protocol for evaluating and enforcing recusal? What is the recourse if somebody doesn't recuse themselves when they should? And what happens if at some point a good number, possibly even a majority, of the CSD is recused for one reason or another? Can they still do business? Can somebody please edify me or point me to a formal/legal description of these issues?

Also, "Los Osos CSD board member Julie Tacker had been hired by developer Jeff Edwards on Sept 1 to work as “an environmental-permit consultant on his estimated 12-development projects..." Specifically what are these 12 projects? The one dealing with Tri-W site development is of obvious singular importance to the sewer gig. But what else is Mr. Edwards cooking? And what has he done in the past? I'm relatively new to the neighborhood and don't know his history other than the fairly critical and often slanted comments I've read in the sewer blogs. Any developer is bound to draw some heat but past performance is generally a good indicator of future action. TIA.

Anonymous said...

I too would like some more information about Jeff Edwards. I have heard his name for years and know he is a big developer, however, he also seems to have somewhat of a bad rap, at least among folks that I know. What gives?

Anonymous said...

Did you mean bad "rep[utation]" ?Jeff Edwards surely has earned whatever bad rep he has.

His history in Los Osos is long and not very pretty. Jeff is out for number one and number one only. Everyone else be damned. Integrity is not a word used in the same sentence with his name unless it is to say he suffers from a lack of it.

FBLeG said...

Anon says,

"His [Jeff Edwards] history in Los Osos is long and not very pretty".

Please provide some examples please.

Thanks

Anonymous said...

Yes, does anyone have specific examples? I've heard him speak at several CSD meetings and he seemed like an OK guy.

Churadogs said...

Pg-13 sez:"Now I'm even more concerned and feel a need to know about the grounds for identifying conflict of interest and the means to enforce recusal if it isn't volunteered? What is the protocol for evaluating and enforcing recusal? What is the recourse if somebody doesn't recuse themselves when they should? And what happens if at some point a good number, possibly even a majority, of the CSD is recused for one reason or another? Can they still do business? Can somebody please edify me or point me to a formal/legal description of these issues? "

I'm not a lawyer and I don't play one on TV but if memory serves (since these matters have come up all over the place on different Boards) the nexuxs has to do with direct financial interest. I remember when Alan Settle was criticized for voting on, I think, some development plan near where he lives. Folks were measuring number of feet from his property line to the planned development &etc. Same thing happened with a Supervior out in Santa Margarita whose house backed the property in development & so forth. People also recuse themselves if they do business with folks who are coming before them. I'm sure there's a "legal" bright line, but the real problem comes with the greyer issues. And those grey, ethical, moral, "perception" type issues are always way more tricky.

Serving on Boards is a very tough thing to do, not only for the sheer volume of work involved, but because the minute you get elected, you can be "friends" with nobody since you've now got to answer to a "higher calling," so to speak. Very, very tough.

As for "malfeasance," & etc. if there's illegal stuff going on (bribes, pay-offs, etc.) then that would slide into the criminal. (I remember one awful case in Clovis where the FBI moved in for YEARS to clean up a city council and one happless doofus was nailed for accepting a set of tires -- like, how cheap could he be bought?? (his buddies were doing hundreds of thousands in deals and this guy settles for 4 tires??) But the only other recourse is a civil suit and/or the ballot box, I suppose.

And as for "forcing recusal," interesting that some members of the community requested Shirley Bianchi recuse herself from the LAFCo hearings since there's a record there of, uh, what shall we say? uh, "bias" against the present CSD Board. She refused and LAFCO apparently doesn't have bylaws dealing with that -- I gather that Board members chose to sit or not, it's up to them. That also makes thing murky.

As for the Tacker/Edwards deal, one of the key problems for me was timing. If Julie had waited until January, when the Sewer was legally off the CSD's table to announce she would be working for Jeff, then that would have been a clean break. But to have it sorta slip out while the CSD legally has control over Tri-W and Sewerish stuff and Tri-W was in the mix vis a vis some sale deal with Edwards, uh, not good.

Perception IS reality, which is what Caesar's Wife knew.

Anonymous said...

Examples of Jeff Edwards antics...

Most of it boils down to this... it is more profitable to pay a fine to the county for violating the law than to comply with the law in the first place.

He has had plans modified by the county, gotten approval for the new modified plans, and then used the old unapproved plans to actually build his project.

His projects often turn out taller, bigger, uglier, than approved. They also end up in a differnet area of the property than approved... closer to the property line, the road, etc. Or the building will mysteriously be turned to face a different direction than approved.

He has violated grading permits, hauling in yards and yards of dirt to raise a property to provide for a better view... to hell with the neighbors up hill that can no longer see anything but his project... and those downhill that now have a huge project towering over them.

To avoid being caught doing this, he trucks in the dirt... and performs other work, at night under the cover of darkness.

He has violated public health laws by opening the water supply to connect his projects without a permit... or oversight.

Ask anyone that works in county planning, code enforcement, etc. if they have heard of Jeff Edwards... most will have a story or two for you.

FBLeG said...

Anon says,

"His projects often turn out taller, bigger, uglier..."

Sounds just like what the TriW plan turned out to be!
If the county goes with TriW, I propose Edwards build it - he seems to have experience with this kind of project.

Also, methinks "taller, bigger, uglier" is much catchier than "better, cheaper, faster"!

With that monstrosity on LOVR/SBblvd, seems Van Buerdan is another developer that also subscribes to the "taller, bigger, uglier" philosophy of project design.

Sewertoons said...

F***ing-Balls-LeGross said:

"With that monstrosity on LOVR/SBblvd, seems Van Buerdan is another developer that also subscribes to the "taller, bigger, uglier" philosophy of project design."

This is your opinion, right, or can you show us a poll that you took?

What does your house look like?

FBLeG said...

Sewertoons asked,

"This is your opinion, right, or can you show us a poll that you took?

What does your house look like?"

Yeah, it's my opinion like everything else I post here. However, I have never talked to anyone who has not said how ugly and out of character the Van Buerdan monstrosity is for this community. This personal poll has a margin of error of at least +/- 25% just like all the others who post here saying that TW is going to sweep the elections in November. No one I know personally is going to vote for the TW three: Kelly, Tornatsky & Sparks. Now if one of them has experience with a personal/business bankruptcy - I could see giving that person a second look.

As far as my house is concerned: It's just one story 1700-1800 square feet in the PZ zone - on a beautiful street with nice view and intelligent/friendly neighbors.

FBLeG said...

Sewertoons,

I forgot to ask, "How about your house?"

Sewertoons said...

Question to F***ing-Balls-LeGross:

Are you then recommending that we vote for Chuck and Steve because they now have some bankruptcy experience?

Churadogs said...

Anonymous sez:"Ask anyone that works in county planning, code enforcement, etc. if they have heard of Jeff Edwards... most will have a story or two for you.

8:00 PM, September 29, 2006 "

Now, there's the Question: So, Why doesn't County enforce their own codes? All I've ever seen is just fait accompli shrugs. I remember hearing neighbor complaints getting aired at a LOCAC meeting, with Mike Wulkun sitting right there, it was just some eye-rolling and "Talk To The Hand," File A Complaint At County, Yawn" and a few shrugs. And on that particular project/complaint, as far as I know, absolutely nothing was done. Same old. Same old.

For those of you thrilled to death that the County now has the sewer project . . . . uh . . . How's that old saying go? Be careful what you wish for. You may get it?

Anonymous said...

You're right Ann, I think the county likes collecting the fine money.

It's alway been cheaper for Jeff to pay the fine than to fix the violation. I've always thought if the county made him tear down a project or two, or made the fine more than the profit he would make on the project, after a couple of times he wouldnt mess with thim anymore.

But instead they encourage him to continue his antics.

Anonymous said...

If you don't like how a project looks, i.e. Bonaire, then you have to be early in the process to complain about it (attend LOCAC meetings). Bonaire was approved in 1995, getting built just 2 years ago, there's not much to say so long after approvals. Laws have changed and that project would look much different today if it were to go before approval bodies again.
As for JE, his reputation is mostly urban legend, make sure it is his project you are critisizing, often times he is merely the permit getter. The "developer" is the land owner whose architechture you may not agree with, but height and setback limits are all set by the County, so don't necessarily be angry with him for using the limits. Dirt hauling is regulated by the County, most of your problems with JE lie with the County, even the Coastal Commission has slapped the County for not enforcing their own standards.
Oh yeah, and now the County is going to build the sewer? We might need JE to show the County where to build it, because they're is such a hurry they might just go back to Tri-W, the most nonsensicle location for that type of landuse. I heard JE just wanted to buy Tri-W to get it off the table, he's got interests in the down town area, why would he want the sewer there? He doesn't!
As for Jeff and Julie, their business is their business, if he's not buying the Tri-W than who cares what they do? If JE wants JT to work, he's got a hard worker there, she's tireless, he's lucky to have her energy.