Friday, September 29, 2006

Meet The Los Osos CSD Candidates

On Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006, from 6:00 – 8:00 pm, at the South Bay Community Center, 2180 Palisades Ave, Los Osos, the League of Women Voters will be moderating a Public Forum to allow the voters to meet the CSD candidates. The League’s usual format is to collect written questions from the audience which they then group into like topics then read off for the candidates to answer.

There are three seats up for grabs. The candidates running are: Rob Shipe, Lynette Tornatzky, Jeff Edwards, Al Barrow, Ed Ochs, Maria Kelley, Dave Duggan, Joe Sparks, Chuck Cesena and Steve Senet.

Senet and Cesena are incumbents, while Taxpayer’s Watch spokesperson, Joyce Albright, has stated that their group is supporting Tornatzky, Kelley and Sparks.

Those candidates who chose to do so sent their platform and campaign statements to me to post and they’re on the blogsite below if you scroll down a bit.

So, time to get your questions in order. After the forum you’ll also be able to speak with the candidates. I don’t know at this point whether AGP Video will be broadcasting this live or even taping the event for rebroadcast, so I’d encourage everyone to take time to show up and get to hear what the candidates have to say. There’s some new faces, some familiar faces and since there’s some very new issues, the forum will be a good chance to hear what everyone has to say.

See you there.

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.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Errata! In my previous post on the LAFCO hearings, I ended by noting that . . . "Lisa Schicker, CSD Board President noted at the hearing, "Democracy is rampant in Los Osos . . . " The quote was a pull quote from the Trib and I've just been informed it was in error. CSD Attorney, Julie Biggs, was the one who made that wry, droll and very apt observation in her remarks to the LAFCO Board. Apologies for the mis-attribution.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Los Osos 7 -- Taxpayers Watch O Part I

LAFCo voted (7 – 0) on Sept 21st to deny the Taxpayers Watch petition to dissolve the Los Osos CSD. The Tribune noted (dryly? wryly?) that Taxpayers Watch “consists in part of directors removed in the recall election,” which, of course, explains a lot.

The key reasons that LAFCo denied the dissolution petition had to do with concern that if they voted to dissolve the CSD, then the county taxpayers would end up with both the assets and liabilities of the district. Since this issue has dragged on for months and months with postponement after postponements, several key events had finally fallen into place that assisted the Board in making their decision. (1) The Blakeslee Bill had been signed that morning which allowed the county to take over the sewer project. Paavo Ogren, from County Public Works and the guy who’ll be shepherding the sewer project, told the Board that his Dept would be working with CSD reps in setting the groundwork for any collaborative efforts so everyone could be up to speed when the Blakeslee Bill becomes law in January. (2) The District had filed in federal court for Bankruptcy protection, thus giving it breathing room from all the pile-on lawsuits to begin to sort out its finances. (3) With the sewer project moving ahead on a separate track, with the other services (fire, water, trash) in no immediate danger of crashing, (water rates will be raised, part of a previously structured rate raise that got delayed – Ouch, but maybe the raise will make people more conscious of just how limited and precious our water is and how much everyone better get on the stick to start conserving) the reason for dissolving the CSD faded from view. (4) Added to the mix and voted on 7 – 0 were two additional separate recommendations: (1) a recommendation that the district conduct an “performance and financial audit” and (2) LAFCO would send a letter to the Bankruptcy judge to make sure any possible sale of the Tri W property follows proper procedures vis a vis notifying County of the availability of the property so they can get first crack at buying it.

As with all things Los Ososian, this hearing was loaded with irony and comedy and weirdiosity. Consider:

Dissolutions of this kind were never intended to be used on actual living, breathing districts. Instead, the dissolution procedure was there to be used to clean out the legal dead wood of districts that had long since died or technically morphed into something else while the legal paperwork uselessly remained on the books. That the dissolution procedure was the very first one used by some recalled CSD Board members via Taxpayers Watch instead of all the other “democratic” tools available to them and their supporters – re-recalls, voter initiatives, running for office, serving on committees, petitioning the “government,” etc., -- did not sit well with Supervisor Achadijian, who noted that Americans have gone a long way to spread democracy around the world and figured both LAFCo needed to ensure “democracy” a secure place in Los Osos and that the people out here needed to get off their buns and vote.

That, of course, was always the problem I had with what Taxpayers Watch did in petitioning for dissolution. That this was the FIRST tool out of their box, not the last, indicated the real game: Lose an election? Simple, use LAFCo as the mechanism to eliminate the CSD, and while you’re at it, be sure to file some “frivolous” lawsuits to help ensure bankruptcy becomes the only option, thereby adding fuel to the fire.

Paul Hood did note that he’ll be attending a workshop on dissolution matters at the state level because it’s clear that new laws are needed to deal with just what happened here: The use of dissolution as a political tool to try to achieve what wasn’t achieved at the ballot box. Once again, Los Osos has set a prescedent. Gee, hooray for us, some more, woo, Yippee, etc.

As for eye-popping weirdness, there was Supervisor Bianchi officially claiming from the dais during an official meeting during Board comment time that the (new) CSD Board came to her to ask for her help in “breaking the law.” It was a breathtaking accusation that demands proof, which, of course, will never be forthcoming. More weirdness? During the Board comments after the vote, Bianchi noted that when she first heard about the Dissolution she first thought “Hallelujah.” Hmmmm, and here I thought the LAFCo Board was supposed to be composed of NEUTRAL, UNBIASED folks capable of fairly hearing all sides of the matter and that anyone who had a clear conflict of interest or entanglements on one side or the other (I recall Shirley’s letter to the editor and, if memory serves, her radio ads for the anti-recall group, not to mention her letter sent to a State Water Board member shortly after the recall election offering her help in taking the project away from the CSD & etc.) that they would recuse themselves, of only for the appearance of fairness. Not our Shirley.

And for comic relief we had Chairperson Barbara Mann barely concealing her disgust at having to sit and listen to public comment during, well, public comment. She even went so far as to note, on microphone, “We already know what you’re going to say.”

Uh, Ms. Mann, I hate to point this out to you but one of the (admittedly) most trying and annoying and irritating things about public comment is actually listening to public comment. And, as you probably know, Boards are supposed to maintain the pleasant fiction that they haven’t already prejudged an agenda item before the public comment is even started. They’re supposed to at least pretend that their minds are still open and that they might actually learn something from public comment that might influence their vote on the matter before them. But, if you’ve already prejudged an item, at the very least, you’re supposed to PRETEND that you haven’t and sit there politely and listen to whatever is said. If it gets too boring you can always sneak a book onto the dais, or maybe fall asleep with your eyes open, or write the great American novel under the guise of taking notes and so forth. It’s all part of the theatre of doing the public’s business . . . in public.

CSD 7 -- Taxpayers Watch O Part II

But the best part of the morning came when the next agenda item came up: Taxpayers Watch petitioned LAFCo to have the LAFCo costs for these months of work to conduct all the investigations and prepare all the reports for the Board waived – i.e. let the county taxpayers eat it.

At first, when I read that item, I thought it was some kind of sick joke, like the guy who murders his parents then flings himself on the mercy of the court for clemency because he’s but a poor orphan.

Considering what TPW has cost the Los Osos taxpayers already in having to defend against their “frivolous” lawsuits, this one is the height of hubris. As for hypocrisy, you can’t beat a group declaring they’re petitioning for dissolution in order to “save” the taxpayers of Los Osos by sticking the taxpayers of the County with the whole mess.

Uh, sorry, guys. The recalled Board members set this CSD up for bankruptcy (borrowing from the reserves while counting on the arrival of the SRF loan in time to avoid going into the red, a dangerous gamble.). Furthermore, they and they alone decided to set their own recall election date as late as possible and then voted to unnecessarily pound millions of dollars of the SRF loan into the ground before the election in a reckless gamble (again) with the taxpayers money. All this was “local,” and needs to be dealt with locally. Los Ososians elected the guys who did this, Los Ososians un-elected the guys who did this, so Los Ososians need to clean up their own mess, not stick county residents with it all.

As for Taxpayers Watch now owing some $22,317.60 for LAFCo costs, if they don’t have the money to pay the bill, they can declare bankruptcy. Or, better yet, I would suggest a community fund-raiser. Taxpayers Watch has claimed they have been altruistically acting to protect the interests of Los Osos taxpayers. Fine, time for the Los Osos taxpayers to step up. TPW can set up some tables at Farmer’s Market and ask for donations. That’s what other groups have done who have altruistically sued or petitioned or whatever. It’s democracy at its finest. And, as Lisa Schicker, CSD Board President noted at the hearing, “Democracy is rampant in Los Osos . . . .”

Rampant? Or Running Amok? Ah, well, that’s my beloved Sewerville.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

LAFCo Hearings on the Dissolution Petition for Los Osos will be held in the Board of Supervisors's Chambers, Thursday, Sept 21, starting at There will be public comment on that agenda item. I encourage all interested people to attend. Even though the Staff is recomminding denial of the dissolution, it is the Board itself that will make the final decision.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Ah, well, ya can’t change human nature, that’s for sure.

When Greg first set up the News Mission blogsite, he intended it to act as a forum for community discussion and information and opinion, a sort of electronic cracker barrel around which people could gather to jaw and whittle and yak. Such cracker barrel gatherings can be informative and useful things when people who so gather are known to one another and so are encouraged to Mind Their Manners.

Alas, in the e-version of the cracker barrel, lots of “Anonymous” people show up and like “Anonymous” people everywhere, the social restraints are missing, courtesy and respect go out the door and too often you end up with Sophomoric Japery – the equivalent of a moronic tagger with a spray can standing next to a blank wall under cover of darkness.

Well, you get the drift. The comment section of this blog has attracted such moronic taggers. While their often weirdly psycho-sexual postings have been really, uh, “interesting,” the foul language being deliberately used (It’s the old epater les bourgeoisie ploy.) is becoming an annoyance.

I’ve asked the children nicely to mind their Ps & Qs, but like children everywhere, they don’t listen since their game is all that matters to them. So, Greg has added a little Trash Can icon to my site and when anyone posts stuff that’s just a curse-filled waste of everyone’s time, I can click on the little trash can and Poof! their postings will disappear. The trash can icon won’t be activated to delete or censor ideas, just eliminate postings that are nothing but foul-mouthed rants of no purpose. The posters are perfectly capable of making their points without all the Bleeping Bleep-Bleep Bleep-Bleeps.

To blog readers, please know that I actually have a busy life outside this blog, so I often don’t check in a gazillion times a day. So, the Sophomoric Sillies can still log on and do their childish routine. Indeed, that’s part of their game, trying to get a rise out of Mommy & Daddy. So, Please ignore their postings utterly and when I get a chance, I’ll be hitting the Trash Can icon as much as I can.


If you want a creepy sense of déjà vu, click over to Ron’s and read it and weep. Alas, Los Osos is not alone.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Water, Water Everywhere, sort of . . .

At the CSD Water Workshop, held on Sept 14, that nice Mr. Spencer Harris of Cleath & Associates gave a report on Task 3 part of the 9 part water use plans for Los Osos. Task 3 was to take a look at the upper aquifer and characterize the water quality and look for other stuff, i.e. the Title 22 “emerging contaminants,” other than nitrates.

Harris’ report and some of the Q&As at the meeting indicate an interesting mixed bag of information. From my notes:

--The good news is that the upper aquifer meets drinking water standards, except for nitrates. There are a few contaminants, but nothing “reportable,”. i.e. at such a level as to violate State standards for that item. Some of the upper aquifer water is already being used from at least one of the wells, and more water, properly monitored and “blended” with lower aquifer water, could be used to help reduce pumping from the lower aquifer which would help reduce salt water intrusion.

--The bad news is that, like almost all water sources, “emerging contaminants” are present. These are a whole list of chemicals/drugs/hormones/pesticide/herbicide/personal products/etc that have only been recently been looked for in increasingly smaller and smaller amounts, amounts so small that their presence can often be the result of sample contamination in handling or in lab error or, weirdly, elements can show up in the “Blank” or “control” samples but not in the tested water, for no explainable reason. (There was one dry cleaning chemical that showed up in a well sample even though there are no dry cleaning establishments in Los Osos and there is no explanation as to why or how or what would account for that trace element showing up much of anywhere. Thus re the vagaries of testing for minute amounts of anything: Hard to say what the “normal” level is, especially since the field is so new that few norms have even been established in the U.S. anyway.)

There are presently no State or Federal standards for many emerging contaminants. Europe has set levels, but the whole field is too new and the U.S. is only recently trying to play catch up. The reason why they’re of concern is because at this point we don’t know if they pose a long-term threat to health or not. So prudence would support more study and monitoring.

--The upper aquifer water can be used for irrigation with no problem. (Part of the Ripley Plan involves the “ag exchange” using not only treated wastewater but also the possibility of drawing down the upper aquifer water for ag use which would mean the farmers wouldn’t need to pump their deep aquifer water, which could then be used for drinking & etc.)

--Harris also noted that his study is, perhaps, the very first done in the County. When the Tribune first briefly touched on this report some months ago, it gave no context for the result – i.e. a comparison between L.O. water and Morro Bay or SloTown. I thought, at the time, this was odd since the idea of some minute contaminants in your drinking water is scary until you take a look at what other people are drinking. At that point, it then slides into perspective. Now I know why there was no context . . . . there were no other studies done by other communities for comparison.

--Standard sewer treatment plants don’t treat or remove many of these trace elements. Some of the newer treatment plants may be starting to add on a final “polish” treatment that could help. Ag exchange/irrigation use is o.k. though once again, the placement of the irrigation water is crucial since time & distance for eventual recharge are crical – one site, heavy direct “recharge” can simply end up polluting a clean source whereas slow, ag-use dispersal allows for more soil/time for the ultimate polish and removal via biological processes of many of these contaminants. The bad news still remains that much of the stuff we use and consume nowadays contains chemicals that NEVER go away. In most cases, they break down into harmless by-products. But some simply remain no matter what, which is what makes the whole field of “emerging contaminants” something the whole world needs to pay attention to, since we live in an entirely closed Spaceship Earth system – nothing leaves, it just moves around in one form or another.

--Irony. (What would Los Osos & Nitrates & Water be without Irony?) Santa Maria’s drinking water exceeds state levels for nitrates and exceeds the levels of nitrate found in many of the Los Osos upper aquifer wells that were tested. Santa Maria is sewered, though their sewer plant uses direct ground dispersal, which may make the problem worse, depending on what amount of nitrates they’re allowed to discharge.

So, where are all the “polluting” nitrates are coming from? Why, all the ag land. So, have the farmers received ACL fines and are they now under threat by the Regional Water Quality Control Board and issued CDOs, as are the home owners here in Los Osos? Nope. The RWQCB only requires them to attend “workshops” to learn ways to reduce nitrate runoff & etc. Go figure.

--Irony or Plain Weirdness: According to Mr. Harris, viruses and bacteria do not travel far in the soil or water tables. State rules require a 200 foot setback between leach fields and any water source and almost all the literature Mr. Harris has reviewed, notes that bacterial contamination simply doesn’t travel far from septic tanks/leach fields. So, when somebody noted that the MBNEP’s monitoring of the “seeps” entering Morro Bay near Baywood Park come up with bacterial/coliform/etc counts, the claim is that they’re coming from our septic tanks, even though, apparently, the testing site is more than 200 feet from any known septic leach fields.. Mr. Harris said that would be a very interesting claim to try to substantiate since the literature says otherwise. Of course, since we never have had a Septic Maintenance District established, nobody has inspected any tanks near the Bay to know if they’re all in working order or whether some are broken and leaching directly into the soil or whatever might account for the seeps findings. As Mr. Harris noted, That would be an interesting claim to track down.

--Water softeners of the type that discharge into septic systems are Not Good. Too much salt loading into the groundwater. The type that use take-away tanks that are apparently cleaned and reused with the salt being dumped into the sea, are preferred and when a wastewater system is being considered, every effort should be made to have everyone in the community who has water softeners switch from onsite softeners to takeaways. Or just remove the softener and stick with good old natural hard water, which uses more detergent, so you’re back to another wastewater tradeoff: Salt or more suds?

The full report should be available in the CSD office. I would encourage everyone to go take a peek. Very interesting. Also, I had to leave about 9 p.m. so, alas, missed the other presentations, so will have to pick them up on TV via AGP Video.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons, The Bay News, Morro Bay, CA
for Sept 13, 06


Stop the press! The Tribune actually printed a non-ginned-up, non-scary front page headline: Tuesday, August 29, 2006: “Life will go on in Los Osos.”

My God, can you imagine? For months I would wander out to end of the driveway in my ratty robe, wondering if my nerves could stand yet another goosed up, front-page quasi-story blaring dire faux fire and misleading brimstone down on Los Osos. I’d stand in the middle of the driveway staring at the headlines, afraid I’d suddenly clutch my heart and collapse to the ground and lie there for hours while being pecked full of holes by the hungry crows who gather in the eucalyptus trees each morning to mutter darkly until I come out with dog kibble for them. But instead of heart failure, I would end up reading the articles to the end with growing irritation, then have to ask, So, where’s the rest of the story?

But now, there it is. Life will go on in Los Osos. Gee, ya think? The recently filed bankruptcy won’t have any effect on property values, will not change the basic CSD services of water, fire, trash. It will buy time for all the disgruntled, recalled, raging and dreaming knee-cappers, Sewer Jihadis, and miscellaneous Ox Gored Folks to line up and take a number so their issues can be examined and dealt with properly instead of the gang-rape pile-on that’s been taking place.

The Blakeslee Bill passed the Assembly and Senate and awaits the Gov’s signature and LAFCo will finish their orderly Dissolution Hearings on Sept 21st. Since their vote hinged on the passage of the Blakeslee bill (The county doesn’t want this red-haired stepchild back trailing all its woes), I can only presume they’ll vote not to dissolve since they got what they wanted. Then the process – orderly, organized, transparent (no sly thumbs on the scales), dull and absolutely vital if we’re to avoid another Sewer Train Wreck – of the County working with the community to develop a wastewater system the community will support, will move ahead.

It’s unlikely the RWQCB will come to their senses and realize that their Mad Pumping Scheme CDOs and the targeting of the hapless Los Osos 45, is wasting time and community resources while failing to mitigate so much as a drop of water, but here’s an alternative suggestion: Send out certified, return-receipt-requested letters to every single property owner within the Prohibition Zone stating: Have your tanks pumped, inspected, repaired, by an Official Septic Tank Personage, send all the Official Certified Documentation of the work done to the RWQCB and your name and property will be put on the bottom of the CDO list. Those who refuse to comply will hear from our new gimlet-eyed Prosecuting Grand Inquisitor.

My modest proposal would accomplish two things quickly (while the formal Septic Tank Maintenance District is being set up – a program, by the way, that the RWQCB was asked by residents to help put in place 25 years ago but never did): The Board (with copies to the CSD) will have, for the first time, a solid data bank as to tank and tank problems here, and any “hot spots” can be identified so suitable technologies and a coherent strategy of interim mitigations can be brought to bear immediately to mitigate any problems until the wastewater project can be built and put on line.

Far from the false picture that has been presented to the outside world, including the Water Board, Los Ososians are not a bunch of urine-swilling Moonbeam McSwines gleefully rolling around in the cesspool of their blighted Dogpatch. Even on a voluntary basis, I have no doubt that the majority of the community would pick up their phones within days of getting that letter to make an appointment with septic tank companies. Which means that even a voluntary plan would actually mitigate water, instead of just wasting years and resources wrangling CDO paperwork for 5,000 residents.

And so, the sun will rise. And set. The County and the CSD are moving ahead full steam on what the community hopes will be a new, improved, sludge-reduced, sustainable energy and water-savvy wastewater project. Another CSD election will come and go. Plenty of other practical problems remain to be solved – plod, plod, plod. In short, life will go on here in the Valley of the Bears, as usual. What a surprise.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Yes, it’s a Pop Quiz!

I was reading a comment an anonymous poster had added to a previous blog entry and was amused to read him/her quoting from the Regional Quality Control Board’s “Responses to Technical Evidence and Comments Submitted in Regards to Cease and Desist Orders, Los Osos,” dated April 19, 2006. It’s part of the Staff’s “evidence” documentation for the CDO “Trial” and is posted on their web site.

The document “rebuts technical arguments submitted to the Water Board by Designated Parties and Interested Persons regarding the 45 proposed Case and Desist Orders . . .”. The RWQCB staff wrote the document and asserts that as it is part of the evidence given at the “trial," it is true, accurate, factual, & etc.

What made the anonymous poster’s comments regarding this document amusing is that he/she was clearly unaware that I DID NOT say what it said I said. At the time, I had even written a letter of protest, demanding that the record be changed to reflect what I actually had said. Near as I can tell, the RWQCB staff has failed to do that.

So, here’s your Pop Quiz: Below is the RWQCB’s excerpt. That is followed by what I actually wrote. See if you can tell the difference between the two statements.

What the RWQCB wrote:

Another commenter, Interested Party Ann Calhoun, said that Dr. John Alexander has an effective on-site nitrogen removal system that has been proven to this “RB staff’s satisfaction.” Staff met with Dr. Alexander a few years ago and he indicated that his systems would not be applicable to residential use. Staff understands that the system is not commercially available. Approximately 15 years ago, Dr. Alexander pilot tested his galvanic agglutinator at the Morro Bay/Cayucos Wastewater Treatment Plant. The system did not function properly. Dr. Alexander claimed that the particular failure was due to the limited size of the project (pilot test was conducted with a 55 gal. drum.) Contrary to Ms. Calhoun’s claim, the system has not been proven to “staff’s satisfaction.”

What I actually wrote:

Furthermore, if your interest is in interim nitrate reduction of the basin (until the new sewer plant is built and running), I would urge your Board to require that your Staff certify acceptable enhanced on-site systems for interim use. [At this point neither I nor the general public knew that RWQCB Staff knew of and had already certified Dr. Wickham’s onsite Pirana system, the same one being testing now at the firehouse, for use outside the PZ.] For example, Dr. Alexander of Cayucos, has stated that he has a $4,000 unit that he claims will remove 98% of nitrates from septic discharges. He further claims that he has proven his tested results to the RWQCB staff’s satisfaction. IF THAT IS TRUE, then Dr. Alexander’s system would be a scientifically better alternative for removing nitrates than your pumping scheme, but it would not be financially better UNLESS you waive your $900 a year “discharge” and testing fees. In short, IF Dr. Alexander’s system actually works, the community would have a much better alternative, but ONLY if your Board made it financially viable.” (Capitalization and italics in the original)

You see the difference? The RWQCB stated, as if it were fact, that I “said” such and such. I didn’t. The RWQCB then has me “claiming.” I didn’t.

And most interesting, since the topic of the comment was interim onsite alternatives to their Mad Pumping Scheme, the RWQCB staff knew of other onsite systems. Indeed, the year before, they had already sent a letter to former LOCSD General Manager Bruce Buel letting him know that they had approved Wickham’s onsite system for use outside the PZ. The general public, however, was unaware of this letter and was unaware of Dr. Wickham. Yet, instead of noting that there were, indeed, other onsite systems that might be a better interim solution and responding to that, (this was, after all, a Technical Response” report) they distorted what I said, then set up Alexander, whom I used as a “for example,” as a false straw man to be knocked down, thereby leaving the reader (i.e. the voting Regional Water Board members themselves) with the (false) notion that there were no interim systems that would work, hence their proposed Mad Pumping Scheme was the only solution.

As a “Technical Response,” it’s hard to justify such scientific and technical dishonesty. So far as I can see, there are two explanations for what they did in this report: (1) The staff who prepared this Official document are incompetent and cannot read, understand and write an accurate précis. (2) The staff who prepared this Official Technical Response document deliberately falsified my comment in order to set up a false straw man and so deflect or eliminate the necessity of responding to the POINT of my comment, i.e. that there were, indeed, better interim alternatives to their Mad Pumping Scheme.

And that, of course, begs the most important question of all: If Staff was not able to get my minor comments right, What ELSE have they falsified or distorted?

Incompetence or deliberate falsification and distortion of the public and scientific record by members of the RWQCB Staff in order to rig a pre-determined outcome, is not a good thing. Their falsified, distorted, misleading “facts” then go up to the voting Board, which makes every effort to remain ignorant of or overlook any falsification.

And, ignorant of the falsity of the information it has received, that Board then has the unchecked power to vote to financially ruin a community and take away your homes.

So, what’s in a word or two? Plenty. Have a nice day.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Lawsuits 101, Sort of

In a Sept 9 Tribune letter to the editor, Los Osos Resident Dick Sargent wrote: “ On August 31, Los Osos Community Services District President Lisa Schicker reported on 15 pending lawsuits.

“Astonishingly, she repeatedly stated that “We are (only) defending the citizens of Los Osos.

“What a brazen attempt to dismiss legal repercussions to her board’s reprehensible fiscal conduct! Los Osos citizens have been betrayed and worse, are being misled by the Los Osos Community Service District’s “cover-up” campaign.”

Mr. Sargent wasn’t at the August 31 CSD meeting for a reading of the lawsuits, with brief explanations as to what they’re about, so maybe he missed some of the information before writing his letter. The full list was printed in the agenda and was available at the table for members of the public.

Here, with notes I made at the time as to what they are about, are the lawsuits. By my count, 4 of the 15 suits were brought by the CSD against other persons/entities, with one of those five considered a “friendly” adjudication with all the water purveyors to decide how to allocate water being sold in the basin. (This actually shouldn’t be on the list if the list is considered an “adversarial” list, but it is a “lawsuit,” so I’ll leave it on. Another questionable “adversarial” is a case over easements for sewer pipes for the old project, my presumption here is that it’s a matter of settling over price, etc, while another was a personnel matter having nothing to do with Sewers but having to do with gender bias by the “old administration.”)

The Bankruptcy filing I’m putting in the “neutral” corner since it is a direct result of the other 14 but isn’t filed “against” anyone, so to speak.

One of the more interesting cases to me, are the lawsuits brought by the construction companies who, if memory serves, were still under contract, said contract which they all signed said they agreed that in the case of any legal disputes to enter into mediated negotiations and arbitration, etc, before filing lawsuits, but they went ahead and filed lawsuits anyway and did so before any arbitration could be started and/or completed. Aw, so much for signed contracts, eh?

And, most interesting is the breach of contract suit brought by the CSD against the State Water Board over just exactly who pulled the plug and exactly when on the second chunk of the State Revolving Fund, since that was the banana peel on the top of the hill that started the rock fall. That one will be a legally interesting doozie.

1. Taxpayers Watch, Joyce Albright, Robert C. Crizer, Christopher Isler, v LOCSD, Appeal, (CV051012), Measure B (the lawsuit brought by TPW to toss out Measure B, still on appeal)

2. Taxpayer’s Watch, Joyce Albright, Robert C. Crizer, Christopher Isler, v LOCSD, Steve Senet, John Fouche, Chuck Cesena, lisa Schicker, Julie Tacker in SLO Superiour Court (CV050862) – public waste. (A lawsuit personally suing the individual Board members for “public waste,” has to be some kind of sick joke, methinks, and begs the question: Shouldn’t somebody have also filed the same lawsuit against Gordon Hensley, Richard LeGros and Stan Gufstafson, the recalled Board members who voted to pound millions of taxpayers dollars into the ground only weeks before the recall election even though they didn’t have to? Guess there’s “waste” and then there’s, uh, “waste?”).

3. Los Osos Taxpayers Association v SWRCB and LOCSD in SLO Superior Court – public waste and Prop 218 (This one’s also an interesting potential doozie: The SRF Loan was increased some $40 million without a current “revenue stream” and no Proposition 218 vote by the homeowners to agree to indebt themselves for the additional amount. At dispute is whether that Loan required a Prop 218 vote or whether all the additional monies could just be piggy-backed onto the original 2000 design/start-up assessment vote.)

4. LOCSD v SWRCB in Sacramento Superior Court (05AS05422) – breach of contract (SRF Loan) This is one of the doozies.

5. RWQCB v LOCSD in SLO Superior Court (CV051074) – Injunctive Relief Measure B.

6. Barnard v LOCSD (CV060094) – contractor action against LOCSD in SLO Superior Court. This is one of those interesting ones. Did their contract specify arbitration? If so, what were they doing filing a court action at this point?

7.SWQCB v LOCSD – ACL/TSO appeal to SWRCB. Four times at the ACL hearings, former CSD General Manager Bruce Buel was asked if the original Time Schedule Order set by the “old” CSD and the RWQCB to complete the (Tri-W- sewer system) was “reasonable” or “unreasonable” and four times Mr. Buel answered – “Unreasonable.” I presume that this lawsuit intends to pursue the notion that if the original time schedule was “unreasonable” then all else that follows is equally unreasonable and the time schedule really should have been changed to allow for equally momentous changes on the ground.

8. Montgomery Watson Harza v. LOCSD in SLO Superior Court -- CSD defending. Contractor dispute.

9. Corenbaum v LOCSD, Bruce Buel, Bruce, Bruce Pickens in SLO Superior Court. A gender bias case filed by a former CSD employee against former CSD employees. Not sewer related at this point.

10. LOCSD v Golden State, et. al. in SLO Superior Court. A “friendly” adjudication to parcel out who gets to sell what water in the basin.

11. LOCSD v Regional Water Quality Control Board, as designated party to individual CDO’s. The CSD asked for and was granted standing as a designated partywith the Los Osos 45, who had received CDO’s. Their legal case resulted in having the original case tossed out and started over, primarily because the original CDO’s were so goofy (legally) and so challengeable in a “real” court, that the Regional Quality Control Board figured they’d better start over and maybe this time do it right. When they do, the CSD will be there and hopefully, their case as a designated party, will also help the hapless 45 who are being “tried” (again) in what the Bay News is openly referring to as “a kangaroo court.”

12. LOCSD v Corr, eminent domain action in SLO Superior Court. Case regarding easements for sewer pipes.

13. Sturtevant v LOCSD in SLO Small Claims Court (SC060026) and

14. Merrill v. LOCSD in SLO Small Claims Court (SC060257) These two are a puzzlement to me. Presumably, they’re a request to have the person’s prepaid sewer fees returned, which is weird, since the “prepayment” was really only a partial “down payment,” so to speak, on whatever the final cost of the sewer would be. The HUGE balance of the cost was going to arrive in the form of a “service fee.” That the original payment was very, very tiny compared to the final “service fees” indicated to me just how “bait and switchy” this whole deal was, especially since the HUGE final amount never had a Prop 218 vote behind it. Whole thing reminded me of the old sales ploy: Only $9.99 [then in really small print . . . plus $2,000 handling and servicing fee, plus $10,887.45 applicable license and taxes and $4,519.99 extended service warranty contract.] Ironically, the new State Revolving Loans now require a Prop 218 before they’ll get out the door. So, what does that tell you about how the Tri W loan was set up in the first place? And certainly explains the LOTA lawsuit over the matter.

15. In re Los Osos Community Services District, United States Bankruptcy Court, Central District of California, Northern Division, Case No. ND 06-10548. CSD files for bankruptcy. (see previous posting, Bankruptcy 101 for notes from that Q&A at a CSD meeting)

In his letter, Mr. Sargent claims “brazen attempt[s]” and citizens being “betrayed and worse,” and “misled,” and etc.

Me? I see some really critical lawsuits that need a full hearing, for the sake of this community and the citizens that Mr. Sargent claims have been betrayed. As for “brazen,” “misled,” "reprehensible fiscal conduct," and “betrayal,” the betrayal and reprehensible fiscal conduct I’m seeing in the lawsuits listed above is of a far different sort than Mr. Sargent is alluding to. Far different.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Be There, Part II

Thursday, Sept 14, 6 pm in the South Bay Community Center, a CSD Workshop on “Water.”

This will feature the Cleath & Associates most recent studies of the upper aquifer, including information on the “emerging contaminants,” i.e. “trace elements” found in the upper aquifer. I for one am very curious about those tests and will be asking how the numbers of those trace elements compare to those found in State Water and SLO City Water.

Another question to be covered, Can we use the upper aquifer now to blend and use for drinking, thereby relieving some draw on the lower aquifer, which would help with salt water intrusion. Rob Miller, LOCSD’s District Engineer will be presenting various water conservation plans and upper aquifer use options.

Ron Munds, the City of San Luis Obispo’s Utilities Conservation Coordinator will present SLOTown’s Water Conservation Program with a discussion about how a conservation program for Los Osos can benefit from what SLOTown’s learned and is doing.

In short, it’s all about water, so I hope folks will show up with questions and will go away with some answers.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Bankruptcy 101, More or Less

At the August 31, CSD meeting, the bankruptcy attorney was on hand to answer some questions. The following is taken from my notes. I am not a lawyer and don’t even play one on TV. So far as I can see, Chapter 9, Municipal Bankruptcy, is a very, very complex issue and a lot of questions remain, but some issues seem relatively clear. Such as:

--Private property and the value of your private property will NOT be affected

-- If LAFCo votes to dissolve the CSD and the voters affirm that dissolution, Chapter 9 goes away with the CSD and the county assumes all the debt and liability and assets, something the County has made clear it doesn’t want to touch with a ten foot pole.

-- Repayment of any debt is based on the Districts “best efforts.” Basically, that means you can’t get blood from a stone. The creditors cannot jeopardize essential services to settle the debt. If the CSD has no assets other than those needed to supply essential services, then they’re a stone with no blood, so that’s that. Not clear is whether the community could set up some sort of repayment plan based on future revenue, or vote to assess themselves some “taxes,” “assessments,” or “fees,” etc. so as to repay the legitimate debts actually owed and so restore municipal credit-worthiness & etc.

-- In Chapter 9, the District can sell any assets it has, so long as that doesn’t jeopardize delivering the essential services. For example, it can’t be forced to sell the firehouse or water office to settle any debts, but if it has some extra land that’s not being used for anything, that could be sold to pay off the debt. Not clear, at this point, whether land and rights of way that can/will be used for a wastewater system are considered “extra” or would be “essential services” related, since wastewater treatment is an essential service.

-- The revenue from the previously sold bonds cannot be touched.

-- The District can hire professionals POST filing of Chapter 9, and the Court will review their payment, i.e. oversee the bill for their services to make sure the fees are proper and in line with other municipalities, etc.

-- Lawsuits brought against the District (in LOCSD’s case, the majority of the suits are against the CSD) will be “frozen.” Lawsuits BY the CSD to defend the community and the interests of the district, are allowed to proceed.

-- All unpaid-legal fees billed to the CSD PRE Chapter 9, are considered unsecured debt (i.e. take a number, get in line, good luck) (Julie Biggs, the CSD’s attorney has stated that despite the unpaid, “unsecured” debt still owed for all their previous work, they intend to stay in the trenches working for the CSD, which means, if they want to get paid for work already done, they’ll have to take a number like everyone else, get in line, and good luck). All the lawyer-bashing folks in this community might want to think about that for a while. RWQCB fines are considered “unsecured debt.” and repayment again will be based on “ability to pay.” (blood from stones, take a number, get in line, good luck.)

-- Not clear yet is the status of the CSD vis a vis their being a designated party in the CDO hearings. Defending their own interests (Fire house, water office, etc.) appears to be allowed, but it’s possible that they could argue before the Bankruptcy judge, that the cost of defending that CDO is damaging financially and threatens the budget, hence “essential services,” and so ask for a stay.

-- Pay Attention to this one: For individual homeowners who have or will get CDOs ( that means all of us in the Prohibition Zone), Chapter 9 will have no effect. Neither will dissolution or non-dissolution. Nor will the County taking over the project “save” anyone either. The only “defense” the community has is the CSD as “lead defendant,” and/or each person’s personal attorney and/or any “group” attorney hired by the Prohibition Zone Legal Defense Fund (private donations being accepted at the Coast National Bank.) And the only “hope” the community has is to contact the RWQCB itself to ask the Board to reconsider their Mad Pumping Scheme and instead come up with a Faster! Better! Cheaper! voluntary,(initially, later mandatory) interim Septic Tank Maintenance Program with a variety of mitigation efforts possible until a wastewater project can be built.

-- For the immediate future, the Chapter 9 judge could try to expedite the release of the now-frozen funds, which would ease the crunch. She will likely be calling all parties together to get a first-hand look at this tangled mess (Lord help her). Then, it’s a matter of setting up a reorganization plan, the trying and/or settling of various suits, the outcome of the Blakeslee Plan, what happens when/if the County starts on the wastewater plans & etc.

Since this is Sewerville, stay tuned.

The T.A.B. Conference

The Talk About The Bay conference at the Morro Bay Veterans Hall, Saturday, Sept 2, was well attended. SLO City Councilwoman, Christine Mulholland moderated. Featured speakers included Dan Berman, Program Director for the Morro Bay National Estuary Program, Peter Douglas, Exe. Dir. of the Coastal Commission, and Assemblyman Pedro Nava gave some excellent and informative speeches. Haydee Debritz, the UC Davis Researcher, brought along the results of her research into Toxoplasma Gondi (commonly known as “catch scratch fever” in humans) which is sickening and killing sea otters. I had first seen her several years ago when she started her research by addressing the “pet owning community” in order to get help with getting ahold of cats and cat poop to test. The research results pointed up just how complex this natural world of ours is and how many unseen linkages there are and how, like a game of pick-up-sticks, in science, when you pull out one stick ,two or three more may come along to point you in two or three different directions.

Come to think of it, all of the speakers focused more on less on just that: The importance of taking the long view, the critical issues of interconnectedness, sustainability, and the necessity of rethinking old paradigms

The conference was taped by AGP Video and will be replayed. I suggest tuning in and watching it. Most informative. And if you own a cat, and are unaware of Toxoplasma, you should take a look.

Peer Review

The following is a Press Release, Aug 29, 06, from the CSD. Am looking forward to reading the report when it comes out.

At an “It’s All About Clean Water” Town Hall meeting earlier this month, the Los Osos Wastewater Plan Update was presented to the public by Ripley Pacific. The milestone plan now goes before an even tougher audience: As the nexst step, the integrated approach to wastewater management will undergo independent scientific peer review from the National Water Research Institute.

The peer review service is part of NWRI’s mission to create new sources of water through research and technology and to protect the freshwater and marine environments. The review panel will consist of water and wastewater specialists from academia, private sectors, public utilities, and regulatory agencies.

“The focus, interdisciplinary objectivity and real-world expertise they will bring to bear will be invaluable in shaping and ensuring the best plan possible, “said Lisa Schicker, district board president.

The peer review process, overseen by District Engineer Rob Miller, is expected to be completed later next month.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Elections! Elections! Elections: Here’s the candidate statement for Maria Kelly, who’s running for the LOCSD. As noted in my previous blog entry, for those wishing to send them in, I’ll be posting candidate statements for those running for the Los Osos CSD Board in November. The posting are for information purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement of any kind.

Campaign Statement for candidate, Maria Kelly, Los Osos CSD

Strengthen local control of financial issues:
Ensure that a forensic audit begin immediately after the election to resolve financial conflict and proceed accordingly
Work towards restoring the Districts financial credibility by hiring qualified professionals who understand our unique challenges and our community’s financial needs
Hire professionals who support the concept of global community through local responsibility and COMPLIANCE WITH THE LAW
Restructure management at the District level that will allow for effectiveness and frugality

Create positive working relationships within the community, the District’s staff and other governmental agencies:
· Establish a professional and positive relationship with all outside agencies
· Support District staff by ensuring stable budgeting, providing equipment needs and adequate staffing
· Engage in ongoing dialogue with any outside agency who may be vital to resolving our community debts

Progressively support needed services for our Community’s evolving needs:
Work with community members, grant writers and the county to help us establish;
· Parks and a pool
· Funds and guidelines for our neighbors who need financial assistance for services
· Address and create a plan for potential ongoing water issues including aggressive conservation and continued exploration of all options

I believe in the Constitution of the United States of America and the State of California. I believe in the Democratic process of government entities and the trust that they hold. I believe in the prudent use of our burdened judicial system. I believe that it is the duty of an Administrative Agency to uphold the public trust and respect the responsibilities that the community has entrusted to them and to behave accordingly.

Respect for Local Control
Environment and our Future
Sensibility and our Safety
Order of Business
Reliability of Representation
Elect Maria Kelly for Los Osos CSD Further info: