Sunday, December 31, 2006

Letter from PZLDF

The following is a letter received from the Prohibition Zone Legal Defense Fund, regarding the Los Osos CDOs and all residents within the Prohibition Zone. I hope everyone in Los Osos living within the PZ will take time to read it. There’s some serious mis- and lack of -information going on out there , some serious muddlements occurring at the recent CDO hearings, the goal posts are again being moved around by the RWQCB, (check the wording of the latest post concerning up upcoming Jan 22 panel meeting) which changes the playing field, once again putting the residents in the dark and at a dangerous disadvantage. Caveat, Los Osos. Caveat.

Property Owners Didn't Blink; They Were Blindsided
Alan Martyn, Los Osos, President PZLDF (528-0229)

As members of the Prohibition Zone Legal Defense Fund (PZLDF)— a local volunteer organization—we thank the Bay News and Jack Beardwood for coverage on 12/13 and 12/20 of the Water Board’s prosecution of 45 Los Osos residents. We’d also like to offer some clarification on the difference between the Settlement Agreement (Settlement) and Cease and Desist Orders (CDO’s) the RWQCB is issuing.

First, the 25 or so LO residents who told the RWQCB they would sign an Agreement in lieu of receiving CDO’s may be surprised to know that the Settlement is an enforceable Clean Up and Abatement Order (CAO). A CAO is not much different from a CDO, and in some ways it’s worse.

Under CAO’s and CDO’s the RWQCB can impose fines of up to $5000 per day. However, under a CAO the law requires a mandatory minimum fine of $500 per day (Water Code Section 13350), unless the RWQCB considers special circumstances which it is not obligated to do. Although the Water Board originally included language indicating it would consider special circumstances, the final Settlement posted on its website did not contain the language.

Also, a CAO (the Settlement) allows the RWQCB much more discretion in how it deals with the homeowner and alleged pollution. It allows RWQCB or designated parties to enter a person’s property, to investigate the sources of pollution (or threatened pollution), to correct the violations as it deems fit, to charge the homeowner for all expenses, including administration costs, an to place a lien on the property if necessary.

If the RWQCB finds that property owners’ septic discharges have caused water from a well in the area to exceed minimum safe standards, the Water Board can require homeowners to provide replacement water. Theoretically—if the AB 2701 process fails and enough people in LO sign a Settlement—the RWQCB could build the LO treatment system and place liens on people’s property to cover costs.

Ironically, one of the most onerous aspects of the Settlement is the fact that it is a “settlement:” people supposedly have "agreed" to it (although they might have felt under duress). By agreeing to the Settlement (CAO), residents severely limit their rights to challenge any enforcement even if their home must be vacated in 2011. . For the most part, hearing rights are limited to the amount of the fines and liens, not whether they should be levied.

In other key ways, the CDO and Settlement are identical. Both require septic pumping and inspection every three years and hookup to a community system when it's available. Both require cessation of septic tank discharges by Jan. 2011 if the County does not approve an assessment by July 1, 2008; and both require the property owner to cease discharges within two years if construction of the project stops permanently.

Since both the Settlement and CDO potentially affect the value and use of property, homeowners are obligated to report them in transactions involving their property (e.g., sales and loans).

Because both enforcement measures hinge on County approval of a benefits assessment by July 1, 2008, people who sign a Settlement and people receiving CDO’s face potentially large fines and the possibility of having to vacate their homes, if the AB 2701 process hits the rocks or the RWQCB fails to approve alternative, individual systems for ceasing discharges.

One clear benefit of a CDO, over the Settlement (CAO), is that the CDO requires the RWQCB to provide recipients “…current information on successful and economical water quality control programs…and information and assistance in applying for federal and state funds necessary to comply with the cease and desist order.” (Water Code Section 13301.1). In other words, CDO language requires the RWQCB to support LO in its effort to find an economical solution to its waste water problems.

Any LO resident who agreed to sign a Settlement may have a last chance to reconsider. The RWQCB changed the Settlement at the December hearing, so people have a chance to review and agree to changes before signing an amended settlement. If you haven’t signed the amended agreement, there’s still time to consult an attorney, ask more questions, and change your mind if you desire.

Anyone with questions about the CDO's or impending Water Board actions against LO residents can contact PZLDF at 534-1913 and will be put in touch with volunteers who can help sort out the regulatory maze.

The vast majority of LO residents want a community wastewater system, and they support the AB 2701 process. They are also willing to have their tanks pumped and inspected voluntarily until they can hook up to a community system (requirements in the Settlement and CDO). Of course, individuals don’t have the ability to build a community system. Therefore, PZLDF considers the RWQCB actions to be unreasonable and unnecessary. PZLDF is also concerned that the RWQCB’s actions will threaten the AB 2701 process by putting unreasonable timelines and conditions on the County and LO citizens. To protect the rights of individuals as a group in LO, PZLDF has attempted to negotiate a fair settlement with the RWQCB, and we are in the process of appealing CDO’s to the State Water Board, and considering a court action for the future.

Because the RWQCB has stated that they intend to issue CDO’s or CAO’s to all properties in the Prohibition Zone, we urge property owners in Los Osos to make a generous donation to PZLDF to help those who are facing or will face the actions of the RWQCB. Checks can be made out to: Prohibition Zone Legal Defense Fund or PZLDF. Your donations will be used for the defense of the group of people who have received or will receive proposed enforcement actions by the Regional Water Quality Control Board. Donations can be sent to:

P.O. Box 6095
Los Osos, CA 93412

Friday, December 29, 2006

Los Osos CSD Lives To Stagger Forward Another Day! Regional Water Quality Control Board Pulls A Bait & Switchy. It’s A Humpty Dumpty Moment! Again!

I had a prior commitment on the evening of Dec 28, but did manage to poke my head in about 9 pm. to hear some of the public comments concerning discussion of dissolution by the CSD. New Board member Joe Sparks noted that the Board was examining all options before it, including dissolution, because they had a duty to ensure the “maximum protection of the homeowner,” which had me muttering under my breath, “Too bad the recalled Board didn’t exercise that “duty” when they voted to gamble with the homeowners’ money by pounding it into the ground before the recall, thereby losing a bundle and precipitating the present mess. "Oh, well.

I can only hope that the County and the CSD will not all collectively lose their marbles and will realize that an “alive” CSD able to deal with its debts and responsibilities will be better than a Dead Duck and so work out a win-win compromise regarding assets and the apparent muddelments to be found in Blakeslee’s bill.

It should also be apparent, that an “alive” CSD with sufficient assets to defend and challenge and so offer the “maximum protection of the homeowner” mentioned by Mr. Sparks from various lawsuits and claims that may be improper or false, is the ONLY protection those homeowners have. Does anyone think the County would give a foodle about, for example, finding out whether a loan was illegally or improperly written in the first place and hence may well be invalid? Or just who DID pull the plug on the Breach of contract SRF lawsuit and . . . exactly when? You know, fun questions like that.

Speaking of Fun.

In their latest posting, The Regional Water Quality Control Board is following in the tradition of Humpty Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland’s Through the Looking-Glass: “When I use a word, “Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “It means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

The left-over CDO recipients will be tried and beheaded Jan 22 by a “panel,” instead of the full board, which means their verdicts (Guilty! Guilty! Guilty!) will have to be conveyed up to the full board and voted on . . . later .. . Which makes me wonder if the game now hasn’t changed (again) to “I Know, Let’s Do The Panel Thing As A Way To Drag This Out And Thereby Keep Anyone From Getting Anywhere Near A “Real” Court For As Long As Humanly Possible Because A “Real” Court Might Just Toss This Entire Mess Out On Its Ear Thereby Making Us Look Bad.”

But here’s the real Humpty Dumpty moment. The original CDOs were justified by the responsibility claimed by the RWQCB to protect natural resources and the environment, to prevent “discharge of waste that could affect waters of the state,” and so forth.

Now, on Page 4 of their Notice of Panel Hearing posting, the game has changed utterly. “The Water Board does not have to find that discharges from subsurface disposal systems within the prohibition zone are causing or contributing to conditions of pollution or nuisance in order to issue Cease and Desist orders for discharges of waste that violate the prohibition.”

See? Gone. Zip! Poof! There’s now nothing whatsoever about the waters of the state. You could put in a brand new septic tank and system, run a garden hose of fresh drinking water through it and whatever came out the pipe of this brand new septic tank (fresh drinking water) would render you GUILTY of violating the Prohibition Zone and hence, KaZAM! you’ll get a CDO slapped on your property.

Weirder still, the “Settlement Agreements” already signed still says that if you propose an “alternative method of ceasing all unpermitted discharges,” “If the alternative involves a discharge of waste that COULD AFFECT WATERS OF THE STATE, . . .” you need a report and permit and mitigation & etc.

So, we have an (old, signed) settlement agreement that is based on something affecting the waters of the state, and a NEW! Improved! document that will be used to try and convict the remaining CDO recipients with nary a mention of any waters anywhere. Doesn’t matter if Property X’s discharges are not doing anything whatsoever to the waters of the state. No need for evidence that anybody’s polluting anything anywhere. Nope. Simply change the language and, Poof! Anyone living within the boundries of the prohibition zone is . . . GUILTY! Period. Hang ‘em!

Ah, Humpty Dumpty would have loved it!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Quick, Get Me Rewrite! No, Get Me An Editor! No, Get Me Some Dramamine; This Spin Is Making Me Sea Sick!

Despite being busy with Christmas, I hope everyone noticed the absolute dead silence from the Tribune on the Regional Water Quality Control Board’s Holy Inquisition & Captain Kangaroo Court Trial Of The Los Osos 45 on Dec 14 &15. Didn’t read a peep about it. Then, got so busy with Christmas that the Tribune’s Dec 24, 06 story on the hearing darned near slipped past my notice.

Of course, it probably slipped past much notice by anyone in Los Osos because it was spun and framed in such as way as to be unworthy of any notice. I mean, consider the headline: “Some Los Osos homes told to end septic use.” “Water quality regulators send cease and desist order to 14 residents.”

Gee, why would anyone, even Los Osos folks, even bother to read further? Sounds like some run-of-the-mill matter affecting a small number of people, no need to anyone in town to pay attention. Turn the page.

Not a peep about how these people have been put through a year of hell, moved goal posts, an Alice In Wonderland forest of changed and constantly changing rules, changed dates, tossed out paperwork, stress that put some of them in the hospital, their lives in total disarray, all totally unnecessary. Nope, not a peep. Just a bland reference that the Board will require the 14 “. . .to hook up to a community wastewater treatment facility within 60 days of availability.”

See? No problems here, no need to inquire further, ask no questions, move along, move along, nothing to see here.

Every time the Tribune does this sort of “blanding” and diminishment of a story, (aka “spin”) I always have to ask myself, Why? Why does the Editor want the residents of Los Osos to think that this hearing only affected 14 people, that everything’s fine, that they don’t need to read further, turn the page. (This is the same paper that puts on the front page a domestic squabble that ended up with one person wounded. But a whole town threatened with a disruptive administrative “trial” that could result in them losing their homes gets blanded and whitewashed and diminished into Snoreville.)


Meantime, the CSD’s Thursday meeting will consider whether the CSD can commit seppuku. Or just allow the County to kill it off while leaving no fingerprints and claiming no responsibility (Nuh-huh, wasn’t me. It was Miss Scarlet in the Library with a Candlestick). Alas, I have a long-standing, unbreakable commitment to be in another place at that time, so can only try to get there late in hopes that the deed is not already done and thereby miss what may well turn out to be an important meeting, with important issues to be resolved.

The most important of which is this: IF the CSD dies, will that make recalled Board member, Gordon Hensley, happy . . . at last?

Sunday, December 24, 2006

. . . While Visions of Sugarplums Danced In Their Heads . . .

While 4,500 clueless people in Los Osos – those in the gun sights of the RWQCB but oblivious of same – go about their happy Christmas preparation, below is some correspondence from one The Los Osos 45 to Michael Thomas, RWQCB. The RWQCB’s foregone conclusion, kangaroo court hearings may or may not be on January 22 (there have been so many continuances, scuttled plans, moved goal posts, changed rules, violated due process, citizens jerked around for a whole year, who can say what this Board or staff will dream up next?), so this is how the Moylans will be spending THEIR Christmas Vacation.

If you’re one of the 4,5000 clueless, you might want to read this correspondence and think especially carefully about Bev’s final Dec 20, 11:01 pm. email, paragraph two, three and four. Then you might want to hoik yourself down to Coast Savings next to the Post Office and donate funds to the Prohibition Zone Legal Defense Fund, a small group of CDO recipients who are working hard to protect your due process rights (you’re next, trust me on this one,) and continue to work for a win/win alternative settlement, since the settlement agreement presented to the Board at the Dec 14 hearing, has some really dangerous legal traps imbedded in it, traps I would bet the farm the signers of same were totally unaware of, especially since some of those promising to sign hadn’t even read a final version of same. Talk about “duress,” this agreeing to blind sign a “contract?” Not even sleazy used car salesmen are allowed to get away with that under California law.

I’ve re-stacked these for chronology. Posted with permission from Bev DeWitt-Moylan

Sent: Monday, December 18, 2006 4:35 PM
Subject: Los Osos CDO hearing

Mr. Moylan and Mrs. Dewitt-Moylan:
The Water Board continued your hearing to January 22 at 1:00. The Water Board also continued the hearings for Mr. and Mrs. Mortara (and two others) to the same date. We will send you a hearing notice for the January 22 hearing, including a list of the evidence submitted into the record at the December 14 and 15 hearings, as soon as possible.
Thank you
Michael Thomas

12/20/2006 6:50 AM >>>
Mr. Thomas,
Thank you for your message regarding the continuance of our hearing to January 22 at 1 PM and your promise to send by post a notice of the hearing and the submitted evidence list.
This hearing is scheduled, of course, in the middle of my teaching day when I would normally be involved in a session in Atascadero with a multihandicapped blind young woman and her parent. Just for your information her handicaps involve blindness, severe developmental delay, autism, and medical fragility. Following that missed session I will also be unavailable for a Braille instruction session with a blind third-grade student in Creston, and his teacher will receive no consultation that day.
As you mentioned to me in a recent message, government agency business supercedes any personal business of any citizen. As you may know, my service to the blind and visually impaired students of this county is governed by legally binding documents, called Individualized Education Plans. These documents are based on assessment and research. Negotiated and agreed upon at IEP meetings, signed by teachers, parents, school administrators, any advocates present, and any state agency representatives present, as well as by the student if able, the IEP includes the frequency and duration of my service to each student. The services provided in this document can hardly be termed personal business. My students are entitled by law under IDEA to this individualized educational plan. Parents and students of legal age are entitled to due process if any part of the agreement or its execution is in dispute.
Because of the seriousness of this legally binding document and because no one with my credentials is available to substitute for me in this county, I have accrued 184 sick leave days over the past 25 years with the County Office of Education. It is my practice to serve my students. I am bound to serve my students. Attendance at professional development sessions, such as the class in trauma in children which I attended in Carlsbad last week has the function of improving my level of service to my students and their families and to school personnel. Two of the three days of this intensive class occurred on the weekend.
At least four teachers of students with special needs are among the first round of citizens in receipt of CDO documents, and at least three of us are bound in our service by Individualized Education Plans. As a state agent and public servant, you respect the authority of regulations that govern how you conduct the business of your agency. As a San Luis Obispo County Office of Education employee and public servant I respect the authority of the regulations that govern the education of children.
Though it probably goes without saying, I hope I have conveyed through these comments the seriousness of the RWQCB's overriding the requirements of my public position, requiring me to leave my students in the middle of my teaching day yet again, in order to comply with the requirements of your agency.

Thank you,
Beverley De Witt-Moylan

Wednesday, December 20, 2006 5:09 PM
Subject: Re: Los Osos CDO hearing

Mrs. Dewitt-MoylanIt is difficult, if not impossible, to schedule hearings at a time that is convenient to all participants. Would it be better to have your hearing later in the day on January 22?

Michael Thomas

Wednesday, December 20, 2006 11:01 PM
Subject: Re: Los Osos CDO hearing

Mr. Thomas,

Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your question regarding my ability to attend the CDO hearing at a later time on January 22, 2007. As an itinerant consulting teacher I fully appreciate your comment regarding the difficulty of scheduling hearing dates and times acceptable to all participants. My professional position as a Vision Specialist requires that I develop a personal schedule that accommodates the schedules of many other specialists involved with my students, a schedule that also coincides with each school's schedule. Each year, and in some cases more than once in the school year, through cooperation and compromise specialists are able to formulate a matrix that meets our need to schedule our own individual sessions while best serving the goals and objectives of each student. We are all well aware that the goals and objectives drive the process, and so we are able to come to agreement to facilitate the outcome we all desire, which is the program that best benefits the child.

I do not need to tell you that had the water board followed the procedure of notifying citizens first of perceived violations, the subsequent complicated repeated scheduling and rescheduling of hearings would not have been necessary. The interference in the individual lives and schedules of dozens of extremely busy homeowners and their families would not have been necessary. The difficulty of your accommodating a variety of schedules could have been avoided altogether.

Imagine what could have happened if a spirit of professional cooperation and compromise had prevailed. Your board, which has no money for a mediator or for vidoetaping the hearings, would not have had to spend hundreds of staff hours and thousands upon thousands of taxpayer funds conducting the CDO hearing process to which you are committed and in which you have been engaged for almost a year but have yet to complete the processing of just 45 of the almost 5000 properties. Instead of a mere 45 properties, many more homes would have already pumped, inspected, and repaired their septic systems, as your board desires, had they been notified a year ago of a violation and given an opportunity to mitigate through the same process your board ordered in the CDO. But instead, your executive officer determined to follow the much more rigid and difficult CDO process, bringing with it the potential of years of litigation with no mitigation in a process easily conceived whose outcome now is uncertain.

If the water board has difficulty scheduling hearings to accommodate all those involved in this so-far abortive process of CDO enforcement, if the board is in financial difficulty and cannot pay for services like a mediator, then the board might consider achieving compliance by an avenue other than the CDO process, which has proven so much more expensive in taxpayer funds, personal funds, staff time, and personal time for those in receipt of CDO documents.

With regard to my schedule on Monday, January 22, my duty day extends through 4:30 pm. I will complete a Braille session with a third grade student in Creston at 3pm. Because I drive a SLOCOE vehicle, it is necessary for me to return it to the office on Highway One before I would be able to drive across town to the water board site. The drive from Creston to the County Office of Education takes 45 minutes. I would be able to leave the office between 3:50 and 4 pm depending on traffic, and could probably be at the RWQCB site before or by 4:30 pm, depending on traffic.

Thank you,

Beverley De Witt-Moylan

Friday, December 22, 2006

Correction: There is a corrected update to the 12/21 posting, "Quick, Watson . . ." for those interested.
Calhoun’s Can(n)ons ,The Bay News, Morro Bay, Ca, Dec 20, 06

Solstice Nights, Sloughi Dreams, Reprised

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly: The essential is invisible to the eye.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“Wooo,” said Qarima Zuri Sana McGurk, peering out of her crate at the end of the Northwest Airlines luggage carousel at LAX. “Uhnnnrrrrooo?”

Exactly one year ago, I had written in this column, “Sloughi, the whispered prayer to the Dog Gods of the Desert, that this time they will hear and will allow the awaited puppy’s soul to fly from the North African Deserts to the kennel in Iowa for a spring birth. And from there, Inshallah, a small representative of the prized hunting hounds of the Berber tribesmen will arrive in Los Osos, all wobbly knees and elbows, to join the pack. . . . And once again a new year may begin with a new life ready to piddle on the floor, dig holes in the sandy back yard, race with a new family in the dog park, and spend a puppyhood sniffing the sweet chaparral of a California spring.”

But things didn’t work out quite that way. They never do. The old saying still holds true: Man plans; God laughs. For over a year the household has waited for Zuri, and in the way of things, there were delays; a mis-mating, a birth that went tragically awry, and at this end, the sad unexpected losses of three of the Basenji elders, poor Finn MacCool, the rescued greyhound, miserable with his torn skin stapled up, wandering around in a protective but decidedly unfashionable tee-shirt, and me returning from LA. with a new puppy and a ferocious head cold.

As ever, the imagined Sloughi dreams of a year ago were very different now. But, finally, there she was, not a spring puppy, but a winter gift, a new beginning, the light of life coming at the darkest night of the year. Wooo.

And in the house, once again the brave nutcrackers gleam in the Christmas lights, but this year they have to peer over huge sheets of cardboard cable-tied together, an effect that makes the house look like Christo has arrived to wrap it up as an art project. Not an elegant look, but one that is a very effective way of living with a new puppy while keeping her safe and all my books and papers and CDs . . . and electrical cords . . . away from curious little teethies.

And so begins our winter journey. The California days and nights won’t be as cold as her Iowa home, but she will be surrounded by her new family and new territory to explore. Already she has discovered the boundless joy of digging big useless holes in the sand just to get a heady sniff or two of the big fat nothing that’s found in the bottom. Already her lithe, sleek black body has marked out a byzantine route through the various shrubs in the back yard, looping over and under and through, pursued by Archibald McDog and Finn who probably think she’s a weirdly colored rabbit to be chased. They have no idea that in a few months, she will be the one giving them a run for their money, after which she’ll turn on a dime and give them nine cents change.

If this small household has received a winter’s gift, new life, a new beginning, then perhaps it’s possible for me to wish that every household will have some small measure of the same, some light in the winter’s darkness.

In a world constantly filled with greed and murder and infamy, a world blindly sleepwalking towards its eco-doom in the winter dark, it is the ancient tale of Pandora that comes to mind – not the box of evils that she unwittingly loosed on the world, but what was left in the box at the end: Hope.

That is the thing that lights the Yule log, that illuminates the Chanukah candles, it is the blinding spark in Bethlehem, the warming glow of all the winter celebrations everywhere. It is Hope that sings of angels seen on high, and keeps a small child waiting for Saint Nicolas and the sound of bells, of improbable reindeer hooves on a roof.

And it is Hope that out of the darkness there will come new beginnings, even if it is only in the form of a small puppy that greets the world with a soft, “Wooo.”

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Quick, Watson, Hand Me That Flyswatter, There’s A Great Big Irony Flying Around The Room

The Dec 20 Bay News reports, “Richard LeGros, who was one of three members of the CSD Board of Directors ousted in a September of 2005 recall election, was appointed by Peter Anderson of the Office of U.S. Trustee, an arm of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. . . . LeGros is one of three people who were selected to serve on the Creditor’s Committee. He said, ‘the purpose of the committee is to ‘work with the debtor to put together a viable and fair debt reduction plan.’ . . . LeGros said he was appointed to represent Taxpayers Watch, a group that seeks to have a sewer built as soon as possible. Taxpayers Watch failed in its efforts to have the district dissolved despite a very successful petition drive calling for the district’s demise. . . “. and . . . “The CSD was ordered to pay some $39,000 for legal expenses to Taxpayers Watch’s attorney, Kate Neiswender, for being on the losing end of the court battle over Measure B.” . . [Uh, which means he’s an official representative of a debtor while serving on the committee that is overseeing the bankruptcy reorganization so as to pay back debts owed to debtors, like Taxpayers Watch, of which he’s an official representative?] . . .. and . . . “At least one member of the current CSD board is not happy with the selection. ‘I’m outraged,’ said Julie Tacker. ‘I find the irony incredible. His collective decision making prior to the recall election to proceed with the project is part of the ripple effect that causes bankruptcy now.’”

NOT more fully explained was that Mr. LeGros, while still on the recalled Board, voted with the Board majority to start work on the Tri-W project weeks before the recall election, thereby imprudently gambling with millions of the taxpayer’s dollars that the recall would fail. He lost that bet and lost the taxpayers’ millions. Ironically, it was a choice he didn’t have to make. One vote would have held the start of construction until after the vote was taken. Instead, the money was pounded into the ground, one of the precipitating events that helped lead to later insolvency.

NOT mentioned at all was that Mr. LeGros, while still on the recalled Board, voted with the Board majority to file suit to block measure B from ever getting on the ballot, an incredibly ill-advised and fiscally imprudent move that cost the taxpayers a bundle to settle or face an even more horrendous court-mandated bundle had the new CSD not settled, a settlement that was yet another precipitating tip into insolvency.

NOT mentioned either is that Taxpayers Watch, of which Mr. Le Gros is an official representative, still owes the County about $27,000 in County costs for undertaking the dissolution process. [Correction: 12/21,06, Received from Noel King, an email that states, in part: "LAFCO is not a County agency, it is a State agency. When the County initiates business for LAFCO, we have to fund the LAFCO fees and other expenses just like any other agency. So, Mr. LeGros does not owe the County money."] [12/22 addendum: . . . uh, so TPW, of whom Mr. LeGros is the official representative, owes the State, but it still doesn't solve the following question: Will, or can the CSD claim TPW cost them a bundle and should pay up their share of defending against the dissolution action? ] It’s not known how much it also cost the CSD to defend against that process as well. Will the CSD, like [correction: LAFCO, not ] the county, present Taxpayers Watch with their share of that bill? If they do, then Mr. LeGros, as an official representative of Taxpayers Watch, serving as an officially appointed member of this bankruptcy committee, will be making decisions about a debtor in the Measure B case (Taxpayers Watch) and what should also be a target owing the CSD a bundle (again Taxpayers Watch), all while officially representing . . . Taxpayers Watch.

And finally, this:” An architect, LeGros said he will apply for a finance committee that is being created by the county to help with examining alternatives for a new sewer project. ‘I have extensive background in the operation of the CSD and its financial issues,’ he said.”

I’ll say!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Entry I:

Uh, Daddy, Why Did The Regional Water Quality Control Board Hold Two Days Of their Auto de Fe Public Beheadings & Weenie Roast Bonfires For The Los Osos 45 And The Tribune, The County’s Newspaper Of Record, Didn’t Carry, So Far As I Could See, A SINGLE LINE ABOUT IT ALL?

Daddy, Does The Tribune Wish The People Of Los Osos Not To Know Anything About What Happened At Those Hearings?

Why Not, Daddy? Why Not?

Entry II

On Monday night, Dec 18, in the auditorium at the Los Osos Middle School, the county held a meet’n’greet followed by a formal presentation to introduce the team that would be taking over the Hideous Sewer Project come Jan 1. Members of the public were encouraged to write questions on 3x5 cards, a few of those questions were asked and answered in public in the short time left after the formal presentation. The rest of the questions will be read by the staff and there are some plants mentioned that staff will put together a FAQ sheet as part of their community outreach.

Since this was simply Day One, so to speak, of a long process, it was premature to expect many answers. But the event was pretty well attended (as always, out of a community of about 15,000 people, I can only conclude that if about 200 show up, that’s considered a sell-out crowd.) The event was televised by AGP, so I can only hope that folks who didn’t know about the event or who didn’t want to bother to actually show up, will watch it on t.v.

So far as I know, there was no attempt to check weapons at the door, so everyone was on their best behavior. I’m sure the long knives of the various Sewer Jihadi Factions will come out later, Alas, as this process moves along. I can only hope that everyone can hold their fire long enough to see exactly what will get born here before they start killing everyone in sight.

And the best way for that to happen is for the rest of the community, oh, say, the 14, 950 non-Sewer Jihadi residents of Los Osos to pay attention, stay in the loop, stay actively ivolved and well-informed, no sleeping at the switch, because there will be no second chances here. If the Process promised by the county is followed, if all sly secret thumbs stay off the scale, the lights stay on, no weird aces up the sleeves, no bait & switchyness allowed, then the Process will result in a successful project.

Speaking of which . . .

On Tuesday, the 19th, at the BOS meeting, it was voted to start the process of setting up a TAC, technical advisory committee, composed of various “lay” experts to “vet” things as they move along. Interested people have until about the end of January to submit their applications to serve. The TAC meetings will be held under Brown Act rules, hence the public will be able to attend, make public comment & etc..

If any subcommittees are formed, it was not known if they would be open to the public as well. I can only hope that they will be at least open to public attendance, but they won’t have to be Brown Act, i.e. folks can sit in to watch and observe, but are not allowed to comment or interrupt. Any questions they might have can be reserved for the official TAC meetings, or can be asked after the subcommittee meetings & etc. That way, the meetings won’t be hampered, but will be transparent and open to public scrutiny.

And, finally, as a suggestion, let me throw out this: One of the key problems is the fact that the 218 vote will come BEFORE the “advisory” vote on what and where. Given the history of Bait & Switch, a lot of people are concerned that we’ll end up with déjà vu again and that if enough people get spooked, they’ll refuse the 218 vote. So, I offer the following: If the Process is followed correctly, there could be 2-3 projects that will survive, with pretty close “guestimates” as to their final costs.

I would then ask the County to enlist the services of the folks at the National Water Research Institute, the same folks who did the so-called “peer review” of the Los Osos Wastewater Management Plan Update, top experts in the wastewater field who have no dog in this fight, to “vet” the projects that are in the final running, and issue a report – a sort of Consumer Report that could reassure the voters that any or all of those selected are sound and will fly. That no matter which advisory vote later selects which specific project, the voters will have the added confidence that all of them are o.k.

I think that added investment in such a neutral final vetting will pay big dividends later down the line.

And finally

Meantime, the CSD Board has agendized for their Dec 28 meeting, whether they can commit seppuku by dissolving themselves right then and there, or whether LAFCO would intervene and prevent the blood from making a mess on the floor until a year has passed, or what.

If the answer is that they can disappear in a puff of smoke before our very eyes, then I might have the answer to a critical question that’s been going through my mind ever since the recall: Will the disappearance of the CSD altogether finally make recalled CSD Board member Gordon Hensley happy, at last? If so, what a post Boxing Day present! Gold in his shoes in place of that awful coal.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Unnhh, uhhhh, ooowwww, ooooh Nooooo, Pleeeeze, Pluueeeeze Mummy, Stop These People Before They Screw Up . . . AGAIN!

Remember in my 12/16 posting where I told you the Regional Water Quality Control Board, during their auto de fe public beheadings and burnings on Friday, started issuing CDOs on some of the hapless Los Osos 45 using a timeline with some critical start and election dates and somebody from the audience reminded them that the County hadn’t taken over the project YET, could possibly NOT take over the project even after a 218 vote, that maybe they should wait to check with the county to see if those timelines and target dates were still correct, or even issue the CDOs but hold them in abeyance until they could check to see that the numbers they were using were still accurate and up to date and the Board said


And slapped REAL legal CDOs on REAL property owned by REAL people based on UNVERIFIED numbers.

So, I go to the County’s first Workshop at the Jr. High on December 18, wherein the County introduced the various people who are and will be working on this project when they take over Jan 1, outlined some of the things they were going to be doing and the processes they would be using, and there, on a big board was




Even a small-brained chicken doesn’t walk out of its coop based on last week’s weather report, but instead sticks it head outside the coop door to check for ACTUAL rain BEFORE stepping outside. The chicken calls that “due diligence.”

Is that sort of due diligence by a chicken too much to ask for from a regulatory agency that has very real power to effect very real life & death decisions on very real people and their very real property in very real time?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

No, thank you, I don’t need to stab myself in the eyeballs with an ice pick for eight hours. I’m spending that time sitting here at the RWQCB “trial” of The Los Osos 45 instead.


It’s getting truly difficult to find the right words to describe what the Regional Water Quality Control Board and Staff are doing nowadays. Stupid? Incompetent? Indifferent? Pointless? Counterproductive? Appalling? Ridiculous? Sadistic?

Take the December 14 & 15, 2006 hearings where the first item on the agenda was to consider the PROPOSED “settlement” agreement crafted by The New Grand Inquisitor, Reed Sato, and about half of the Los Osos 45 who, at that point, had agreed to sign on. It was item #3 and I filled out a speaker card to comment on the PROPOSED settlement, you know, like Mr. Sato presents the agreement, the Board takes comments, then discusses and votes on whether or not to accept it as written or add critically missing stuff and send it back for re-negotiation, you know, like things that people might bring up during the comment period that need to be addresses so the agreement can be even better, or seriously look at items in the agreement that will cause real problems to the Board or staff or citizens down the road, you know, things that might have been overlooked since the negotiations were cut short by the Board so they could go ahead with this Public Beheading of The Los Osos 45 even though they and Mr. Sato were sooooooo close to a total win-win with a more considered settlement that could have avoided these ridiculous, wasteful hearings altogether?

So, the Board listens to Mr. Sato, brings up some concerns of their own, then votes. No public comment. Thanks for coming, shut up and go away, our minds are made up. Yes, we can see that there’s some real problems with this agreement, but we don’t care, let’s sign on rather than clean things up now, and if there’s problems down the pike, Oh, well, we’ll think about that tomorrow, and, Aw, gee, maybe we can improve things in the next round of agreements, Now, get the tumbrels here, let the public beheadings commence!

Would you call that kind of approach to a huge issue Stupid? Maybe that it showed a clear lack of foresight? Indifference? I think the word “amazing,” should get in the mix. Amazing that you had a Board and Staff that created and allowed to continue an appalling set of very poor decisions, [issuing CDOs to a whole community, clearly the wrong blunt instrument to use], let this original bad decision made by [CEO Roger]Briggs compound and grow, thereby wasting time and resources. Oh, and don’t forget we had the appalling observation that, while they’ve wasted gazillions on these “trials,” the first of which crashed and burned, they were “too poor” to afford a mediator. And now, they “run out of time” to really negotiate a great settlement, one that would save them even more time and money, so they can move to a totally unnecessary “show trial,” which, of course wastes more money?

What words can you possibly use to describe such behavior. I’m at a loss.

Certainly “embarrassment,” came to mind as the Show Trial & Public Beheading Portion of this Gong Show continued. Acute embarrassment for the staff, who once again had to sit there and get grilled and keep answering, “I don’t know, Uh, no, don’t know, Uh, no we have no evidence of nitrate discharges under Mrs. X’s property, no we don’t have any soil readings, no, no studies showing the nitrate ratio benefits to our Mad Pumping Scheme, no, there are no isotope studies linking septic tank X with groundwater pollution Y, No, no studies liking Property X with groundwater pollution, No, don’t know, uh, no never heard of that, uh, . . . . .”

Or changing their answers. For example, when Several Accused asked staff what evidence they had that property X was polluting the groundwaters of the state of California, the Chair and/or staff huffily replied that that’s NOT what was being charged, only to have the front page of their own CDO document read back to them and there it was, that pesky phrase. It wasn’t only, Are you guilty of “discharging?” but polluting the groundwaters & etc. Did pointing that out change anything? Not a bit of it. That would be a material fact and material facts in this public beheading had no place.

Even scarier, the Board apparently was unaware that these CDOs that they were issuing carried with them the clearly stated possibility (clearly stated in the RWQCB’s own documents) of criminal penalties, not just civil liabilities. When that was pointed out, the subject was changed or that clearly stated possibility was airily dismissed as speculation or some totally inconceivable far flung future possibility that certainly need not concern the Board now, so Move Along! Move Along! PAY NO ATTENTION TO THOSE PESKY BUNCH OF WORDS BEHIND THE CURTAIN!

[On day two, you had the utterly wonderful spectacle of people tried and beheaded in absentia, people who never bothered to return all the reams of paperwork sent to them at all, people for whom the Prosecution Staff had NO information, no statements, no response, no material facts, nothing, yet they were found guilty of polluting the waters of the State of California and beheaded. Case closed!]

Countering some of this weirdness was Mr. Murphy, the CSD’s attorney, who pointed out that using general, overall groundwater contamination studies collectively to require governmental clean up, collectively, is a legally valid tool. BUT, for individuals, using the collective model violates all their due process rights and presumption of innocence. He likened what the Board is trying to do with the individual CDOs on citizens living within the Prohibition Zone like the Highway Patrol issuing speeding tickets to a random number of people who just happened to be driving by a portion of the freeway where they had collective evidence of speeding. So, drive past that point on a given day and, ka-boom, you get a ticket, even though there is no evidence you were speeding, you just happened to be driving by that particular stretch of road. What are the chances that such a ticketing scheme would hold up in a “real” court? So, why is this “kangaroo court” forcing citizens to go through this song-and-dance when the whole sham may well be tossed out, but only, of course, after everyone – including the RWQCB—has spent and wasted big bucks?

Is “pointless” the word I’m looking for here?

But there the Board sat. Nobody said, “You know, ol Roger Briggs, who’s now out sailing somewhere far out of reach of any subpoenas, dropped us in this mess when he lost it and started up with this truly ill-considered Mad Pumping CDO Scheme even before the recall had been certified, even before the CSD and the State Water Board stopped the project, and so we didn’t want to lose face and look like idiots, so we didn’t know what else to do but just kept plodding down this wrong road because we couldn’t think of anything else to do. But now, we got our new Grand Inquisitor here and he’s one smart cookie who believes, as all really smart litigators do, in Settlements! Settlements! Settlements!, so instead of continuing down this wasteful path – remember, we’re POOR! We can’t even hire a mediator – let’s stop right here, put these Public Beheadings on hold, send Sato back to the community to work on this settlement agreement so they’ll answer some real concerns we all have, then come back for another look-see. We could avoid this whole awful, wasteful, stupid process altogether and let the community and our staff concentrate on making sure the County can deliver a great project that the community will support.”

Did that happen? Nope. Now, what’s a good word to describe that sort of obtuse behavior? Stubborn? Stupid? So many choices available, smart choices, yet the Board kept plodding down the same swampy road to nowhere complaining that their feet are wet.

Pleeeeze, pleeeeze, gimme a word here to describe that.

And while you’re at it, maybe you want to run some numbers? By the end of day two, about 27 people signed settlement agreements, an unknown number of the remaining 45 were tried and beheaded in absentia and the rest had their hearings postponed until possibly next month. It took most of the day to “try” and convict about 6-7 people. That leaves about 4,500 ++ left. Let’s presume half of those settle, now we’re down to about 2,300. If each “trial” takes about 15 minutes each, and the Board spends 1-2 days a month just on this issue alone, how many years will it take to process those 2,300?


Unnnhhh, mmmmm, ooooOOOOO, OH, UH, Arrrggguuugg, Urrrnnn, Oh Plueeeeeeze Mummy, Make The Pain & Nausea Stop, Make Those Awful Men Go Away, Uhnnn, ohhhhh ….

Several interesting lines of inquiry and/or testimony on Day Two and another of those jaw-dropping, gape-mouth moments:

First, testimony by Tim Cleath of Cleath & Associates (The Main Water Guys). Will the requirements of the settlement and/or CDOs that every resident pump, inspect and repair their septic systems as a short-term interim, reasonable mitigation (as stated in the RWQCB’s CDO documents as justification for the CDO) have any effect on the groundwater in Los Osos?

NO. No benefit to the water quality for this sort term. Installing a community-wide wastewater system will have a benefit to the upper aquifer, but it will take possibly 40 years to be realized.

Next interesting question of Mr. Cleath involved connecting well testing numbers to specific properties. Per Mr. Cleath, well tests were NOT designed to indicate what groundwater conditions were like a block away, that there had to be strong caveats in making claims that well data is linked to specific septic systems. (Exactly the assertions made by the RWQCB’s case: If you live within the prohibition zone, you are polluting the groundwaters of the state of California, period, end of sentence, exactly what Mr. Cleath, The Water Guy, warns against doing.)

And here’s the jaw dropping moment:

At several points in the proceeding, while the staff took time to clean the guillotine between each public beheading, it became clear that the Board was UNAWARE that The County HAD NOT officially taken on the wastewater project, they were UNAWARE that the target dates they were planning on putting in their foregone conclusion-CDOs were not yet “real,” that the dates they were using as triggers for further enforcement, dates that put real people in real peril of fines and possibly losing their homes, were also NOT real.

It was suggested that a prudent course of action was to continue with issuing these CDOs [legal and binding documents by any definition],but hold formally turn-keying them in final form until the County could actually give the Board REAL dates and numbers.

DENIED!. Instead, they guestimated at what they thought might be real dates and just plugged those in instead. Why ruin a great bloody show with, uh, actual “real” facts?

Verdict first! Evidence later! More tea! More tea! Move down! Move down!

And then there was this very interesting line of questioning by CDO recipient # 1034 of the Staff:

What proof do you have that less harsh methods (than a CDO) wouldn’t have worked?


What proof do you have you couldn’t achieve interim compliance with just a letter to the residents?


What proof do you have that I [#1034] won’t cease discharge or hook up to a wastewater system when one comes on line?

No proof.

And so forth. Clearly, the staff and the Board had a variety of methods to get the residents to “pump, inspect, repair,” including their own Resolution 32-12, passed years ago. They could have done something I suggested last year: Send notification letters to residents to comply and offer proof of interim compliance (pump, inspect, repair) and if you don’t, then we’ll issue CDOs on those who don’t comply. Very simple.

They could have invited Mr. Sato to craft an interim Clean Up & Abatement “settlement agreement,” send it out to all the residents and those who signed on wouldn’t get CDOs, those who didn’t, well, that was their choice.

They could have, as requested a year ago by the CSD, worked to turnkey a Septic Management District, as outlined in their own Resolution.

In short, they had many tools in their box. They had ample opportunity to re-think what they were doing, change direction, and yet they alone CHOSE to use the CDOs. Which prompted my constant question, Why? What words could you use to describe such action, such choices?

Finally, by Day Two I had my answer. The word I was looking for was this: Claimed Victimhood Via Faux Disingenuous Mendacity.

Of all the creeping horrors of watching the incompetent bumbling and unnecessary cruelty and waste that has gone on for a whole year, yesterday was the apex of it all, an apex that clearly illuminated the problem and the game here.

Quote of the day: [Since 1988, . . . “the [RWQCB]Board has patiently waited for something to happen. . .” said Board member Mr. Press, utterly ignoring the fact that the Board was the ONLY player in the room that had all the power to MAKE “something happen,” yet for years did nothing.

This neurasthenically weak and weepy observation of faux victimhood by the only people in that room WITH real power was followed throughout the day-long beheadings by blandly disingenuous statements from other Board members as to how helpless they were, how they hated issuing CDOs to poor old sick people, residents they knew full well were powerless to build a sewer plant on their own, how unfortunate it all was, how terrible it made them feel, but they had no choice, they could do nothing else, they were helpless.

It was a true Uriah Heep moment, utterly nauseating in its self-blinded mendacity.

Worse to come was when a CDO recipient, after presenting his case but before the GUILTY verdict could fall, after pleadings from his wife, decided to sign the “settlement agreement,” but stated he was doing so “under duress.”

This patently obvious, blatantly, blindingly clear and truthful observation caused the Board members to recoil in faux horror – Duress? DURESS? Why, we’re shocked – SHOCKED – that you could possibly think we’re coercing you into signing anything. No, no, we’re horrified that you would think that. True, you’ve just watched as one after another our verdicts have been raining down like a metronome’s beat – GUILTY GUILTY GUILTY GUILTY GUILTY GUILTY GUILTY –but we’re genuinely hurt and shocked that you would think that in your case, --which, by the way, you have a minute or two to agree to sign before we withdraw the offer and render our verdict –that our verdict won’t be the same as all the others. How could you possibly think this? No, no, we can’t let you sign that agreement if you feel you’re under duress. No, we must make sure that you’re signing that agreement of your own free will, that you WANT to sign that agreement, that you confess to us that it isn’t “duress” you’re feeling. So, may we suggest that, perhaps, if you used the word “disgust” or maybe say you’re signing while holding your nose, or say you think the agreement ”stinks” but you’re signing it anyway, but duress? Never, never, perish the thought.

AH, the Grand Inquisitor Moment, the auto-de-fe, the ritual kissing of the sacred relics, the confession tearfully but “freely” made, before being consigned to the flames.

All presided over by the saddened Bishops who were helpless to do other than they were doing, but who took comfort in the knowledge that although their victim’s body was claimed by the fire, his soul had been saved.

And as to the question of Why? To me, there are two clear answers: First, as Mr. Cleath made clear, the interim mitigation required of the CDOs will do nothing, but it does have the beneficial effect of making it appear that “something is being done,” thereby allowing the RWQCB to claim that, after years of doing nothing, see? We’re doing something over here. Never mind that it’s not effective on the waters of the State of California. That’s not the point; Appearance is the point.

But finally, at their heart, the CDO’s are the heavy hammer that is being used to force the residents of Los Osos to vote in the way that the RWQCB wants them to vote. Is that illegal electioneering? Voter coercion? Misuse and abuse of power? Duress?

Why, we’re shocked – SHOCKED – that you would even think such a thing.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Cut The Prisoner Down Again, We’ll Hang Him Some More In An Hour, or Maybe Next Month, Or, Like, Whatever . . .

Yep, The Los Osos 45 go on trial – again – Thursday and Friday, Dec 14 & 15 starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Regional Water Quality Control Board’s office on Aerovista Place in SLO Town. Maybe.

The Regional Board, making absolutely no effort to even pretend to be protecting civil liberties or due process (Bwa-hahahahah), have – again – changed the goal posts and rules, and disallowed new evidence from the defendants at the last minute with zip time to respond. (Judge LaBarbara will be making a ruling on, Wednesday night? Maybe? as to whether all this constant rule changing and jerking around – some more – by the RWQCB so totally jeopardizes the rights of The Los Osos 45 that he’ll issue a stay on this hearing. Is it too much to hope for that somebody sane does step in?)

The following is from a cc. of an email sent to the New Grand Inquisitor, Mr. Reed Sato:

“How can Chairman Young issue on the Friday before the Thursday that the Cease and Desist Order recipients are to go on trial a letter stating that most of the evidence that citizens are planning on using to try and keep from getting a CDO against their property is not being allowed? I just got this by email tonight (I work during the day) and I am sure the same is true for the CDO defendants. So they are given until tomorrow to respond? . . . There is not even an appearance of due process or justice here. To send a letter of this magnitude at this late date and expect a response by tomorrow is frankly laughable. You now must recognize that by the Chairman issuing this order that he and you have no other choice but to postpone the hearing for at least a month so that the CDO defendants have the opportunity to clarify why this material is important to their case. To do anything else will only add to the continually growing opinion that this entire CDO process was set up in such a manner that the outcome was determined before it even started. Please forward this email to Chairman Young and the rest of the CCRWQCB members. Hopefully some of them will also see the inequity of this recent development.”

Here’s an excerpt from Bev Moylan, one of The Los Osos 45, for a glimpse of what this Board has been doing to these folks for a year. Bev had asked for a continuance of her case so she could attend a class, a critical part of her job. The request was denied and she was cavalierly dismissed with, Oh well, the PZLDF group is represented by an attorney, so send her instead (Yes, sit in a room with absolutely NO indication when your particular case ill be heard, if at all, for two days straight? Especially when you’ve put your life on hold for a whole year, were ready repeatedly go to “trial” only to have the RWQCB Chairman pull the rug out from under you again and again and again? Oh, please.)

“As far as the matter of “choice” is concerned with regard to our attendance at the hearing this week, in this case there is no choice, per se. My husband and I were prepared for the April hearing. We were prepared for the May hearing. We were prepared for the November hearing. The water board’s agendizing of the April hearing and consequent failure to anticipate the amount of time defenses would consume, along with its scheduling and rescheduling of the continuances for that hearing have made it impossible for us so far to present our own defense. On this fourth scheduled date we are unavailable and unable to change our plans once again to accommodate the RWQCB’s newest hearing dates with no guarantee that the hearings will actually occur on those dates. On the other hand, I am certain that my class in Carlsbad will occur on the appointed dates.”

Bev further concludes:

“It is hardly fair, humane, or ethical for this board to expect me to relinquish my place in a closed class for the mere possibility of attendance at a hearing that may or may not occur. To represent that I am easily able to take this class at another time is grossly erroneous and completely misrepresents the truth of the matter. To require me to alter these plans for this class poses an extreme, undue hardship, and to deny me a continuance is to abridge my due process.

My husband, William Moylan, and I have already stated that we want you to see our faces and hear our voices as we make our own cases. We have the right to a hearing, and we have the right to be present at our hearing. We two, who have lived the CDO experience for over ten months, represent ourselves. It is not a matter of choosing or not choosing to attend the December 14 and 15, 2006, hearings. We cannot attend.

I also submit that you consider dismissing this enforcement action outright. The RWQCB has many reasons not to go forward with this proceeding, and few reasons to proceed. It is obvious that something is unusual when the chairman has quashed all subpoenas and denied all requests for continuances submitted by defendants, yet appears to uphold the prosecution team at every juncture. Chairman Young made an emphatic assertion at the April 28, 2006, hearing that the prosecution team is not the RWQCB’s prosecution team in its presentation of the case for the enforcement action against forty-five randomly selected Los Osos citizens. The chairman’s actions in regard to the prosecution of the Proposed Cease and Desist Orders in Los Osos, however, would indicate otherwise.

The water board continues to operate this prosecution under the false assumption that insufficient or no progress is being made toward a goal of a WWTF. In fact substantial progress is being made toward that goal. That the citizens of this town have proven time and again that they favor a WWTF outside the center of town is substantial evidence that we are in favor of a WWTF. You are aware of the recent independent peer review of the Ripley plan. You are aware of AB 2701. Plans are moving ahead continuously for a WWTF. To assert otherwise is to ignore what has taken place in this town in the year since the RWQCB issued Proposed Cease and Desist Orders.

Many property owners in the Prohibition Zone are already in compliance with the conditions of the Proposed Cease and Desist Orders. As you are aware many citizens have had their tanks pumped, inspected, and repaired. These actions alone ought to provide sufficient evidence that it does not require a Cease and Desist Order to force compliance by citizens. We value our groundwater. To threaten citizens with the loss of their homes if they have not complied with conditions outside their own control – i.e. TSO 2011 - is an unnecessarily heavy-handed approach. To make this threat against thousands of people, many of whom are not in a position to defend themselves, is wasteful and inefficient, given the amount of litigation over innumerable years it will engender for a board with no money for a mediator or for videotaping the hearings. Our continued movement toward installation of a WWTF renders the original rationale for the issuance of Cease and Desist Orders moot.

We are on the verge of a settlement agreement which could offer the best solution for both sides, if the water board is interested in mitigation of groundwater issues. Dismissing this Cease and Desist Order action in favor of a reasonable settlement agreement would appear to meet the water board’s goals while allowing citizens to remain in their homes, recognizing that individuals have no control over the agencies charged with implementing and completing a WWTF.

In conclusion, the water board has many opportunities to act with the benefit of the waters of the state and of the community of Los Osos in mind. Granting a continuance or dismissing this action outright in favor of a more contemporaneous approach, given the circumstances in place in Los Osos today, allows the water board to meet its goals while allowing citizens to continue to live in their homes and work toward a long-term solution in partnership with the water board, instead of in the adversarial postures necessitated by the current Proposed Cease and Desist Orders.

The first obligation of government is to protect our people.
– Senator Susan Collins of Maine "

Do I hear snickering in the back of the class? Protect our people? Whatta ya, nuts?

Next question, do these hearings violate the Blakeslee amendment? I mean, really now. Remember “standing down,” and working in a spirit of cooperation, and coming together to get the project built, a project that the citizens of Los Osos now have no control over since the County has taken over? Remember the Peer Review Workshop? The RWQCB staff was there, all in a spirit of cooperation. So what’s the point of the continued public hanging of The Los Osos 45?

I’ve always thought that a perfect example of a pointless, sadistic evil act is to chain a dog to a tree and then beat the dog . . . for not running away from the tree. Is that what’s going on here? If so, I will ask again: Why? What’s the point?

Friday, December 08, 2006

I Aim For The Stars, But Occasionally I Miss And Hit London”

Reading the Final Report of the Independent Advisory Panel on Reviewing the Los Osos Wastewater Management Plan Update and attending the CSD meeting last night presenting and discussing the same, I was put in mind of the above satiric riff on Werner Von Braun’s autobiography, “I Am for the Stars.” (For those too young to remember, Von Braun was snatched up by the U.S. after WWII and was instrumental in starting the U.S. space program since he was one of the premiere rocket scientists that Germany had and did indeed help develop the V-2s that did indeed hit on London.)

That satiric title kept running through my head, not because the report contained any bombs, but because so much of it sort of kept falling into the, Oh, Duh, category. For example, statement 3.3.2: “Given the number of problematic issues with the downtown site, it is the unanimous opinon of the Panel that an out-of-town site(s) is a better alternative.” Oh, Duh. Or, 3.2.1: “The STEP/STEG system is a well-developed technology and is a viable alternative to the gravity collection system.” Oh, double Duh. And I especially liked this one, 3.2.3: “Regardless of which type of collection system is selected, consideration should be given to the use of vacuum sewers (STEP) in low lying areas along Morro Bay.” Oh, very, very interesting. Speaks to the problem with traditional gravity pipes of infiltration and leaks in high-ground-water areas, something better controlled and monitored with a STEP system. Very interesting, especially since much of Los Osos has high-groundwater areas, and/or areas where the upper aquifer has risen too close to the surface & etc. If a sealed system is safer along the bay, then that begs the question whether it would be safer through the rest of the town.

Over all, the report (which is available at the CSD office and will be on their website and hopefully will be posted on the County’s website soon ( consisted of a series of statements of fact or expert opinion and or advice or consensus of the Panel, among whom was George Tchobanoglous, author of 13 textbooks and five engineering reference books, several of which are considered by wastewater engineers to be “the bible.” In other words, it was a panel of real experts with no dogs in this fight, not just five guys with spoons.

The report also wasn’t just some vetting of the Ripley Project or a comparison between Ripley’s proposal and the Tri W project, but it did contain some very interesting points and caveats which, IF FOLLOWED, could result in a successful project. Happily, the County was part of the panel, as were representatives from the Regional Water Quality Control Board. No member of the CSD Board was invited to attend, since this was to be strictly hands-off vis-à-vis any “political” input. I can only hope the participants were listening and will be paying close attention to some of the items. And I hope the members of the public will get a copy and read it too. And pay close attention.

Speaking of Paying Close Attention

The County will be holding the first of it’s Town Hall Meetings Monday and possibly Tuesday, December 18 & 19th at 6 pm (for meet & greet) 7 pm for the program’s start at the Los Osos Middle School. Be there. Early information and input and feedback and Getting Info Straight From The Horse’s Mouth is starting NOW. One of the reasons the Hideous Los Osos Sewer Project went off the tracks in the first place is because too many people in the community were asleep at the switch. I can only hope they won’t make that same mistake again. Just because the County’s “in charge” doesn’t mean this project won’t end up going in the wrong direction, again. Keeping it heading in the right direction is the job of everyone who lives here. No excuses this time.

Lawsuits, We Got Lawsuits, Again.

The Bay News reports that, “Los Osos attorney Shaunna Sullivan, on behalf of seven members of the Prohibition Zone Legal Defense Fund (PZLDF),” has filed a lawsuit against the Regional Water Quality Control Board, claiming that “the defendants [the harassed and exhausted Los Osos 45 and eventually everyone in the PZ, which means YOU, HELLO! WAKE UP! PAY ATTENTION! A TINY FEW OF YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS ARE PULLING AN ENORMOUS WEIGHT THAT IF SUCCESSFUL COULD BENEFIT YOU SO GET OFF YOUR DUFF AND MAKE A DONATION TO THE PZLDF ACCOUNT AT THE COAST BANK NEXT TO THE POST OFFICE IN LOS OSOS SINCE YOU’LL BE HELPING YOURSELF THANK YOU] are being denied due process and equal protection under the law by not being able to depose Briggs.” (Roger Brigs, former CEO of the staff of the RWQCB who’s out of the country (conveniently?) just as the kangaroo court “trials” are to begin Dec 14th and 15th. )

There’s also been procedural cock-ups, muddlements, date changes, procedure changes, more muddlements, all of which have resulted in ZERO IMPROVEMENT IN WATER, but HUGE costs for the Los Osos 45 and HUGE costs for the Regional Board.

The tragedy here is the Los Osos 45 (some of them at least) have been negotiating a possible win-win “settlement” that would avoid kangaroo courts, ginned up trials, and an endless trail of expensive court appeals, huge delays and wasted resources spent “prosecuting” the remaining 4,500 homeowners. In short, a settlement that could be offered instead to the entire community and could result in a streamlined process that could result in immediate ground water improvement by having everyone pump, inspect, repair all our septic systems and offer proof of same. Those few not in compliance could then be rounded up by the Board and shot. Their numbers would be small since I personally don’t know anyone who would refuse to comply with that sensible requirement, nor do I think you know anyone who would refuse. That settlement is sooooo close, yet for some reason, the staff and/or Board are balking and may (again) end up with a lose/lose like last year’s Mad Pumping Scheme that wasted a whole year’s time where real mitigation could have been taking place.

Wait, Did I Say Tragedy? Apalling Farce is More Like It.

Patrick Klemz, over at New Times this week, notes that the upcoming “Trials” of the Los Osos 45, wouldn’t be videotaped and broadcast by AGP Video because – are you ready for this – The regional Water Quality Control board is citing “budgetary shortfalls as the reason” for not video taping the “Trials.”

Budgetary shortfalls?

Excuse me? Excuse me?

This from the gang who wasted gazillions on their appalling Mad Pumping Schemes, “trials,” lawyers, paperwork sent and resent, including one utterly silly piece sent special delivery because of some mix up, more hearings, then the dumping of the whole original “trials” to hire a new Grand Inquisitor to start all over again, gazillions utterly wasted when all that board needed to do last year was a simple directive to the community, no need for CDOs at this point, no need to waste all that money in their shortfalled budget.

But Noooo. Money for all that waste, that they have. Taping their kangaroo court “trials?” Naw, too poor.

Excuse me?

As of this posting, the NT article notes, “. . .CSD attorney Julie Biggs and the law firm Burk, Williams and Sorensen had each pledged $500. According to AGP, water board staff also promised to secure a contribution. The broadcast outfit itself [AGP] plans to make its own sacrifices on a meeting-by-meeting basis.” . . . “We’ll be there,” AGP’s [Nancy] Castle said of the mid-month hearings.”

Hooray for AGP. Boooooo BOOOOOOO to the Regional Board. Hello over there. Hellooooo. You folks are soooooo close to a success, a real win-win success, an actual “I know, let’s do something to actually affect GROUNDWATER, not just paperwork” success. Please, Pllluuuueeeeze, ya gotta tell us why – WHY – you’re continuing to do everything in your power to screw this all up? Why? Makes no sense at all. None.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons
The Bay News, Morro Bay, CA
for December 6. 06

Winter Blooms

Not the least hard thing to bear when they go from us, these quiet friends, is that they carry away with them so many years of our own lives.
John Galsworthy, Memories

Situa, the sweet ancient Basenji matriarch of the clan died in September. She was nearly 18, doddery and befuddled, but determinedly on her game. The morning of her passing, she gulped her mush with gusto and when I checked on her a few hours later, she was gone. I would like to think that the Great Gravy Bone Train came for her that morning and, having had her breakfast, she climbed on board, off on a new adventure.

But in what seemed to be an awful episode of The Twilight Zone, within two months of her passing, the last of her children joined her.

Of all my Basenjis, that litter was a perfect example of what careful breeding and good genes can accomplish. Born of gentle Situa and a remarkable father named Champion Steven Spielbark (one of his owner/breeders worked for the film industry so their dogs’ names were always worth waiting for: Howl Pacino, Mindiana Jones, Raider of the Lost Bark), their bloodlines resulted in beautiful and beautifully tempered dogs.

And healthy dogs who enjoyed 15 years of excellent health until weeks before their 16th birthdays, when one by one, they went down. First was beautiful Rafiki, the proud Dauphin of Dogs, sweet, patient “Unca Meekie” to his grand-and-great-grand nephews and nieces. Then, within days came the call that his brother, Jameel, was gone. Ten days later, I held their sister in my arms as she slipped away, gentle M’tawi, with her large, soft dark eyes and the offset blaze down her wrinkled forehead that gave her a quizzical, split-faced look, M’tawi, the devoted mother and grandmother, who even took over many of the puppy duties when her own wicked daughter got fed up with it all. M’tawi was the sweetest of a sweet bunch.

All gone now, trailing the lost years and so many memories behind them. My Dog Garden will bloom with yet another memorial rock rose planted under the trees. They are hard, these sudden losses. Did Situa, lonely for her brood, call her children to her? And are they now all happily running through the African veldt under a blazing sun? Even that self-comforting pleasant fiction cannot stop the sad puzzle of how a house still bustling and bumbling with dogs can feel so empty with their gentle presence gone.

But Galsworthy is right. These quiet friends do carry away so much of our lives and memories. And remind us of how quickly our own time is passing, that the eternal footman is waiting for us, too, holding our coat. That even in the midst of a healthy life can come the fatal blow. That nothing is sure, that there is no future planned that cannot be undone in an instant. Mice, men, and dogs, the past, the future -- all are wheat straw in the wind.

The Mighty Finn MacCool, the tall, lanky rescued greyhound, whistles through his long nose as he nuzzles my hand, his tail slowly revolving like a crank handle. He has suffered the bane of racing greyhounds, an accidental tooth-scrape from his running buddy that unzipped his paper-thin skin and has left him painfully sutured and stapled and wearing a decidedly unfashionable baggy t-shirt over his awful wound. Finn has no use for sorrowful wool-gathering. He is looking for attention . . . now. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. Now.

He’s right. It’s a reality he understands perfectly, and the message he sends bears repeating: Now is all we have. So, waste no time dwelling on what has gone. Instead, kiss your loved ones on the nose every chance you get. If they’re four-footed, they will wag their tails or purr. If they’re two-footed, they will look at you funny. When they do, give them a biscuit.

Because, Time Past is irredeemable, and Time Present spent in grief is time that cannot be spent in joy. That is always the Lesson of the Dogs. Still . . . .

. . . Still . . . There, in that small word is the bitter blessing of being fully human: We cannot receive memory’s balm without its cut to the heart.

That too is the Lesson of the gentle ghosts who now sleep under the flowering plum trees.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Independent Peer-Review Report of Ripley [Sewer] Plan/Update/Whatever To Be Presented At CSD Meeting, Thursday, Dec 7 at 8 pm. (posted for 8 pm. on the CSD's front window, The Board will be in closed session before that so that may account for the delay) at the Los Osos Community Center, Los Osos. Hope you'll all be there. Take notes.

Friday, December 01, 2006

As Sewerville Spins and Other Ongoing Sillies

Been loving some of the letters to the editor lately. They qualify as “Astroturf,” i.e. letters supposedly from the “grassroots,” that are actually generated in an organized way around talking points from some group or other. The theme they’re taking comes from the recent Tribune “Viewpoint” written by the recalled and former CSD members, with the theme of “Woe Is Los Osos, Poor, Poor Tormented Los Osos, Oh, Oh.”

My favorite matching-themes letter is headlined by the Tribune, “Osos is going under,” with the author’s “pleading to anyone who will listen. Please help us, we are drowning in our own septic systems.”

Gosh, I’ve got to find out where those folks live and row over them in my small boat with a pail. Since the streets are filled with raw sewage and Los Osos is sinking into a slough of despond, it’ll be tough going, but somebody’s gotta do it.

Over at New Times, Patrick Klemz had a news update on “De-assessing the situation,” that included the note that Taxpayer’s Watch still owes LAFCO some $27,000 for costs involved with their attempt to dissolve the Los Osos CSD. It states, “LAFCO executive officer Paul Hood confirmed the delinquent status and said the commission is contemplating a lawsuit.” This qualifies as irony. Also note that the dissolution hearings, dragging on as they did, cost the CSD a pretty penny too. But so far as I know, the CSD isn’t suing Taxpayers Watch to get their money back.

But the best is last: “The LAFCO bill is a contractual disagreement,” Taxpayer Watch [Gordon] Hensley said. “With or without Blakeslee’s bill, they said they would have recommended against dissolution.

“Why should we pay for something that could have been decided on day one?”

Gosh, when Gordon was elected to the CSD, he knew – on day one – that the original Solutions Group’s Ponds of Avalon wouldn’t fly with the RWQCB, that the reports nixed it, from day one. Yet went on to spend tax money for a plan he knew from day one wouldn’t fly? He also knew that the “strongly held community values” of wanting Tot-Lots next to an in-town sewer plant listed on the SOC wasn’t backed up by any evidence. Yet he continued to vote for a project he knew from day one was operating under a phony SOC. And he knew from the de novo hearing exactly what the Coastal Commissioner meant by the words “bait and switchy,” yet he continued to vote to spend money when he could have stopped right then. And from day one of the recall, he knew he didn’t have to vote to start pounding money into the ground weeks before that election, he also knew he could vote to set the election date earlier than he did, but he voted to set it as late as possible, not to mention he also voted to increase the SRF loan some $40 million without any 218 vote, etc. etc. all things that cost the community dearly.

So, I say, “Why should WE pay for something that HE could have decided to nix from day one?”

The Tribune weighed in with an interesting headline: “County will try to block Tri-W sale.” Appears the County has filed a suit to have the bankruptcy judge block any sale of Tri-W. This story’s interesting because it makes me wonder exactly what hidden agenda is at work here.

At the final LAFCO hearing, several LAFCO members were jumping up and down in their seats over the idea that Tri W might be sold. Paavo Ogren, the sewer project manager went to the microphone, utterly sanguine about it all, to state that as far as he was concerned, the sale or non sale of Tri W would have no impact on his department’s evaluation of any project, no problema. And since the law says that the county must receive a first-offer, heads-up of any notice of sale, there wasn’t any way the site could be sold in the dead of night to some guy name Joe who arrived with $3.5 mil in a sack.

Now, the county’s heading into court, another version of jumping up and down in their seats, and the question is, Why? Especially since, to my knowledge, there are no buyers of Tri W, (not even the county) and the CSD board has not voted to sell it, indeed, there may even be a board majority consensus not to do anything until the county’s full site evaluations are in – in other words, everybody get their fingers off the scales. So, why the county’s suit? What’s really up? More hidden agendas?

Proof positive of just how hard this project’s gonna be, when there are so many agendas, so many hidden agendas, so little trust (alas, often with good historic reason) and so many sappers scuttling around with their little shovels.

Meantime, the Tribune printed another “Viewpoint,” this one by newly elected CSD Board member, Joe Sparks. He closes his essay with this: “The election reflected the eclectic and diverse community that makes Los Osos a great place to live. In contrast to previous elections, I will be a director elected to our Los Osos Community Services District who did not advocate or oppose a specific wastewater project in the election. That in itself is a remarkable statement by the voters that our community can indeed compromise and move ahead.”

Compromise and move ahead? Quel novel suggestion.

And finally over at Sewerwatch ( Ron Crawford’s having fun. Kneecapping, indeed.

His blog entry raises a question about the recalled directors, Gordon Hensley, Taxpayers Watch, the “Dreamers,” et al. What is the driving force behind their relentless kneecapping of the CSD and the citizens (remember the wonderful secret email to Roger Briggs of the RWQCB to “fine the CSD out of existence,” apparently forgetting that the sender was really asking that her friends and neighbors be “fined out of existence.”) And, for Heaven’s sake, didn’t recalled Director Gustafson move to Iowa or something? Yet there he is a co-signer on the recent, “O Woe” Viewpoint? What’s that all about?

After the election I wrote a column suggesting a Medean fury at work, not to mention a battle between the Dauphins and the sans culottes.

You would think that after the recall, after the recent dissolution failure, after the Blakeslee bill took the sewer project out of the CSD’s hands, after the failure to elect a TP majority “slate,” these folks would say, “Well, O.K, we gave it the old College Try and failed so maybe the majority of citizens are looking for another way, so maybe we need to stop knee-capping and sit down and figure out some solutions that will work for the whole community.”

But that doesn’t seem to be happening, so I’m beginning to wonder if these folks aren’t stuck in one of those Grade B movies wherein the ruling junta gets ousted from Clopkovnia by the irate citizens making ugly crowd noises and carrying pikestaffs and brooms, whereupon our little deposed band settles in nearby Plotznovia where they spend years in grubby penury holed up in a dismal shack somewhere filing endless lawsuits and scribbling tracts and dreaming of the day when they can gather a glittering army of millions to invade Clopkovnia, build their centrally located, magnificent crenellated and be-jeweled Tri-W Sewer plant, -- Avalon, at last! –“take our town back,” and thereby restore the rightful kings!

Meanwhile, Clopkovnia is trying to move ahead in a Joe Sparkian spirit of cooperation and compromise and mutual problem solving, but there sit our knee-cappers, expending all this energy and money and time. Why? What’s the point? What the hell is it really all about anyway?