Calhoun’s Can(n)ons, The Bay News, Morro Bay, CA , for Jan 3, 07
Verdict First! Evidence Never!
It was an Alice in Wonderland Moment. I refer to the recent Torquemada’s Mad Hatter CDO Tea Party, Public Beheading & Auto-de-fe held by the Regional Water Quality Control Board for The Los Osos 45. You remember those folks? Your friends and neighbors who have been put through hell for a whole year by the same Board that first cooked up the scientifically unsound and totally unworkable Mad Pumping Scheme, only to have that go ker-blooey. So they started all over again, targeting the same 45 people in an endlessly changing, goal-post-moving process that wasted even more gazillions, while claiming that they were too poor to hire a mediator to come up with a much better win/win interim alternative.
Instead, we had a two day spectacle of truly bizarre proportions. Consider: One of the reasons given for issuing CDOs was to “ensure that pollutant loading [to the groundwater] within the prohibition area is minimized to the extent possible.” So the Board wanted everyone to pump, inspect and repair their septic systems. Yet Tim Cleath of Cleath & Associates (The Water Experts) testified that pumping, inspecting and repairing septics until the new sewer can be built will have no appreciable benefit to the groundwater. Which means that this proposed short-term regimen will look good (Hey’ we’re working hard over here, see?), but it won’t do diddly to the groundwater.
Next we heard Mr. Cleath testifying that trying to link well data to specific properties is not advised, expert information which, of course, was totally ignored. When staff was repeatedly asked, Do you have any evidence specifically linking Property X with nitrate pollution? the answer – under oath – was always, “No.” But the owner of Property X was declared “guilty” and beheaded anyway.
So much for “science.” So much for “evidence.” So much for due process.
But there were two, highly telling moments: First, there was the spectacle of CDO Recipient X, with his wife weeping at his side, finally recanting. He was given two minutes to decide whether to sign the settlement agreement (Actually, a Clean Up & Abatement Order that in many ways could end up offering fewer protections than an actual CDO would have, something I am positive Mr. X was unaware of at the time.) Mr. X declared that he would sign, but would be doing so “under duress.”
This blindingly clear and truthful description of exactly what Mr. X was laboring under – duress – caused the Board members to recoil in faux horror. Duress? DURESS? Why, we are shocked – SHOCKED – by such a notion! Wereupon they tried to help their victim find different words to use, suggesting that, perhaps, he could use the word, “disgust,” or that the agreement “stinks,” but duress? Oh, perish the thought.
It was THE Grand Inquisitor Moment in this auto-de-fe, the public ritual kissing of the sacred relics, the confession tearfully but “freely” made before the body is consigned to the flames.
But the final creeping horror of watching the incompetent bumbling and unnecessary cruelty and waste that has gone on for a whole year, was when Board members claimed that THEY were the helpless victims in all this. Said Board member Press, “ . . . [for years] . . .the [RWQCB] has patiently waited for something to happen . . , ,” utterly ignoring the fact that the Board was the ONLY player in the room that had all the power to MAKE “something happen.”
Yet even now, with a variety of regulatory smart options and alternatives in their toolbox, the Board repeatedly CHOSE to proceed down one of the worst possible paths, wringing their hands in faux victimhood all the way.
Well, they’ll have plenty of time to wring. Despite the verdicts all being done deals, with no-shows being tried and hanged in absentia, it still took 8 hours to “process” about 6 citizens.
There are 4,955 left to go, including you, Dear and Gentle Reader. Which means, you can do nothing, or you can get more information by calling some of The Los Osos 45 who have joined together to form the Prohibition Zone Legal Defense Fund, at 534-1913, and join with them and their attorney’s efforts to stay legally informed, protect their due process rights, and to try once again to work jointly with the RWQCB’s staff to craft a far smarter alternative than this appallingly sadistic and ultimately pointless spectacle.
More Tea! More Tea for Torquemada! Move Down! Move Down!