Short Cuts =Short Circuits
During the February 22 CDO hearings for The Los Osos 45, attorney Shauna Sullivan was questioning RWQCB Prosecution Team staff member Matt Thompson about the 2011 drop dead date on the Cease & Desist Orders. She asked if he felt four years was adequate time to ensure an entire wastewater treatment system would be completed and he rather sniffily replied that not only did he feel that was adequate but that some of the top water experts (referring to the “peer review” of the Project Update by the National Water Research Institute) felt that was adequate time as well.
But here’s what Mr. Thompson, uh, “forgot” to mention, from the National Water Research Institute’s “Final Report, Dec 4, 2006” : “The Central Coast RWQCB’s 2010 compliance date [since changed to 2011] appears to be somewhat arbitrary. The most optimistic estimate of the overall time period to complete the project is approximately 4 years.”
“Somewhat arbitrary . . . most optimistic estimate . . . approximately . . .” Those words weren’t convenient for Mr. Thompson to include in his testimony UNDER OATH. They were also not convenient to make sure the Board itself heard them. Nor was it necessary for Mr. Thompson to point out that in Los Osos, only a complete fool would seriously rely on something using the words “most optimistic estimate," or "approximately.” But, no. The date on the CDO’s was perfectly fine and reasonable and doable and adequate. After all, all the top experts agreed, didn’t they?
At that same hearing, Board member Hayashi asked staff why Los Osos residents voted to dump the original county project and proceed anew and again, from staff, (also all still under oath) received a severely “edited” and therefore false and misleading answer. Clearly, that misleading short-hand “history” was fine with him. There have been other instances when Board members have made statements that also clearly indicated they don’t know the whole story or even half of it, yet these same Board members vote on issues critical to Los Osos residents, while their heads are filled with false “stories” and devoid of critically needed real information.
Recently, Joyce Albright had a “Viewpoint” in the Tribune. She characterized the Los Osos 45 as “fighting the water board.” The “Viewpoint” even carried that wonderful “buzz phrase” as a headline, “It’s time to stop fighting the water board,” as if making sure their property rights and legal rights are protected against regulatory abuse is somehow a bad thing to be doing. After all, only wicked people would “fight” a water board who’s only “goal here is to protect our water supply and the bay.” Right?
In a Jan 15 letter to the editor, Doug Morin wrote in favor of a gravity system and cited Olympia, Washington as an example of how awful STEP systems are. What he forgot to point out is that Olympia’s problems were the result of operator error and a mismatch between their gravity and STEP systems. That information had been presented at a CSD meeting and was readily available, but somehow that information went missing, thus leaving the reader with a misleading idea regarding STEP.
And so it goes. Critical information that goes missing. Poorly informed Water Boards who don’t care to take the time to find out what’s really going on. They can’t be bothered. Buzz words that imply the exact opposite of what’s real. Deliberate distortion, dishonest spin, lazy, lazy shorthand that blinds and deceives.
And it’s all so easy. If you control the debate, you control the issue. If you “brand” an issue a particular way, it stays branded.
To the outside world, Los Osos has been portrayed as some sort of Dogpatch filled with “anti-sewer” Moonbeam McSwines all happily rolling around in their urine. It’s a lie, of course, but it’s a CONVENIENT lie, so even the Water Boards – who should know better and should have taken the time to find the truth in the complexity of the issue – have swallowed that lie.
And why not? Complexity is hard. By comparison, simply branding Los Osos forever as ANTI-SEWER is easy.
If you thought the Tri-W site was environmentally the wrong site, you were ANTI- SEWER. If you objected to the way this project had been put together, you were ANTI-SEWER. If you objected to the cost of Tri-W, you were ANTI-SEWER. If you preferred a Step/Steg system, you were ANTI-SEWER. If you wanted a sewer treatment plant out of the center of town, you were ANTI-SEWER. If you supported the recall, you were ANTI-SEWER. If you objected to the ill conceived, run-amok, pointless (except for electioneering) CDO process, you were ANTI-SEWER. Indeed, if you were not 100% in support of Tri-W, you were ANTI-SEWER!
It soon became a short-hand buzz word to falsely frame the issue and brand a whole town. Well, if you’re ANTI-SEWER, then you’re nothing but a town full of wicked criminals and deserve everything you get. Torquemada will be arriving tomorrow to punish you.
See how easy it is? And people who should have known better, (All the government agencies, the media, etc.) swallowed the lie whole, without a questioning burp. Worse, it’s clear that they’re still proceeding forward on those lies. After all, a poorly written, scientifically unsound CDO with an “unreasonable” drop-dead date on it will (like the old “unreasonable” TSO) cause nothing but trouble down the line. Unnecessary trouble. So, what did it benefit RWQCB staff member Matt Thompson to, uh, shade the truth during the CDO hearings? What was the point, except to bias the process by failing to give the Board the full statement by the world-class experts he was happy to “misquote.”
And just because the County now has this project, doesn’t mean the branding and distortion and dishonesty has abated. So, why should that concern this community?
Unless the distortions stop, the lies stop, the half-truths stop, it will be impossible for this community to ensure that the County’s PROCESS can go forward without hidden agendas, without being rigged, without distorting and dishonest “thumbs on the scale.” And unless that process is “clean” and, like Caesar’s wife, can be seen to be “clean,” I fear this battle could continue unnecessarily or worse, fail utterly. And for a PRO-SEWER community that wants CLEAN WATER, that would be another pointless tragedy.