Monday, February 12, 2007


We do not see our hand in what happens, so we call certain events melancholy accidents
Stanley Cavell

One of the more interesting aspects of writing a blog is to read the various comments people post. In discussions about the Hideous Sewer Wars, what has become clear to me is how much people want to find someone or some one thing to blame for all the woes this community is going through now. What they seem to keep forgetting is this: The Hideous Sewer Wars is a narrative, and, like any narrative, is has a history of a whole series of linked crossroads where the moving finger, having writ, decided to take path A instead of path B and . . . thereby hangs another tale, until the story gets to fork-in-the-road C, D, E, where, making yet another narrative choice, sends it along path E, thereby precluding paths C and D, and so forth until we get to the exciting part about the train flying off the cliff to crash onto the rocks below.

As with any narrative, it’s often concluded that the story is “real,” and that the outcome was the only one possible. Most folks forget that the story’s outcome depends on a person writing the story (or in the case of the Hideous Sewer Wars, a whole bunch of people writing) making some key decisions that took the narrative down a certain path, which led to . . .

And deconstructing a narrative involves a series of What Ifs. In the case of the Hideous Sewer Wars, What If:

1. Waaaaayyyy back in the day, what would have happened if Project Engineer George Gibson had gone into a room with a calculator and some paper and sat down with CAWS (Citizens for an Affordable Wastewater System) member, Roger Shields, and they had added up the REAL costs for the home owner for the then County Project. Instead, both sides had figures that didn’t match up, and that allowed the paranoia level to rise to dangerous levels. (Why are these numbers so far off. Who’s not being honest? What’s being hidden? Bzzzzz, Bzzzzz Bzzzz) What If those two had hammered out real figures then emerged, arm in arm, to tell the community: Yep, it’s gonna be more than County sez, but less than CAWS sez, so here’s the compromise number we’ve agreed to. It’s high, but there simply is no way around it so suck it up and let’s get going.

2. The Regional Water Quality Control Board had done isotope studies to track and trace pollution directly from selected septic tanks to the waters of the state of California.

3. The Regional Water Quality Control Board had required the County (and later the CSD) to turnkey Resolution 83-12 – the Septic Management District – in 1983.

4. The Regional Water Quality Control Board and the County had updated The Basin Plan as more and better water studies came in, with an eye to looking at the watershed as a whole, not some artificial PZ drawn on a map. In short, treat the basin wholly with every user involved in the clean up, instead of the lazy and politically expedient (and indefensible) method they did use.

5. When it became clear that the Solutions Group’s Ponds of Avalon would not fly, suppose the CSD decided to go back to the community, ‘splain that failure, put all plans back on the table, including all sites, and re-think the whole deal? Instead of clinging to the Tri-W site, syuppose they went back to square one.

6. When it became clear that the Broderson site was questionable vis a vis “discharge” vs “recharge,” why didn’t the RWQCB stop everything cold for a re-look. After all, if your recharge site makes no sense, and it’s directly linked to your treatment plant, then neither make much sense.

7. What if the Coastal Commission, at the de novo hearing, had actually insisted on getting an answer to their question: A side by side comparison of in-town/out-of-town systems. If those comparisons came up with nearly equal systems (cost wise and environmental wise) why didn’t the CSD follow up by holding a community advisory vote and/or a direct 218 vote at that point?

8. What if the CSD, working under an “unreasonable” Time Schedule Order, had, at various points, gone back to the SWB to revise that “unreasonable” time order to avoid rushing something that could trigger a wreck up ahead?

9. What if the State Water Board, having ample evidence of a divided community, held the issuance of the State Revolving Fund Loan, required the CSD to hold a 218 vote since they had done their due diligence on that loan and knew it was unsecured and so was at risk?

10. What if the recalled CSD Board had voted to set the recall election earlier rather than at the last possible date, and then voted to NOT start pounding millions into the ground shortly before the recall election?

10. Before the recall was even certified, suppose a certain someone had sent Roger Briggs the following email: “Rog, stay cool, hold your fire. Clearly, we’ve hit a rock in the road here. The community, via Measure B and the recall, wants to move the sewer plant out of town. Work with us here in making that happen. I know, I know, I’d like to “fine the CSD out of existence” too, but that will be counterproductive to moving ahead with a wastewater system. There’s room for compromise here. Let’s see that’s the path we take, not anger, hissy-fits and confrontation that will just delay everything.” And Roger emailed back, “You’re right. I’d like to “rub their noses” in it, but instead, I’ll call for a sit down. I know, I’ll see about getting Darrin Polhemus down from Sacramento. He’s a real go-to guy who’ll know how to make this thing work.”

Well, you get the idea. All of these points in the narrative were specific decisions made by specific people that led to other decisions, all linked, all inseparable from the “melancholy accidents” we claim to be “reality.”

Even now, there are certain decisions that can be made by specific people that can change this narrative once again, for better or worse.

And if the narrative IS to change for the better, then everyone involved needs to keep asking: What is the Basic Question?

If the answer (or answers) is kept foremost in mind, and decisions keep focused on answering that Basic Question, then the Hideous Sewer Wars will finally have a chance of coming to a happy ending. If not, then the narrative thread will keep going down deliberately chosen paths that will lead to more unnecessary train wrecks.

And Los Osos has had enough of those to last a lifetime.


Anonymous said...

What if the CSD had not stopped construction, what if the CSD had actually had a plan, ... what if a thousand lawsuits had not been filed, .. What if unnecessary settlements were not made to lawyers, what if the PZ was smaller, then what? - What if the AB2701 didn't pass? What if, What if, what if Los Osos never has a sewer.

Anonymous said...

What if Ann had a brain and realized what a fool she is?

Anonymous said...

We don't need no stinkn' sewer!

Ann has all the answers!

Anonymous said...

there it is the Basic Question has just been answered. Los Osos doesn't need a sewer - finally some honesty. ann has no answers, just questions.

Ron said...

4.5. What if the Solution Group had come clean with Questa Engineering in the first half of 1998, and admitted that they did not have any "supporting data" that showed their plan was feasible. If they had come clean, it would have led immediately to the Community Plan's "fatal flaw(s)" and ensured that the Questa Study would have lasted about 10 seconds, but, instead, because Norm Hantzsche, president of Questa Engineering, was misled by the Solution Group, that prevented him from immediately spotting the fatal flaw, and the study unnecessarily dragged past the Coastal Commission's June, 1998 meeting. At that meeting, the results of the Questa study were scheduled to be discussed, and if they were discussed at that meeting, the Commission would have issued the county their development permit right there, that day, because the results of the Questa Study ultimately shut-out the Solution Group's Community Plan and favored the county's plan on EVERY point in the study.

There would have been absolutely no reason whatsoever for the Commission NOT to issue the county their permit... in June, 1998.

Without doubt, that was the closest Los Osos ever got to getting a sewer system. (Much closer than Tri-W... that was never going to work, for a number of excellent reasons, and it was a very good thing it was stopped when it was, or the situation would have grown about 1,000 times worse.) That close -- if the Solution Group had just told Hantzsche, "Look, we really don't anything that shows our plan will work," around May, 1998, none of this happens.

What I just said there is 100-percent accurate, and in my opinion, the "fatal flaw" angle is one of the most interesting aspects of this entire story.

If you're interested, and you should be, I wrote about it here.

From Hantzsche: "The supporting data for the (Community Plan's) facility was not found in any of the literature provided by the Solution Group or through any other sources that we researched independently. Had the Solution Group indicated that there were no supporting data at the outset, we would have immediately identified this as a possible "fatal flaw" (bolding mine).

Ann wrote:

'Before the recall was even certified, suppose a certain someone..."


"All of these points in the narrative were specific decisions made by specific people..."

And some of those specific people's names seem to come up a heck of a lot more than others.

"What is the Basic Question? "

The basic question is: What is the fastest way to clean water. And according to the staff of the RWQCB, that's an "advanced" composting toilet system... according to the staff of the RWQCB. I'm still not seeing what's stopping a vacant property owner from printing out page 6 of Item 19, and then just start building their house around an "advanced" (the staff of the RWQCB's word) composting toilet system. I'm not getting a good answer to that question.

Anonymous said...

Ann Calhouns Byline:

FORGET Da FACTS....................

Anonymous said...

You are so right, Ann, that "all of these points in the narrative were specific decisions made by specific people that led to other decisions, all linked, all inseparable from the “melancholy accidents” we claim to be “reality.” But for some strange, rather unexplained reason you continually end the narrative short of where you should. So to help you, I've added a #12 (you have 2 #10's by the way):

12. What if, after careful consideration and due diligence, the Lisa/Julie board decided not to stop construction and not to fire the contractors, and 'splain to the community the damage of stopping the project would indeed be horrific; that their campaign promises couldn't be met; Measure B was illegal; they really didn't have any plan of their own, and that instead of subjecting their neighbors to CDO's and CAO's; lost SRF loan; lawsuits and bankruptcy, it would be in the best interests of the community to forge ahead with the project and get a sewer built.

Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

But then we would have all the problems associated with Tri w. Different problems, but problems all the same.

Anonymous said...

There's no compromising with you people. Zip, nada, zilch. No wonder this place is so screwed up.

Anonymous said...

Hey, why leave off on the narrative halfway? How about rank amateurs filling Board spots, construction being stopped cold, contractors' idle time being $1 million per week, fines accumulating, a stable of high-priced out-of-town attorneys, interim general manager and so-called "consultants" being hired, key staff being terminated, nobody, NOBODY knowing what the hell to do? And, the coup de grace, THE BANKRUPTCY. And now, more high-priced attorneys hired, just to make sure every speck off of every bone in the community is picked CLEAN, with the BOD president making jokes about the bankruptcy?

If you are going to cite history, please, for God's sake, cite it ALL.

Put rapists in jail said...

41 million dollar bankruptcy! I hope those in the PZ who stopped the sewer pay the bill. And some stupid folks expect the property owners in ALL the distict to pay! Another court case. Where was their benefit? Only those in the PZ were to receive a benefit. Now the LOCSD board expects ALL the property owners to defend those receiving the benefit which they threw away. Yeah, there is no compromising, we have been raped! Worse than that we are being raped again!

Anonymous said...

Hey, I hear the frustration and what was done is done and how we manage the next several months will determine our success in finding a resolution. There are many questions to be answered. Lynette Tornatzky and I have put together a first Q&A regarding the 218 with county reps for March 1st @ the School House. It will be from 6-7 so folks can bring their plate of dinner and have a listen. We are collecting questions and will compile, send to the county, write up and print out for participants and let's work on getting some straight answers from the people that know how 218's work and don't work! Contact Lynette or I at our emails:; or

We are starting to place some lime green fliers around town with contact info as well. Everyone is welcome to come and listen. If this is succesful, we can host more and have even more opportunites to educate ourselves. Please if you have any questions, whether you attend or not, we'll be sure to put the answers around the community and get them published if possible.
Maria M. Kelly

Tawney Leimkeuhler said...

6:40P.M. addressed "put the rapists in jail" & doesn't think the ENTIRE COMMUNITY should have to pay for a wastewater treatment facility....Now, isn't THAT a STRANGE thought? WHY NOT? Doesn't EVERYONE BENEFIT FROM CLEAN WATER? I think they do & I think the ENTIRE DISTRICT should pay their fair share, even the STATE & FEDS have an obligation here.

the blade said...

about all of the soggy history of the "sewer" saga. Yeah, how about citing all of the history.

Like: how the original csd was formed in 1998 with the promise of "cheaper, better, faster" and how cheaper, better, faster, morphed into "horribly more expensive, megaworser, and years slower"
Like: how the CSD of september of 2005 started a project because of what, the desire to get on the record books for starting the most expensive WWTF in history-anywhere
Like: how the Water Board, in order to form a more perfect SNAFU, rushed into an unsecured loan without the vote of the people that were to pay for it
Like: how the previous 2005 CSD wouldn't have a recall vote in August, which may have saved Los Osos from the horrible situation it finds itself in today.

Anyone can dredge up history to suit themselves. Nations do it all the time. States do it all the time. Counties do it all the time. And people do it all the time.

History is past. PAST. Gone forever, never to be played out again. It would be so refreshing to see some genuine, bonafide, critical thinking and some usable answers, instead of ranting uncontrollably about the unchangeable past. What I want is for Los Osos to get a good workable WASTEWATER treatment facility that is affordable, sustainable, environmentally friendly, out of town, with reclameable wastewater--something with ag-exchange. Wouldn't that be a GOOD thing.
Now, put out some friendly thoughts and ideas and you might get me to listen and (oh my gosh)maybe go along for the ride.

the blade

Anonymous said...

Thank you Maria for not dwelling on the history and getting out there doing something to help us! I for one appreciate it very much.

Realistic said...

The blade has expectations. What if it expectations cannot be met. Will the blade compromise? If ANY solution is not affordable by the blade, what will the blade do? What will the community do? What will government do? Speculation and expectations RULE!

To Tawney: You are absolutely correct that everyone and the environment benefits from clean water. We have a failure in government here. Public works projects benefit the ENTIRE boby public, are too expensive for small groups of political entities, and those who formulated the laws never understood the unintended consequences of the laws. However, poluters polute, and are ultimately responsible for their own actions. So we have the oximoron we are faced with. Is the body politic willing to have their taxes raised to benefit others when no immediate personal benefit is realized, and they are NOT poluters? Is it right and just that ALL pay for the criminal activity of a few? Of course, we all DO pay, sooner or later. Unless the laws are changed, this problem will just get worse and worse and lead to the destruction of our society.

So where will the money come from? Our problem has ALWAYS been about money. Of course we can vote to remove prop. 13.

Anonymous said...

God help us, he's back with his bullshit: notice how "Blade", "Realistic" and Racano show up at the same time.

The guy is a certified nut case. He posts to blogs and then answers them himself. He is an absolute lying ass! Facts mean nothing as he makes up his fictional spin in whatever direction his latest narcotic dreams of grandeur flow.

His ever growing illusion of a mystical regional megasewer is such a waste of time to discuss that not one of the Board of Supervisors will talk with him.

Churadogs said...

Maria writes:"There are many questions to be answered. Lynette Tornatzky and I have put together a first Q&A regarding the 218 with county reps for March 1st @ the School House. It will be from 6-7 so folks can bring their plate of dinner and have a listen. We are collecting questions and will compile, send to the county, write up and print out for participants and let's work on getting some straight answers from the people that know how 218's work and don't work! Contact Lynette or I at our emails:; or"

Hope you all attend. And ask questions. And get answers. And ask more questions.

One of the points that some of the posters have missed here is this: History is never past. History can repeat itself. People are still making decisions now that will create a new Sewer Saga. Every day, decisions are being made that link to decisions that will be made tomorrow and so on down the linked paths, so it's important that this community be involved with making decisions and taking steps so that the saga turns out like they want it to.

Anonymous sez:"Anonymous said...
Hey, why leave off on the narrative halfway?"

The POINT of the exercise was to set up certain examples. There were a gazillion other examples and other mixes that would lead to other choices & etc. As I noted in the blog, Well, you get the idea . . . Apparently, you didn't get the idea.

Neither did this Anonymous poster, who took the time to log on and post this:"What if Ann had a brain and realized what a fool she is?

9:03 AM, February 12, 2007


Anonymous said...

Excuse me, Realistic, but the only reason one person in this town is NoT a polluter and another is, is that one lives outside an imaginary line on a map and another lives inside it.

This is exactly the "effluent class" warfare that the Prohibition Zone created.

Ron said...

Yesterday, I wrote:

"What if the Solution Group had come clean with Questa Engineering in the first half of 1998, and admitted that they did not have any "supporting data" that showed their plan was feasible."

Timing's everything, huh?

Yesterday I posted that comment. So, imagine my surprise when I fired up the Trib's web site this morning to find that another group led by Nash-Karner is currently pursuing another plan, this time a parks plan, without any supporting data that shows it will actually work!

The story is talking about how the County Parks department wants more "clout" by becoming a separate department instead of just lumped in with General Services.

That recommendation came from a recently formed task force in the county, and take one guess who was part of the task force?

"Parks Commissioner Pandora Nash-Karner, a task force member, said General Services is overloaded," the story reads.

But wait... oh, does this get better.

The story continues, "County Administrative Officer David Edge (note: Edge is a PZ resident) said the report provided no background data to support the parks department breaking off."

Maybe it's just a coincidence, but I find it unusual that I mentioned Nash-Karner's annoying habit of not supply "supporting data" for her projects on this blog yesterday, and then, in a story today, Edge is talking about how Nash-Karner isn't supplying "background data" for her project.

Ann, it sounds like the county's CAO is a fan of your blog, and not a very big fan of Nash-Karner's ideas (it seems not many in county government, at least county staff, are these days, and that's understandable), because he also gets loose with this blast, "All I see, currently, resulting from the creation of a separate department, is additional net cost for the taxpayer."

Also, the report put out by Nash-Karner's task force suggests finding ways to generate parks income including concessions and tax districts. Here's my question: Did it also suggest that you can get parks funded by taxpayers if you just tuck the cost into major a public works project? It should, and Nash-Karner is very familiar with how to do that. For example, when the county built the new government center, they could have just simply said there was a "strongly held value" among county citizens that their new government center also double as a recreational facility, and, BAM, they could have leveled the historic Fremont Theater, just like the ESHA laiden Tri-W property was ripped up, and constructed a multi-million dollar park there, and then just simply tucked the cost of the park into the government center project... you know, just like she did with the Tri-W sewer plant. It works great, and it's a very clever way to get parks funded that would otherwise go unfunded.

If you ask me, that idea should definitely be in the task force's report on how to generate parks income. I don't see why it's not.

Sooooo... let me see if I have this straight: Increased costs to taxpayers for an idea that has no supporting data that involves a Nash-Karner led group dealing with parks.

An Anon wrote:

"History is past. PAST. Gone forever, never to be played out again"

Not so fast. It seems some things will never change.

Ann wrote:

"History can repeat itself."

Right before our eyes.

From the Trib story: "The supervisors are set to consider the report Feb. 27, Jenny said. He said they could put it on a shelf, order Edge to implement the suggestions, or schedule a public hearing."

That should be interesting.

Maria wrote:

"We are collecting questions and will compile, send to the county, write up and print out for participants and let's work on getting some straight answers from the people that know how 218's work and don't work!"

Well done. I'm a HUGE fan of "straight answers."

Anonymous said...

Excellent Ron. Now this is a great opportunity for you to start a new blog, entitle it "My Pandora Obsession" or something like that, make it all Pandora all the time (maybe include some psychological information about why you think she scares you; the effects of your obsession with her on your personal life, etc),and leave Los Osos be. We've had enough outsiders meddling in our affairs to last us a lifetime. (Take carpetbqaggers Richard Maggotson, Gail McPherson and Joey Racano with you when your at it. I'm sure they can contribute to your new blog as well).

Anonymous said...

Hey Ron, that tough little ex-marine, Pandora, can whip your butt and so of us would pay to see that 30 second bout! Let's get reeeedddy to rummmmbble!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the support in regards to a 218 Q&A - please read and note that we are collecting all questions ahead of time so that questions can be answered efficiently. I have noticed in many situations and venues, when everything is open ended, people who don't typically get to speak or are uncomfortable speaking don't get to ask the questions they would like answers to. We thought we would try a new approach and just ask that people listen, contemplate and come up with new questions for another round. Many times our questions overlap and we don't even realize it but maybe Mr.Diagotti or whomever, will recognize that and be able to tighten up the response. We seem to get lost in the details as we process. We will have all the questions that will be addressed typed up and ready for your review.
This is a first run and a new format so please jot them down and send them in. We will only have an hour this first time around.
Thanks in advance!
Maria M. Kelly
P.S. Please watch for our contact info in this week's Baynews.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to all of you who have already responded! Your interest and enthusiasm are welcome.
Maria M. Kelly

Anonymous said...

Will all questions be screened by Tri W advocates, or will there be a fair representation of questions from all view points? The 218 can not be separated from the project. I will not be fooled again.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon 5:20- my timing was on today! Good time to check this thread.
Fair enough, with all that everyone has been through I'm not suprised to hear these kinds of sentiments. Although, I will beg to ask, if we are presenting all the questions to the county to sort through overlap and doubles and then have them written out, how do you know that all facts won't be represented? This is a fact finding mission, and all I'm advocating for at this point is a project that we can live with.
My public position has been and still is, Tri-W didn't seem that awful to me and I have no issue with the TAC process of reviewing all possibilites at this point. If the community votes to have ponds out of town, I have clearly stated, I'm not an expert and am not in a position to recommend otherwise and won't fight it. I'm not an expert on sewer technology or design. I do read the reports and am still paging through the EIR's and Water Management Plans when I'm rechecking a question I have or following up on comments.

My main issues have been with the financial burden of the home owners in regards to debt,fines and potential costs of sewering Los Osos and our long term water supply. It still is and how the 218 fits into the mounting costs of living in Los Osos is where my interests lie.

This sounds like a good question or actually the formation of several questions: How is the project separated from the 218,and to what degree? What are we going to know, if anything,about the potential choices available for the advisory vote, at the time of the 218?
Or something along those lines. Clarify for me and I'll put it on the list. Frankly, I'm not convinced at this point that anyone is trying to fool anyone, but what I am sensing in our community is desperation and frustration and I do not want to contribute to those sentiments.
All I can ask you to trust is that my intentions are for resolution. Thanks for the comment.
Take care,
Maria M. Kelly

Anonymous said...


Why are you having the kid there (son of a county employee) when he isn't a 218 expert by any means. Rob Miller is the person in charge of the 218, will he be there? Please answer. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Cute how Taxpayers Watch is holding a 218 meeting when the Taxpayers Watch people like Richard LeGros and Gordon forbid the 218 Vote to begin with on Tri-W....and they have the answers? Right! The county can't get it straight, so how can Taxpayers Watch? I agree with anon above that Rob Miller should be there to answer questions since they're getting $100,000. for the job, or why bother, unless it's a con job.

Churadogs said...

Anonymous sez:"We've had enough outsiders meddling in our affairs to last us a lifetime."

Perhaps you were unaware but Ron edited the Los Osos Bay New for a while and while editor started the SewerWatch section, wherein he would print updates from the various groups, including the CSD, RWWQCB & ETc and print their information, direct from the horse's mouth, so to speak. So to pretend that Ron is some sort of clueless carpetbagger is totally off the mark. I dare say he knows more about the history of this project than most people in the county, or, hell, the State.

Ron sez:"Ann, it sounds like the county's CAO is a fan of your blog,"

I have no clue who reads this blog. I'll have to go check the counter to see what the average "hits" are per month, if Greg still has the counter on this site working. For every poster there's gong to be "lurkers." Nature of the beast.

As for the Parks controversy, I hope they'll hold public hearings on Parks & Rec. That's a department that's alwlays been a sort of Red Haired Step Child. It's also one of those departments that needs a high profile and could benefit from "facts" and "supporting data" vis a vis its role in the County's economy & etc. And it's a Philosophical issue that could benefit from a public hearing process. That is, just what value do county residents place on Our Commons, i.e. public amenities we all contribute to and all benefit from. Too often, parks just get dismissed as some poorly thought out tack-on, when they could be this county's Crown Jewels -- Crown Jewels that must be seen as future ivestment, even land-banking before the available land is eaten up with houses. That's what needs a serious public hearing. Just how much value do we put on parks, open space, public amenities for our whole community? Some? None? A Lot?

I hope Edge will call for public hearings and I hope everyone in the County will be thinking about the issue before its too late.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon 8:10- takes me awhile to get back here sometimes but here's your answer, I don't know?! Good question, I'll hunt around, but my understanding is that the BOS is the body that has to resolve to have a 218 and ultimately it's the county that will collect the tax money and not the Wallace Group so I thought they would be the better source of how a 218 works.
I'll think about it for while and see if I can muster up anything else as to why Wallace Group would need to be there.
Maria M. Kelly