Sewer Tales Redux, Again, Some More, Sigh
Dagnabit! Why doesn’t anyone bother to listen to Mother Calhoun? I just finished posting a Can(n)on ‘splaining how the Tribune keeps getting the story wrong and here we are, Saturday morning, May 26, with a story on the CDO recipients (and CSD) who have filed a Writ in Superior Court. On the jump page is the sidebar, MOREONLINE, with this Question: Should the residents have waited to file the lawsuit until the water board decided what it was going to do? while suggesting readers go on line to post comments on that amazing question.
What’s so amazing about the question? Clearly, whoever wrote it (and the editor who left it in,) had NO CLUE what this story and this Writ was about. Instead, a reader scanning that side-bar would just conclude, Oh, For God’s Sake, Look at those lawsuit-happy Los Osos Loonies, couldn’t wait until the Water Board had a chance to decide something. Nope, didn’t give those poor Board members a chance. Just rushed into court, willy nilly.
And, I dare say, anyone reading the whole story would come away not really understanding exactly what was actually going on here or that, perhaps, a more accurate headline should have read: Reluctant Targeted Home Owners FORCED to Go To Court Because RWQB Refused to Stop the Clock.
In short, what the writ is all about is the sad fact that this whole CDO mess is a complex, time-sensitive, administrative pas de deux, with iron-hard time-lines that must be met. If they’re not, if you haven’t jumped through all the preliminary hoops in the proper way, if you miss those deadlines, you’re – how can I put this delicately? – Totally Screwed. That is, you can lose your rights of appeal, lose the record, loose any chance of getting to a “real court.” Screwed.
That’s why the writ was served. At the last meeting, the RWQCB did NOT rescind the previously given CDOs. The clock was ticking on them. Plus, they added a few more at the last hearing. The clock was ticking on them, too. The Board did NOT do anything that would in any way stop that clock, stop the required hoops in the administrative procedures allowed to the CDO recipients. In short, it was a case of You MUST Use It Before Such And Such A Date Or Loose It.
Yet, there’s that sidebar question:
“Should the residents have waited to file the lawsuit until the water board decided what it was going to do?”
As Mother Calhoun has already pointed out: Wrong questions, wrong answers. That’s how you get The Story Wrong.
Speaking of Which.
In the Same May 26 Tribune, former Supervisor Shirley Bianchi had a rather curious “Viewpoint.” In discussing her participation in a Cal Poly class on collaborative planning, Ms. Bianchi mentioned some of her “insight into what can make or break a group effort, “ by citing some of her experiences with the Los Osos sewer project, including the notation that “All [the various agencies involved] wanted success for Los Osos and were willing to cooperate within the confines of the cultures of their various agencies. After the Los Osos recall, I also offered to assist the newly elected board but never received a response.”
Ms. Binachi then went on to state that a failure of a group effort can come about if there are members of the group “who come to the table with ‘secret’ information. By this I mean someone has told them something in ‘confidence’ that they believe they are not at liberty to divulge, but which prevents them from collaborating in good faith. This happens more often than one would like to believe, and I believe, happened in Los Osos with the second set of directors.” [does she mean post-recall? The CSD has had several “sets” of directors before the “recall” set.]
Ms. Bianchi doesn’t spell out what “secret” information she’s referring to, but what popped to mind when I read that “Viewpoint” was an October 20, 2005 letter, written on official BOS letterhead, signed by Shirley Bianchi, Supervisor District Two, addressed to Arthur G. Baggett, Jr. Chair, California State Water Resources Control Board, in Sacramento.
She opens with, “My County Supervisorial District includes Los Osos, a community and its problems I believe that you are aware of? (I do hope any irony is coming through in my words.)”
Then goes on to state that she has enclosed information concerning the so-called “Andre” site (then being discussed as a possible Out Of Town sewer plant site), as well as other material. She closes with this: “This is a particularly difficult situation since the current District Board either will not or cannot understand any government process. At one point I was asked [she doesn’t say by whom] if the political will exists here in San Luis Obispo County to assume the management of the project [the Tri-W project that was on hold at that point] if, for whatever reasons, the District were unable to continue with it. Let me assure you that you have my full support, and I believe that the other Supervisors would give great weight to my position.”
Interestingly, the cc list at the bottom of the letter includes Senator Maldonado; Assemblyman Blakeslee; Celeste Cantu, SWRCB; Jeffery Young, Chair, RWQCB; and Roger Briggs, CEO of the RWQCB.
There was no c.c. listed that would indicate that a copy of this letter had also been sent to the post-recall CSD, the one Ms. Bianchi said she “offered to assist.”
This is astonishing since it was the only legally elected body that—one would have thought – should have received a copy, since the letter was dealing directly with them and their jurisdictional issues. (Hmmm, October 20, was the recall election even certified at that point? Were the Negotiations that Weren’t Really Negotiations Heh-heh underway? What issues was the newly elected Board dealing with during that “stand down” period?
If Ms. Bianchi had offered to “assist the newly elected board,” as she notes in the “Viewpoint,” surely she would have sent them a copy of this letter, wouldn’t she? Especially since Ms. Bianchi was noting that this newly elected group, the same one that she had “offered to assist,” “cannot understand any government processes.” Perhaps that explains why she was suggesting to Mr. Baggett that she was more than willing to work behind the scenes – and get the other Supervisors to go along with that --since they “would give great weight to [her] position” to, for example, take over the Tri-W project?
So, why did that letter pop into my head while reading Ms. Bianchi’s “Viewpoint?” Two things made The Story go wrong: 1) Ms. Bianchi stated that she had “offered to assist the newly elected board,” while actually sending a private letter to Mr. Baggett (no c.c. to the CSD to let them in on the little chat) that concluded that she didn’t think that board could understand much of anything (i.e. wink, nudge, they’re wackadoodles and incapable of governing, so let’s you and me think about taking over that project, heh-heh). And (2) then noting a few paragraphs later, her apt and correct observation that when certain people come to the collaboration table with “secret” information, that secret information undermines any “collaborating in good faith.”
Couldn’t agree more. Secrets official letters and wackadoodles and behind-the-scenes agendas have sunk many a collaborative ship, that’s for sure. Which is why I am hoping that in the present Process the County is now undertaking, The Process will stay transparent and all those secret thumbs will stay off the scales.