Ooooo NOOOOOO, Did The Tribune Screw Up AGAIN????
Hmmm, is this getting to be a bad habit, like nose picking and spitting on the sidewalk. When I read the Tribune’s Sept 2 front page story on PZLDF spokes-personage, Gail McPherson, I was struck by this statement of “fact.”
“She [McPherson] opposes the vote unless the county selects a plant site and technology, which the county says it can’t yet do.” (bolding added)
Further down in the story it states, as “fact,” [McPherson’s] latest activism focuses on gathering opposition to the county’s effort to hold a property tax vote before it chooses technology for a project or a location for a treatment plant.” (bolding added)
“I think its important to explore all possible consequences of a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote and be comfortable with what they’re voting on,” she said.
“And in an e-mail to residents she wrote “I want answers. No blind vote . . . We have a responsibility to be informed.”
Hmmm, I wonder how exploring all possible consequences of a yes or no vote and wanting answers and taking responsibility to be informed (remember, this article was written before anybody in this community has even seen the ballot and the engineers reports) suddenly morphed into this non-fact “fact:” “She opposes the vote unless the county selects a plant site and technology, which the county says it can’t yet do.”
Oh, wait, I know. It’s the Tribune! Of course they’ll jump to the wrong conclusions then print them as “fact.” And then follow up with this delicious piece of spin: “But Blakeslee [Assemblyman] worries that McPherson’s efforts could prevent property owners from agreeing to assess themselves for the sewer’s cost. If that happens, the county would bow out of the project – leaving Los Osos without a sewer and state water officials continuing to hammer for a solution.
“If attempts to undermine this earnest effort succeed, ones that will be hurt the most will be the seniors, the young families – the most vulnerable,” Blakeslee wrote in an email to The Tribune. “I hope anyone who seeks the defeat of the process appreciates the huge price they may be asking others to pay.”
See how that worked? Very clever. The juxtaposition is really slick. The narrative now becomes McPherson Opposes & Undermines The County Process And Wants Seniors To Die In The Streets.
Whee! Pure Tribune
[Posted below at the end of my comments is a Press Release/Viewpoint sent to the papers by McPherson. Please read it and tell me how the position outlined therein becomes opposition and undermining.]
On the other hand, we are now fully engaged in the middle of The Sewer War Campaigns and the ballots haven’t even arrived in the mail. So the importance of setting up and spinning the Narrative is really critical. It will follow the usual Karl Roveian lines:
1. Anyone who asks a question, demands answers, points out errors, raises concerns, questions possible outcomes or unintended consequences, warns of critical points to guard against the old bait & switch, or objects or disagrees with anything in any fashion will be branded an ANTI-SEWER OBSTRUCITONST! And trashed.
Couldn’t be simpler.
In all the insanity that will soon get cranked up full steam, the good people of this community and above all The County (and Sam, Sam, are you listening?) needs to remember: Perception IS reality. This community was fooled once and is gun shy and wary of getting bait and switched and ripped off . . . again. Therefore, the County truly needs to do whatever it can to make accurate information readily available. (The Tribune has already grossly screwed up guestimate numbers on their front page so the County really needs to warn the residents to be very careful about where they get their information so this vote doesn’t get contaminated by the Tribune’s incompetence.)
The County then needs to make sure that every step of The Process remain clean and transparent and open and following the CEQA steps, the due diligence process, which hopefully will include at some point a promise of a neutral Peer Review by Dr. T, for example, all of which will go a long way towards making The Process not only clean but SEEN to be clean and transparent and open. That will ensure that we may well end up with an outcome the community (not me, not Joe Sparks, not McPherson, not the Tribune, but the community) can and will and does support.
And, most important, the people of this community need to pay very close attention to language and spin and narrative manipulation. (The Tribune is notorious for this) And look out for character assassination (lots of hidden agendas and personal vendettas still at play here) and fear-mongering and threats (are you listening RWQCB?) and be wary of snake-oil salesmen and Professor Henry Hill coming to town suddenly with 76 trombones that will save River City.
In short, get accurately informed, demand answers, get information before you support OR oppose anything. The County has planned a 218- workshop at the end of September, the County’s doing an update presentation before the RWQCB this Friday afternoon at the Board’s Aerovista Place meeting room, with Supervisor Gibson promising to speak to the upcoming vote vis a vis Los Osos 45 and the coercive un-level playing field at this point & so forth. (Also promising to be there are Mr. Murphy & Mr. Low, who presented a 53 page document regarding a “nowastewater” onsite system for Los Osos to the BOS at their last meeting, which will certainly toss another interesting item into the mix.)
So the game is very much afoot. Caveat!
Herewith, the CCW-PZLDF/McPherson statement:
Citizens for Clean Water –Prohibition Zone Legal Defense Fund’s mantra since County involvement began over a year ago has been:“Compliance requires a project, and a project requires a clean process...”I delivered the same consistent message concerning the County guarding the process at all the County Board of Supervisors meeting, the Los Osos CSD and the project TAC meetings. I have been consistently making the same point against supporting a blind vote (yes or no) or voting from a position of fear and intimidation and without facts. Since the information had not been supplied to the voters, I have begged both sides in many email messages to please wait, get the facts and then make their informed individual decision, and cast their individual vote.Proposition 218 Is For Each Individual Property Owners To DecideThe individuals who own property must each weigh the costs/ benefits and options to a County led project. An 11yr old told me her secret for making good decisions is -"Don’t say NO without KNOWING, or YES on a GUESS…” Neither Citizens for Clean Water-PZLDF, nor have I ever advocated a YES or a NO 218 vote. (I have always been for a wastewater project-not Tri W) The consistent position has been against an uninformed YES or NO vote. Voting blindness is promoted by fear and incomplete information. That has been the formula for the past project failures. There is a cure for the blindness. I am glad the County recognizes this too. The cure is information.What are they approving? The assessment is about approving the funding for the design and construction of a wastewater project. First, property owners need to see the assessment ballot for the cost against their property, and know where they stand. This is what they will be obligated to pay in the assessment. Because the assessment represents just a partial cost, the County has committed to include in the engineering report and supplemental information, best estimates for the monthly operation and maintenance costs, and the interest that property owners will likely pay on the assessment. This is needed for property owners to have a complete picture of the financial impacts.
Citizens for Clean Water would like to see a simple affordability index included. Additionally, a simple plug in calculation is useful for voter to calculate the percent of their household income that will be devoted to the project assessment.
(net income / annual assessment x100 = affordability measure) EPA guidelines is 2.5 percent. This information will help in establishing “individual affordability” and in providing support for additional funding methods and grants.What is the project?It is entirely reasonable to see the “plan” to assure any project alternatives being proposed by the County will result in a project that both the community and the individual voter can support. Essentially the County staff report becomes the contractual agreement to pursue the best ideas from the consultants screening, TAC pro/con, as well as additional proposals such as Orenco and Lombardo, in the due diligence phase. Activities after a successful vote has been described by Paavo Ogren, and will become a written agreement with the community. Some of the promises to date include:§ Restrict contentious TRI W site or technology to total cost analysis (level field) if it remains a project under consideration.§ Accept proposals for review of design/build and design/Build/and finance and private options that potentially cut delivery time and costs§ Assure small pipe collection technology is included, and expert consultants weigh in.§ Include the treatment technology best suited for small pipe (STEP) is included.§ Cost should be based on bond financing, not the entangled SRF loan, to assure objectivity during the selection phase.§ Accept proposals for complete level 5 recycling such as decentralized proposal by Lombardo Assoc.ConsequencesThe 218 is a public vote, and that would not be as much an issue if the water board had rescinded and vacated enforcement orders before the vote. There are indeed consequences to either a yes or no vote. The importance of the PZLDF appeal was to allow the County process to proceed unmolested by the enforcement threats that seek to intimidate property owners into a blind vote or blank check. The added issue of some not feeling safe to vote at all, or believing a yes vote will shield them from enforcement begs the question, how to protect against an un coerced vote. Asking the question and suggesting solutions is the right and responsibility of the County and the community. The County is obligated to guard against illegal voter intimidation. In a divided community, threats can come from individuals, groups, neighbors, or CSD directors and ex directors along with the water board. It’s all illegal.The community knows that under AB 2701 that the responsibility for the project reverts to the CSD if a 218 assessment fails. Of course the CSD has said they would need to proceed with a “turn-key project” ASAP to meet deadlines. Voters need to know-Could they accomplish this using the County and Ripley work to get proposals and contracts signed for a project? Those with enforcement orders certainly deserve knowing if the CSD has a ‘Plan B’ or not before ballots are returned. Provide guarantees if the assessment passes:The County essentially provides a staff report to the BOS (Aug 28th) that defines what the County is approving the Staff to do- if they are hired by the community with a 218 vote. The County has promised to deliver the best value/ lowest cost project, and as such we are guaranteeing to pay them with our property and future. I believe that the 218 assessment represents a "contract with the County" No one can be expected to enter any “contract for payment” willy-nilly, even if enforcement is threatenedA shield from liability is in AB 2701 is for the county, but does not translate to the community with Notices of Violation. The Community continues to be harmed, while the years of failure by the Water Board and local agencies skate. Because Governments are shielded from consequences of bad decisions, and there is little recourse if they overspend or fail to deliver can the County at least describe how they will provide the best value/lowest cost guarantee? The contract should have sufficient detail to assure there is not an intentional or unintentional "breach" by either parties, and also what options the community has for a addressing and correcting a "breach" of contract. Methods such as third party review and cost and performance metrics need to be spelled out in the staff report to assure agency performance. I believe a contract with the community can be nailed down without giving up flexibility in system selection or CEQA site selection, or the creative financing and delivery options. Last, the County should consider supporting the appeal of the individual enforcement if the County assumes the project. Regulations are rightly applied to the lead agency for the property owners, not individuals. This good faith commitment is reasonable and ought to be included.Keep Los Osos Solution Out of the VoteFew can disagree with the notion that “proposition 218 will solve many problems in Osos” (Sparks headline viewpoint all local papers) However, 218 is to fund a project, Not save face (instead of money?) or settle the CSD problems. The County role is to deliver a project. AB 2701 was specific in that the LOCSD bankruptcy was NOT to be solved on the back of the project. Entangling the CSD politics only harms the County process.The community must insist that the County keep this obligation, and leave the SWRCB disputed loan for the CSD and the courts. The County must also resist subversive enforcement threats from the RWQCB. I expect the same tactics used by Roger Briggs against individual to force a vote, will be used (again) against the County to force TRI W technology. Just as the CSD painfully experienced RWQCB intimidating interference from 1998-2005, the County is receiving letters from Roger Briggs in efforts to drive the project’s technology, which is explicitly forbidden under the Ca.water code . The County must just say NO to the RWQCB, as is their right and responsibility to do so, and absolutely necessary to keep their promise the good people of Los Osos who will soon vote Yes or No on hiring the County to deliver. Gail McPherson is a retired Wastewater professional and Spokesperson for Citizens for Clean Water/Prohibition Zone Legal Defense Fund. To donate to the enforcement appeal: PO Box 6095 Los Osos Ca 93412. For more information PZLDF.org or call 805-534-1913