Tuesday, February 27, 2007

PZLDF Attorney Dismisses Sorta Kinda (Where’s Roger?) ! Party Time! Paavo Speaks! Gotta Lobby! And Hats Off!

First, from a press release from the PZLDF:

As a cost saving measure PZLDF has decided to dismiss, without prejudice, their Petition for Writ of Mandamus which was amended and filed on November 28, 2006.
The basis for the petition, filed by Alan Martyn, William Moylan, Beverly Dewitt-Moylan, Antoinette Payne, Bruce Payne, Rhian Gulassa, and Timothy L. Rochte, sought to have hearings continued until Regional Water Board Executive, Roger Briggs, could appear for a questioning.
Roger Briggs left on October 6, 2006 for a six month sabbatical, and although subpoenaed in advance did not appear for their deposition. Water Board chairman, Jeffery Young quashed the subpoena October 18. Although the request was first made to Regional Water Board staff in August, the lack of Mr. Briggs testimony and prosecution team documents made proper preparation for hearings impossible.
The Regional Water Board recognized Roger Briggs would be unavailable for either disposition or appearance at the quasi-trials if hearings did not proceed as promised after the April 28 hearing, but for reasons unexplained, Jeffery Young continued and then delayed the hearings for over 9 months, until after Briggs’ departure.
The lawsuit asked the court to vacate all orders requiring the hearings until after the completion of the deposition of Roger Briggs or to set aside the decision that quashed the subpoena and to produce Roger Briggs. Additionally defendants were not properly noticed and served chairman’s orders throughout the year long proceedings. The court found it was premature to challenge the enforcement or stay the hearings until after the issuance of the Cease and Desist Orders.
PZLDF had originally planned to amend the Petition after issuance of the Cease and Desist Orders but based on new delays by the Regional Water Board to complete the balance of the hearings until at least May, it is probably more cost-effective to dismiss the current petition and re-file it later, according to a spokesman for PZLDF. (There are at lease 7 property owners to be heard.)
PZLDF request for dismissal will be filed immediately to avoid possible dismissal or prejudice to their legal challenges. On January 16, 2006: 14 of the 45 residents and property owners in Los Osos targeted for enforcement filed a petition for the State Water Resources Control Board to review the actions of the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control (RWQCB).
The appeal is brought on behalf of all individual property owners and residents of Los Osos who have been or will be subject to the issuance of individual Cease and Desist Orders, or who oppose the “lottery style” enforcement actions taken by the water board and issuance of CDO’s that could result in loss of property.
Representation for the legal actions including the appeal is by Sullivan and Associates. Petitioners include designated parties who were issued Cease and Desist Orders at the December 14 and 15 hearings before the RWQCB.

Party Time!

Mark your calendars. Time for a benefit for The Los Osos 45, you know, your friends and neighbors who have spent a whole year being hammered by the Regional Water Quality Control Board and who are now appealing their CDO case to both the State Water Board and, if necessary, into a “real court,” in hopes that the rest of the community doesn’t have to go through what they’ve been put through. (See above for some of what they’re been going through – including the fact that the State Water Board can sit on their appeal for nearly a year, thereby tying them up in “administrative” limbo while preventing them from even going to a “real court” to get anything close to “justice.”)

It’s a BBQ, with Music, and prizes on Sunday, March 18, noon to 6pm. at the South Bay Community Center, 2180 Palisades. Cost is $10. For more information call 528-8408 or go to See you there.

Speaking of Seeing You There, Where Were You?

Citizens for Clean Water-PZLDF had a meeting last night at the Washington Mutual meeting room; guest speakers Paavo Ogren and two of the project engineers on the wastewater project. So, show of hands: How many of you folks who regularly log onto this blogsite to whine and kvetch and lie and make stuff up and ask ME questions bothered to show up and whine and kvetch and ask PAAVO questions? C’mon, how many of you were there?

I thought as much.

Had you attended the meeting you may have heard Paavo’s comments and replies to many questions. Some of the more interesting comments:

For those of you who keep stating that the community could have had a sewer years ago paid for by the federal government, Paavo would beg to differ for the following reasons: Resolution 83-13 wasn’t passed until 1983. That meant that there was no regulatory perception of a “problem” and by ’83 the county was working on a sewer but by about ’85 President Reagan had de-funded federal funding for such projects (it was the “Reagan Revolution” of cutting government programs -- to Reagan,” the government didn’t solve problems, the government WAS the problem -- so by the time the County had a project ready, there were no federal monies available to pay for the project, which meant the cost was “unaffordable” even in ’85.

Since Paavo was the first interim General Manager for the original CSD, he had a unique seat at the table, so to speak and some of his comments as to what went wrong here should be made mandatory listening and it had to do with what he called ‘Institutional Effectiveness,” that is, Does the institution (i.e. a CSD, any CSD) responsible for dealing with a project, have the resources to actually solve the problem?

In the case of our CSD the answer clearly was: No. When the original Ponds of Avalon failed to materialize, (and Ron Crawford has documented that the Solutions Group knew before the CSD formation that they wouldn’t be approved) the CSD simply lacked the resources needed to do a serious alternatives analysis. What happened instead was what I call the Tar Baby Syndrome: by sticking tightly to the [Tri-W] site they were forced to do A which led to B which led to C and so forth until the tracks they laid bit by bit headed off the cliff. (A tidbit: According to Paavo, as of now, MBR technology is off the table. It was mandated by sticking to the Tri-W site because it allows the treatment plant to fit into a very small footprint, but it’s expensive and an energy sucker and if that tiny footprint is no longer required, the technology is too wasteful to be considered. It’s an excellent example of the Tar Baby Syndrome.)

Paavo’s comments about “Institutional Effectiveness” is also an excellent reminder that it’s highly likely that this entire project was doomed from day one and its fate totally sealed by Regulatory pressure (FINES!FINES!FINES! Unreasonable TSOs, more FINES!FINES!FINES), bad information or lack of information (remember the tape of an early discharge site selection meeting of the original CSD wherein it was pointed out and acknowledged that the CSD didn’t have enough information to make a proper decision yet one had to be made that night or else face FINES!FINES!FINES – the worst kind of decision making process possible). Add on some key failures by the oversight bodies (Coastal Commission and BOS and County Planning) and you have the perfect mix for a perfect train wreck.

More comments: To Paavo, the RWQCB’s CDO date of 2011 is “unreasonable.” Apparently, most everybody except the RWQCB and their Grand Inquisitor understands that a project cannot be completed by 2011, the “drop dead” date they insisted be kept in the CDO and “Settlement Agreements.’ Paavo also expressed a hope that the RWQCB would follow the wording of AB2701, the point of which was that all parties “stand down,” something everybody except the RWQCB understood and neither did Governor Schwarzenegger, whose signing statement appended to AB2701 may also bollix up things.

Plus, interestingly, Paavo raised the fact that the RWQCB is faced with an interesting problem: The cost of complying with their regulations BLOWS OUT ALL AFFORDABILITY GUIDELINES, federal, state, all of ‘em. KaBoom! Out of the water. Which raises this issue: Does regulatory compliance legally require a community be destroyed in order to “save” it?

In a demographic chart passed out at the meeting, (based on the general census, not the PZ itself, which means the chart is skewed “richer” than the PZ reality) about 43% of the community are 55-75 with Median Houshold Incomes in the $35,00 range, which means that for them, even the $205-a-month Tri W sewer estimate would have gone beyond all Federal “affordability” ranges. Which gets back to: Does regulatory compliance require a community destroy 43% of its residents in order to “save” itself?

And finally another important comment by Paavo: Regulators can hurt or help AB 2701, that is, actions taken by the RWQCB could end up bollixing up AB2701 and making completion of the project harder, something apparently everyone except the RWQCB understands. Sigh.

Maria Kelly and Lynette Tornatzky will be hosting county representatives Thursday night March 1, for more questions on the 218 vote at the little schoolhouse at 6 pm. before the CSD meeting (wherein maybe we will learn that the 2.5 million that was held by the judge has now been released to the CSD without a peep from the papers and apparently no battle from the County which argued that that money should come to them as part of the wastewater funds so maybe Thursday night we’ll get some more info or a WWF Smackdown fight over the dough?) So, to all the folks who spend endless hours on this blog, at least go to Kelly’s meeting and ask Paavo your questions.

Hats off to Cal Poly Student Intern, Katherine Hamby.

If you got your swell February Brochure #2 on Proposition 218, there’s a note in there that informs us that the Los Osos Project Brochures are being designed and prepared by Cal Poly Senior, Kathy Hanby. Another great example of Cal Poly’s “hands-on” policy of education – students getting a chance to put their education to work in the real world with actual real-world projects. It’s a real win-win: the student gets invaluable experience, we (the “client”) get a brochure that cost less than 70 cents to produce.

Lobby, Gotta Lobby

At last night’s meeting, I posed a question that I intend to keep asking (it’s called Lobbying and I’m going to be doing it until I see a firm date set) and here it is: Will the county set up a workshop and invite the so-called Peer Review Group (i.e. National Water Research Institute) to come and “peer review” the Process and whatever systems float up to the top for final consideration and issue a report?

The answer was Yes. Dr. George Tchobanoglous had expressed an interest in returning for just such a look-see as well as Valerie Young, AICP, Environmental Planner and Water Reuse Specialist.

This is good. None of the folks at the Water Research Institute have a dog in this fight. Dr. T wrote the textbooks that all of the engineers building this project were taught from while in engineering school, so nobody can say he’s some doofus with a spoon. In short, we can have the benefit of the top experts in the world vetting whatever project is in the running so that the community can have confidence that there were no non-engineering thumbs on the scale (i.e. “political stuff” that has nothing to do with engineering and best practices). My hope is that such a vetting and report will go a long way in bringing the community together that whatever project they finally pick will, indeed, pass muster.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Yes, Taxpayers Watch AND Atascadero Are Going To Hell In A HandBasket

Oh, noooo, not another ironic lawsuit! The Los Osos citizen group known as Taxpayers Watch is being sued by LAFCO (Local Area Formation) to get payment of the $27,747.50 LAFCO charged the group to go through the whole Los Osos CSD dissolution preparations and hearings. To date, the Los Osos CSD has not billed the group for its cost to defend against the dissolution of itself. (For more irony, the Tribune story notes that, “Taxpayers Watch has not determined whether its members would approach the services district for support.”

No, that’s not a sick joke. Apparently, TW is thinking that since the CSD has hired an attorney to join with some of The Los Osos 45 [private citizens] who have filed an appeal of their CDOs from the Regional Water Quality Control Board, well, maybe Taxpayers Watch [private citizens] could also get some help from the very group they so recently tried to disappear to death. (Since defending against the dissolution cost a bunch of money, it’s not clear whether any help the CSD might offer now would have to be deducted from whatever TW has already cost them. And, to keep apples from oranges, the CSD itself is a designated party in the CDO hearings, so signing on with this particular appeal may “help” the private citizens only coincidentally—they are simply running on parallel tracks.)

TW is disputing some of the charges and will try to negotiate the costs down. Meantime, I would suggest that everyone in the community who signed the dissolution petitions needs now to step forward and send a few bucks to Taxpayers Watch. Time to put your money where your pens and pencils were and support the folks who were doing your bidding. Supposedly there were some 3,000 signatures on that dissolution petition, so if each of those folks coughs up $10 bucks, that’ll do the trick. (Or maybe $15, if the CSD bills TW for, say, ½ of the $27,000 bill for their share of the costs?)

Also meanwhile, I think all of us might want to think about these charges. The process itself is there to be used by citizens in forming and de-forming CSDs and such like. Being charged for using the process does indeed, as Ms. Albright notes in the Tribune, “. . . [take] away citizens’ ability to petition their government. They’re going after the group that even dared bring up the issue.”

So maybe what was needed here (and is still needed here for the future) is some method of separating “frivolous” (politically motivated, hidden-agenda, anger/personal driven) dissolution requests from “non-frivolous” (clear evidence of financial meltdown, illegal governance, inability to govern, illegal fraud) driven dissolution. It should also be policy that dissolution can only be approached when other methods have failed. In this case, there were options to dissolution – another recall, an upcoming election to change the Board, petitions to create a new measure on the ballot to do such and such, & etc. In that way, dissolution would be a truly serious LAST step that, if lost, could cost you a bundle, which would make citizens very, very cautious about approaching LAFCO in the first place.

Atascadero, hand me that hand basket.

The Atascadero school board has now flip-flopped and voted again, this time to NOT to allow students off campus to attend religious instruction.

I found this whole story so utterly weird. It was modified déjà vu all over again.

When I was in Junior High, way back in the Jurassic Era, Catholic kids, with their parent’s permission, were allowed once a week to attend catechism classes for one hour a day, off campus. When I was in High School, seniors with a certain GPA average who had completed all their graduation requirements, were allowed, with their parents permission, to skip the last period and leave campus at 2 pm, rather than 3 p.m.. In my case, I opted to go home an hour early, thus freeing me up for further study, homework and/or to work on special projects. None of this was a big deal.

Now, apparently, it is a big deal. And apparently, some of the discussion has gotten truly weird. This from the Tribune story: “ . . . sophomore Brandon Istenes, delivered a spirited speech dressed as a pirate in which he explained that even fringe religions wanting to hold classes would have to be considered if the motion [to let kids attend off-campus activities] passed.”

Uh, and your point is? Where I grew up, Catholics were considered a “fringe religion,” but if the parents wanted their kids excused for that “fringe” activity, they were. And in high school, when you were off campus, the school had no say in what you were up to, even dressed like a “fringe” pirate. That was your parents’ concern and the police’s concern, if you were up to no good. Not the school’s.

Our schools are too often doing a cruddy job of educating our kids. What they do need to do is set policy that focuses on exactly what requirements they feel kids need to be minimally educated and if the kid meets those criteria, then so be it. If their parents want them to leave early to attend Holy Basket Weaving classes, fine. What’s the problem? It isn’t the school’s role to decide what religions are “fringe.” It’s the school’s role to try to make sure Johnny & Janey can read, write, do math, Please God think critically, and know enough history to be able to spot bunk and hokum when they see it.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

PZLDF Public Meeting

Please mark your calendars. Another chance to get information directly from Paavo Ogren, who’s in charge of the Wastewater Project.

Public invited:
Prohibition Zone Legal Defense Fund (PZLDF) Meeting
Monday February 26, 2007 -7:00 pm Washington Mutual Bank

"Compliance is linked to a project….and A PROJECT to a successful process..."

Guest speaker: Paavo Ogren, SLO Co Los Osos Project Director, will discuss the process toward a successful project for Los Osos.

In January 2006, 45 residents were randomly selected by the Regional Water Board as a test case for unprecedented enforcement action against individuals. However, all 5000 properties-residences, and businesses- in the Los Osos prohibition zone are targeted by the Regional Water Quality Control Board for prosecution in the near future.

Regulatory compliance requires a wastewater solution for Los Osos. The primary legislative intent of AB 2701 (the Blakeslee Bill) is to create a process for the county to assume control of the Los Osos wastewater project, and to provide the means and expertise to deliver a successful project. Paavo Ogren, SLO Co Los Osos Project Director is the invited guest speaker Monday February 26, 2007.

Enforcement taken now does not improve water quality or further that process. Individual enforcement undermines the County’s ability to succeed in delivering a project, because it further divides the community.

The Prohibition Zone Legal Defense Fund (PZLDF) is for everyone who favors a project in the foreseeable future, and an end to the division in Los Osos.

The association’s mission & purpose cuts across any political factions or ideologies. PZLDF goals of Clean Water, Regulatory Compliance, and Protection of Property Rights, are a common concern for ALL citizens.

Concerned that recent water board enforcement against individual residents is unjust and counter-productive in achieving the water board’s goals, PZLDF assisted the community in proactively defending residents & business owners.

"Misapplied enforcement deprives citizens of their due process, equal protection, and property rights." According to spokesperson Gail McPherson. PZLDF keeps lines of communication open with the water board, the county and the district. PZLDF proposed proactive enforcement options to improve water quality, and offered constructive settlement plans in lieu of orders. PZLDF recently joined to file a “petition for Review” with the State Water Resources Control Board (Feb 16, 2007) for Cease and Desist Orders and settlement Clean up and Abatement Orders issued December 15, 2006. Shaunna Sullivan is representing designated parties in the appeal of the Regional Water Boards enforcement action.

For more information:
Gail McPherson (805) 459-4535 or for reservations Laurie McCombs (805) 528-8408
The Prohibition Zone Legal Defense Fund holds weekly meetings every Monday at Washington Mutual Bank, the public is welcome.
Donations to the fund can be made at Coast Bank or Checks payable to PZLDF P.O 6095 Los Osos 93412

Saturday, February 17, 2007

I’m vilifying you, for God’s sake. Pay attention.”

Henry II to Eleanor in James Goldman’s The Lion In Winter

Got a phone call yesterday morning a little after 8 am from Harvey Packard, Division Chief for the Regional Water Quality Control Board. Harvey’s sort of in charge of running the “Torquemada’s Mad Hatter Tea Party & Auto-d-fe Public Beheading & Traveling CDO Show” until Roger Briggs returns from his extended vacation. Harvey’s one of the people CDO recipient Bill Moylan stood a few feet away from at the Jan 22 "trial" and looked directly at and said “What does matter is that members of the Water Board prosecution team were informed many times last year that people were suffering physically, emotionally, and spiritually from this CDO process, and that the Water Board had an obligation to help the people of Los Osos and not hurt them, and those pleadings were ignored.”

Harvey just sat there and ignored Bill as well, even though he knew firsthand that this process was hurting people, which was weird since I don’t think Harvey is a sociopath, so the question remains: Does he truly not know what he’s doing is scientifically pointless or is he just being a good German and following orders? If he honestly thinks the CDO requirements will have an impact on groundwater in the short time until the County finishes the wastewater system, he should have a little sit down chatty-poo with Tim Cleath of Cleath & Associates, or maybe Dr. Wickham or Dr. George of the so-called Peer Review Group. If he’s just following orders, and he knows those order are injuring people, ah, then a far more interesting moral question presents itself, doesn’t it?

Of course, there’s always the possibility that Harvey knows perfectly well that the only reason for the CDOs is as a coercive Prop 218 electioneering device but, since I’m sure that’s all very illegal, then his only option is to follow orders and keep his mouth shut, which again presents more interesting moral issues for Harvey.

Meantime, he clearly cares enough when he feels he’s been misquoted in the paper, which is why he came to be calling me. Seems Harvey has a secret vice: checking my blog on occasion, especially if he hears I’ve mentioned his name or am vilifying him and the rest of the Mad Hatter Crew. I know, it’s an awful thing to admit to, sort of like confessing that you collect Kewpie Dolls or egg cartons or secretly hoard string and have a ball of it six feet across in your garage.

I had posted a previous blog entry that noted that a February 11 Tribune story quoted Packard as saying that “his agency must move ahead with its process in the event that the current plan falls through. He added, though, that the regional board has no plans now to expand enforcement beyond the 45 targeted.” [italics mine]. I questioned the accuracy of that quote since the Board had not met to decide anything about future CDOs and I thought at the time how unfortunate that quote was because it implied to the Los Osos reader that if they were not one of The Los Osos 45, then they didn’t have to worry since they were off the hook, which was sooooooo not true, but certainly would be a great misapprehension to get out into the community so as to keep them again off balance by keeping them poorly mis-and-mal-informed.

Turns out that I was right and here was Harvey to let me know, Yep, it was an “incorrect quote.” He thought the reporter, Sona Patel, had understood what he meant, but apparently the truth was simply too difficult for poor Sona to comprehend.

And anyway, the statement she did print was accurate even though it was totally misleading, which is actually pretty cool: Say one thing that is technically accurate yet creates a totally different meaning, then if anyone questions it, simply say (accurately) that you were quoted incorrectly. Mission accomplished: The reader is misled but you’re off the hook.

In the case of Harvey and the “no plans now to expand enforcement beyond the 45 targeted,” that is technically true. As of 8 a.m. February 16th, 2007 Harvey has not received nor has the Regional Board issued any instructions to proceed with issuing CDOs on the rest of the community, even though that has been the Board’s stated intention, an intention Harvey has repeated ad infinitum, but since he does not have the actual paperwork on his desk in front of him as he makes that statement, he can “truthfully” say he “has no plans now (8 a.m. February 16th.) to expand enforcement beyond the 45 targeted.” And if he gets a phone call at 8:05 a.m telling him to proceed with 4,955 CDOs, well, that still doesn’t change the accuracy of his original statement and so it’s not Harvey’s problem.

And if the reader misunderstands, well, that’s not Harvey’s problem either, now is it?

More tea anyone?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Yes, It’s The Department of “I Can’t Believe He Said That.”

In his Jan 15 article in New Times, Patrick Klemz discusses the Los Osos CSD vote to join forces with The Los Osos 45 and sign on with Los Osos attorney Shaunna Sullivan who is filing an appeal of the CDOs at the behest of some of the 45 to the State Water Board. That vote earned the ire of CSD Board Member, Joe Sparks, who wrote a Tribune “Viewpoint” (Feb 15) His objection appears to be a district spending money on legal fees “without having the funding source identified.”

Interestingly, what seems to have gone missing is the fact that – please correct me if I’m wrong here – the CSD was granted status as a Designated CDO recipient and had its kangaroo court “trial” and can now file an appeal. Furthermore, the CSD has to prepare an appeal of its ACL “trial,” a good amount of which can be appealed on the same basis as the CDO appeal, plus most of the CSD’s “trial” evidence was incorporated by reference by other CDO recipients so the CSD and The Los Osos 45 are indeed joined at the hip. (The Regional Water Quality Control Board has already clearly linked individual residents and the CSD together, which is why they have targeted everyone inside the PZ for a CDO. This makes claims of citizens somehow being “private” absurd. To the RWQCB the citizen IS the CSD and vice versa.) And if the CSD is already paying one attorney to handle their CDO/ACL appeal, and there’s another identical appeal from citizens and both are on one track, (and to the Water Board, citizen & CSD are one in the same) does it make financial sense to join those appeals? Apparently, Yes to the majority of the CSD Board and No to Mr. Sparks, hence we now have (again) Governance By Tribune “Viewpoint.”

Oddly, if the appeal is successful either with the Water Board or in a real court of law, the rulings could apply to the entire process and hence could affect all The Los Osos 45, the entire Prohibition Zone AND the entire CSD, including those outside the PZ. Plus, efforts by PZLDF (Prohibition Zone Legal Defense Fund) has already raised private donations to move the appeal process forward, so whatever work has already been done and paid for would also benefit the CSD’s appeal. In addition, Ms. Sullivan was quoted in the NT article as saying, “The CSD hasn’t paid me for anything yet. . . . Most of what’s been done so far as been on my dime. It’s been frustrating donating my services to a cause and getting ripped for it (in the media)”

Getting ripped for donating services to Los Osos? Par for the course in what Klemz deliciously describes as “the nitrate-crazed bedroom community.”

Well, presumably the CSD Board will figure out what jar to take the CSD’s CDO/ACL defense fund out of (Hint: The CSD’s regular attorney would have to bill for time spent on that appeal, so instead, why not assign that part of his budget to Ms. Sullivan?)

Well, as NT notes, “This is just another item for the grand jury,” said former [recalled] board member Richard LeGros.”

Which gets us into the I Can’t Believe He Said That portion: Re the CSD’s vote to hire Sullivan, “They’re populists – they have no problem using public funds to fight activist battles, “LeGros said. “It’s a gross violation of government code.” . . . said the man who had no problem voting to unnecessarily gamble AND LOSE gazillions of dollars of nice money that belonged to those “populist” taxpayers when he voted to start construction on Tri W weeks before the recall election that removed him from office.

Yep, just another item for the grand jury, especially if they’re asked to consider issues of “due diligence” in governing.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Calhoun’s Cannons ,The Bay News, Morro Bay, CA, for Feb 14, 07

On AnnonyMice & The Blogs-O-Fear

To be persuasive, we must be believable. To be believable, we must be credible. To be credible, we must be truthful.
Edward R. Murrow.

The blogosphere is a dichotomous place in which to work . It is at once a place of great honesty and great lies. It is both credible and incredible. It can serve up both heat and light. It gives the illusion of intimacy, but often only delivers the distance of anonymity.

I started writing my blog in 2005 ( at the invitation of “Newsstand” Greg McClure, who started the Central Coast News Mission ( as a sort of virtual country store with a virtual pot-bellied stove around which local writers and readers could gather to whittle and chew and chat about the day’s events. The only difference would be that while the writers would have to put their names on their opinions and statements, others wishing to post their comments were free to remain anonymous.

And therein lies the most interesting aspect of the blogosphere: Anonymity. That often blessed state is not granted to me as my name is on everything I post and readers can verify or attack my credibility. Either way, I must own my opinions and claim responsibility for my statements. But readers wishing to post comments can do so anonymously and the results are often very interesting to watch.

Los Osos resident Bev Moylan expressed this process very well indeed: “The anonymity of a blog is a way for some people to express their thoughts with no consequences. For others, the choice of anonymity on a blog is a way to act out without fear of being caught. Expressing opinions anonymously when they are obscene, defamatory, or misleading, or are simply untrue statements and suppositions disguised as facts is the equivalent of a drive-by. Destructive anonymous posting is a guerilla tactic to avoid embarrassment and responsibility while allowing those who practice it to vent rage and hostility at will without fear of reprisal. Anonymous assassination does nothing, however, to advance the discussion nor add to the knowledge base.”

But is sure is fun, as any blog reader can tell you. Like taggers running under the cover of darkness to scrawl potty words on a wall, a lot of adult posters revert to juvenile behavior, secure in the knowledge that Mommy can’t catch them and spank. Thus, posting often becomes the cyberworld’s version of the old crank telephone call to strangers to ask them if their refrigerator is running or if they have Prince Albert in a can.

Even more interesting is to watch the displaced aggression that often occurs among the posters, the human equivalent of dogs fence-fighting. For example, Poster A will rage at something I’ve written and before long other posters will join in and in no time I’ve been completely forgotten as the posters start snapping at one another. Can’t get through the fence to get at the real dog? Then bite the one nearest you.

But there is also an even darker side to the blogosphere and that is its inherent ability to be used for deliberate disinformation. As the old saying goes, A Lie can be halfway around the world before Truth gets his shoes on. Anonymous posting can be a great vehicle for people with hidden agendas or personal vendettas to claim a moral high ground in their postings while really engaging in a deadly high-tech parlor game of Telephone: . . . Pssst, did you hear? Pssst, pass it on . . . all the while avoiding accountability for their actions.

And since so many people operate on information fragments anyway– a snippet of headline, a partially remembered factoid that may or may not be true --the possibility for manipulation and falsification of information grows ever greater.

Add in an utter lack of accountability and you can end up with the challenging and potentially dangerous mix we have today: The blogosphere “noise machine” feeding an ever fragmenting Mainstream Media, all chasing those lucrative ratings dollars. It is a double-edged system ripe for abuse even while offering its own antidote: The cure for bad speech is more and better speech.

Meanwhile, the biggest caveat of all when entering Blog-O-World still pertains: If a person is unwilling to own his or her opinions, put a name, a civic and personal reputation behind them, what good are they?

Just more static in a world filled with the growing din of meaningless, furious buzz.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Connections, Part Duh, Weird Water and More Misc.

It was clear from some comments on my last posting “Connections,” 2/12/07 that some folks missed the point. The posting wasn’t intended to be a Complete History Of The World Part I, but instead was a match-up game illustrating the nearly endless combinations that would result if you linked A with M resulting in W or C to F resulting in Q and so forth.

Ron Crawford of chimed in to illustrate a part of the game I had left out: What happens when the SYSTEM itself (aka “the process” ) fails. For example, suppose the Coastal Commission, during the de novo hearing, had actually insisted on an answer to their question regarding a comparison of in-town vs out-of-town systems? That would have very likely changed the entire outcome. But they didn’t and the citizens were powerless to make them do their jobs.

Which points up yet another fatal flaw in this whole sad saga: System Failure itself.

Public works projects are like the tropical insect eating Pitcher Plant. At the bottom of the throat of the tube-like “flower,” is a pool of sweet smelling protein-digesting enzymes. The fly lands on the lip of the “flower” to sniff a bit, -- Yum, Yum -- then heads down the throat. It is not until the fly gets about ½ way down that it dawns on him that maybe this isn’t such a good idea and he tries to turn around and go back. It is only then that he finds that the throat of this tube is lined with spiked hairs all pointing one way – down. The little creature struggles to get out but is trapped, gets exhausted, finally turns and slides down into the pool and is digested. The plant is fed. The fly dies.

The SYSTEM that built the Hideous Los Osos Sewer is exactly like that Pitcher Plant. It is a system that does not have easily accessible escape hatches or course correction mechanisms. All the project “hairs” point one way and once you take that first step, it’s often totally impossible to change direction or reverse direction, even though everyone may agree that disaster lies ahead. Instead, all the systems that are there for oversight are often set up to speed the fly downward, not act as a check & balance should something be discovered during the Process that would require a correction.

And if the Powers That Be wish a certain outcome, no matter how bad that outcome may be, (think here of the lack of due diligence on the part of the SRF Loan, the hurry to pound that money into the ground, the constand litany of FINES!FINES!FINES! whenever questions that might involve a delay came up, & etc.) no matter that there are better outcomes or more and better science or engineering or whatever it is, then everything about the System can be used to keep the fly heading downwards.

And after the meal is digested, and everyone stands around and says, Oh Darn, Oh, Dear, Oh, Well, the passive voice will again appear in the land – Mistakes Were Made – and very few will think to take a look at a System that allowed – nay, encouraged – such “mistakes.”

And if Los Ososians think all this is merely a History Lesson, think again. The System, the PROCESS, is the same system working on the “New! Improved! Wastewater System.” The same system weakness is there, the same lack of checks and balances should certain thumbs get on the scale, should certain agencies fail to do their jobs. So we could again have another train wreck, or another dead fly, to mix metaphors. That’s why it’s so important for Los Ososians to Pay Attention to make sure it’s the right fly and the right “flower.”

Water Water Everywhere, Sort of

The Morro Bay City Council heard more about last November’s water crisis – switching wells that resulted in tapping a well with water way above the state allowed levels of nitrates. This emergency resulted in a mad scramble to alert residents that was heroic but did point up the fact that Morro Bay didn’t really have a completed System in place for this type of emergency. So the efforts were very much Loving Hands At Home with folks really pitching in, flying by the seat of their pants, working overtime to handle a situation that blew up out of nowhere.

So the City Council is now working on setting up a system to trigger a better notification process when this same thing happens in November, when the wells will be tapped again and this whole thing may repeat.

And Cleath & Assoc have signed a contract to test the groundwater to see where the nitrates are coming from. It appeared that Wells 9 & 10 in the Chorro Valley spiked. Those wells are normally fallow, and when they’re started and stopped and started, there’s a nitrate variation. So the question remained: Where are the Nitrates coming from?

Immediate assumption: Ag run off and nitrate fertilizer run off from Ag lands in the Chorro Valley. Ag lands? Fertilizers polluting the waters of the State of California? Where’s Waldo? i.e. the Regional Water Quality Control Board?

Dunno. Who’s responsible for monitoring groundwater basins? Well, it sure couldn’t be our RWQCB. They’re broke. Had enough money to waste for a whole year on harassing and tormenting The Los Osos 45 in their pointless Mad Hatter “Trials,” but not enough money to videotape the last Jan 22 Kangaroo Court, so clearly they couldn’t possibly have had the budget to monitor water quality in a water basin. Nope.

So, maybe it’s the County’s job to monitor ground water? Well, the Cleath & Associates water report will be interesting. Stay tuned.

Board Appointments

In today’s Tribune editorial, it notes that David Chipping was appointed to a seat on the county’s Water Resources Advisory Committee. If you recall, Los Osos developer Jeff Edwards had applied for that seat and came under fire for not being “green” enough, since the advisory committee is supposed to be about SAVING water, not building stuff that USES water.

However, I called someone on the committee to ask whether the Committee had a “Developer” chair, and if it didn’t, shouldn’t it invent just such a chair? After all, developers have a major stake in water use issues and such is the arcane nature of water use law that the old Godfather dictum should apply: Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.

Well, apparently the Committee may consider Edwards’ request to have a Builder’s Chair, uh, built, a Chair that the various builder groups could nominate candidates for and the BOS could fill. Right now the Farm Bureau chooses its chair, various environmental groups nominate their chairs, so why not have a Developer Chair, and let the developers nominate a person who is an innovative “green” builder with ideas on how to SAVE water while USING it.

Woof-Woof, Redux.

The Morro Bay City Council will have on their agenda for their February 26 meeting (at the Vets Hall 6 pm.) another look at developing a fenced off-leash dog park at Del Mar Park. Morro Bay’s been trying for years to get an official off-leash park up and running. To date, there are now four official fenced off-leash areas (El Chorro, Nipomo, Cambria, Atascadero), with two, possibly three more off-leash projects in the works in various parts of the county. If that’s something you’d like to see happen for Morro Bay, do attend the meeting and let your voice be heard.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Public Hearing on Morro Bay Water Quality vis a vis High Nitrates recently found in Morro Bay's wells. Tuesday, February 13th at 7 pm. at the Vet's Hall on Surf Street. Since Morro Bay's been sewered for 50 years, a question that must be asked is: Where are the nitrates coming from? Old leaking sewer pipes? If they're coming from the ag lands surrounding Morro Bay (i.e. nitrate fertilizer run off), then where's the monitoring results from the RWQCB? If the levels in the aquifer are now higher than state standards, will the RWQCB issue cease and desist orders on the farmers in those valleys? If the levels spike again, will Morro Bay have to build a denitrificaion plant? Blend water? Hmmmm, so many questions. Well, hope you'll all attend the meeting and listen and ask any questions. Should be interesting.

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.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Oops! # 1

In this morning’s Tribune it notes that the Los Osos CSD has hired attorney Shauna Sullivan to represent The Los Osos 45 in their CDO appeal to the State Water Board as well in a real court if the SWB ignores the appeals.

Good for the CSD. These 45 people have been put through hell for a whole year with very real health consequences for many of them. They have had their lives disrupted and damaged for a whole year.

And for what? If the Regional Water Quality Control Board had wanted the community to pump, inspect, repair, (even though they had received expert testimony that doing so wouldn’t do diddly to the upper aquifer, still it’s a kinda nice “feel good” gesture and might end up helping perched water or maybe help some low lying areas a bit) all they had to do is send us proper notification and a formal request and the vast majority of people would have happily complied.

Instead, the Regional Water Quality Control Board abused its power and discretion, demonstrated its complete lack of “science” and failure to do its homework with their original Mad Pumping Scheme, cooked up a settlement agreement that offered fewer protections to homeowners and so hammered people into signing it “under duress” (all the while denying it was duress), stupidly threatened the whole town with CDOs as well, spent God Knows How Much Of Your Tax Money on these appalling Mat Hatter “Trials,” all the while tying the cessation of these kangaroo court proceedings to the “correct” 218 vote on the county project, thereby moronically opening themselves up to charges of illegal “electioneering” which could derail this entire project with a lawsuit – It’s Los Osos, Home of Lawsuits, give somebody a chink and they’ll drive a piton into it -- thereby causing this writer to wonder how could these people be so stupid as to even make that link, in writing, in a legal document, fer crying out loud??

Now, in this Tribune story, here’s RWQCB Staff member, Harvey Packard: “He added, though, that the regional board has no plans now to expand enforcement beyond the 45 targeted.”

OOPS. Harvey Packard is STAFF. The Regional Board has not met or voted on how or whether to proceed, so sayeth Chairman Jeffery Young at the Jan 22 meeting. Supposedly (Wink-nudge? Wink-nudge?) nobody knows how they’ll vote or what they will do next. That item #6 was on the January 22 meeting agenda and was postponed, to be decided next time after public input and a vote. The last agenda I got noted that the next meeting in Feb. would not allow ANY discussion or input on anything having to do with Los Osos at all. Zip, Zero, Nada. So item #6 would appear possibly on the March calendar, after the Board had finished trying and beheading a few more of The Los Osos 45.

Yet here’s a STAFF member informing the community what the Board has decided even before the board has decided it?

Quel interestings, as they say. Or, Boy, let’s hope that Tribune quote was accurate? Or maybe Mr. Packard’s a mind reader who can see into the future? If so, he needs to quit this day job and go out on the road!


If you haven’t gotten your edition of The Rock (editor Ed Ochs told me he’d be delivering a copy to everyone in town soon, and posting it soon on their website, for those of you living outside Los Osos) I encourage you to track it down. Starting on page 6 is an interview with Dana Ripley of Ripley Pacific, the folks who prepared the project update report and presented their own recommendation for a STEP wastewater plan, both of which were reviewed at the NWRI “Peer Review Workshop” last year.

Consider, Pg. 6, third paragraph, re the Workshop discussion: “ . . . Of particular interest to me was that the water board staff indicated that it was “on the fence” and “may have erred” in approving the high rate effluent dispersal plan at Broderson. I wrote previously in November 2003 that the Broderson effluent plan needed to consider the State Health Department recharge reuse criteria, and the NWRI panel agreed with that assertion since the Los Osos upper aquifer has historically been a potable water source. State antidegradation policies, in my opinion, require that it be considered a potable water supply irrespective of any degradation that has occurred over recent decades. This was a major concession that strikes at the heart oat the feasibility of the Broderson high rate dispersal plan.”

And, P.8 paragraph three: “If the high rate dispersal plan requires RO, then the whole benefit of the Broderson site comes into question. If Broderson is abandoned for dispersal, then what justification at all remains for keeping Tri-w? Answer: none whatsoever. The pivotal issue, in my opinion, is whether or not the upper aquifer constitutes a potable supply. Since it historically was potable supply, state antidegradation policy would manate that it be considered potable supply today, and a plan advanced to restore potable water quality. The State health recharge reuse guidelines therefore apply. The NWRI panel made the same determination and the water board staff agreed that it “may have erred” on this. If Broderson is abandoned for dispersal, then Tri-W automatically needs to be abandoned as well, for what is a treatment plant worth without an effluent plan close by? Tri-W is simply the wrong treatment location for a host of reasons and the pre-existing approvals are simply of no value.”

The RWQCB staff . . . . . . may have erred.

(According to the NWRI report, RWQCB attendees were: Matt Thompson, P.E. Water Resource Control Engineer and Allison Dominguez, Environmental Scientist. Not known is just who was the original Staff member who made the decision regarding Broderson, which decision is now come into question as being in “error?”)

Now, please recall the videotape presented at the CSD’s CDO “Trial” wherein we saw the late Rose Bowker, then president of the CSD, telling General Manager Bruce Buel that they didn’t have sufficient geological information to make a sound decision as to which dispersal/recharge/disposal site to pick and Mr. Buel saying, yep, that’s right but we have to make a decision tonight or else face FINESFINESFINESFINES from the RWQCB for violating the TSO & etc. (Also, please recall at that same CSD's CDO “trial” Bruce Buel being asked four times and four times, under oath, replying that he found the TSO “unreasonable.”

Connect the dots, please. Thank you.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Level 3 Water Severity? Talk to The Hand

James Caruso from County Planning, came to the LOCAC meeting last night to present portions of the SLO County Resource Capacity Study 2007, the report that declares Los Osos is in a level 3 (severe) water shortage (“severe” as in, right now 500 acre feet a year in overdraft, with salt water intrusions permanently ruining portions of the lower aquifer, more overdraft if building is continued to occur). And, naturally, the LOCAC members point out that they repeatedly “advise” against County Planning issuing building permits (homes outside the PZ and even some inside are still being built/remodeled & etc.) and are repeatedly ignored since County can’t do anything about anything, it’s the water purveyors’ job, and their in litigation now to try to figure out something, but meantime, Oh, well, nobody can do anything, well, maybe LOCAC could ask the Planning Commissioners and/or the BOS to slap on a “temporary” moratorium until the wastewater system is finalized and the water purveyor’s legal wrangling is finished???

In short, nobody’s in charge of anything except wasting time on a “Resource Capacity Study” that indicates a “severity” about which nobody can do anything, Oh Darn. And people outside the PZ but inside the Overdrafted Severity Level Basin are free to build and draw water out of the same overdrafted pool thereby overdrafting it more, while those inside the PZ can’t build diddly. Go figure.

Gloss! Gloss! Get Me My Gloss! But For God’s Sake, Don’t Send A Copy To Ron Crawford! We’ll Never Hear The End Of All The Déjà vu!

Got my really cool, high-gloss Brochure 1 on the “Los Osos Wastewater Project” put out by the Dept of Public Works. Very spiffy. In the center spread, there’s three boxes with cute little pictures and diagrams and arrows, showing how “Viable Project Alternatives” get developed. And in the center box, under the Prop 218 Viable Project Alternatives, there’s a picture of a hand calculator, some greenbbacks and two apples.

Two apples? Apples? I looked around for the oranges, but they’re not there. I suspect the apples were put in there as a graphic illustration of the word “General Benefit” as in apples are good for you hence a benefit? The drawings of greenbacks make sense since that portion of the graphic is referring to $$. But apples? Will the author please ‘splain?

At any rate, a copy of your way cool brochure should be in your mailboxes now. And you can sign up for reports and updates online. The brochure itself is pretty slim pickings because the engineers are still chug-chugging along gathering steam and figuring out which pieces of the track should get laid.

This community can only hope that County Engineering will make sure of their destination BEFORE laying track. After all, a prudent man does not decide to go to Fiji and then start immediately building a locomotive in order to make the entire trip. Just as the job determines the tool to be used, a wastewater system will take its shape and scope and placement from the final end-use plans. Get that right, and the rest falls into place.

Apropos of Ron, he’s posted another document over on his blogsite ( “Why let silly little things like ‘facts and figures’ get in the way of a good sewer-park?” I emailed him to ask about the date of the publication he’s posted vis a vis the Coastal Commission and other reports on the Solutions Group solution. (documents and reports he has cached at his blogsite)

His reply: “ Cuesta Study = July 1998. The Coastal Commission comparative study that corroborated the Questa Study, and where [CC staff Steve] Monowitz writes, ‘Pursuit of the Solution Group alternative also has the potential to result in significant delays to the implementation of a wastewater treatment project for theLlos Osos area”[ was] October 1998. The “working Group” that included members of the County, RWQCB, CC, and Solution Group, where all those agencies were telling the Solution Group their plan wasn’t going to work = All through 1998”

The reason why I was curious about those dates, -- 1998? The Coast & Ocean article is dated Spring 2000. Huh?

It’s The Rock!

Latest copy of The Rock is out now. Here’s a few snipes from the front page:

“’Great Los Osos News Blackout’ Continues: Tribune ignores Ripley peer review report by NWRI panel and buries CDO hearings more than a week after the proceedings.”

“Ret. Judge Goldin on the RWQCB: ‘The Most Incredible Kangaroo Court I’ve Ever Observed’: Forty-plus years of experience in the law did not prepare Judge Goldin for the travesty of justice she witnessed at the RWQCB’s Jan 22 CDO hearing.”

“S.O.S. From Afar: ‘There’s something Going on in Los Osos – it’s Bad:’ David ‘The Waterguy’ Vehnuizen’s recent online thread on Los Osos provoked an array of responses from experts from across the U.S. . . . who are aware and watching.”

Plus an extensive interview with Dana Ripley of Ripley Pacific company, which prepared the Project Update Report as well as a proposal for a STEP system/AgExhange Los Osos wastewater plan.

Too bad the County didn’t include a copy of The Rock tucked inside their glossy brochure. That would have been a more balanced diet: Eye candy AND a good chunk of nourishing information (besides apples?) for the citizens to chew on.)

(For readers who live outside the Los Osos area where The Rock is distributed, you might call them at 528-1224 or email them at to see about having a copy mailed to you.)


AGP Video donated a good chunk of its own time to make sure the citizens could view the “kangaroo court” proceedings of the January 22 RWQCB CDO hearings. If you haven’t already sent them a donation to offset that incredible Public Service gesture, please do so: Their address is: 1600 Preston Lane, Morro Bay 93442.

Meantime, Good Karma and Good Job: AGP Video won the contract to “tape and show state Coastal Commission gatherings on the Internet.”

Reported the Trib: “Sarah Christie, legislative coordinator for the commission, “This is part of a growing trend in state and local government to make public meetings available to the public over the Internet.”


Monday, February 05, 2007


Yooo Hooo, Los Osos. Hellooooooo? HELLOOOO!

The County has a site you can sign up to receive email updates of the Hideous Los Osos Sewer Project and/or receive regular reports via US mail. I would urge all of you in the community to sign up now. Chooo! Choooo! Toot! Toot! This Sewer Train is fixin’ to leave the station and if this community wants to avoid another train wreck at the end of the line, this community better make sure the train’s heading in the direction they want it to be heading. So, sign up now.

County Los Osos Waste Water Planning Mailing List:Starting in February, 2007, the County Public Works Department intends to send regular Project updates by U.S. Mail to all property owners and residents in the Prohibition Zone. If you have not received the Project updates, or live outside the Prohibition Zone, you can join our mailing list

Saturday, February 03, 2007

WaterBoarding Games

If you thought the recent CDO hearings for The Los Osos 45 were a sadistic mess that completely trampled on citizens’ rights, get a load of this. Some of The Los Osos 45 who were given CDOs appealed their case to the State Water Board. (That’s the entity that “oversees” the Regional Boards). Keep in mind, citizens cannot go into a “real” court of law to get protection from the “real” law UNTIL THE ADMINISTRATIVE REMEDIES HAVE ALL BEEN EXHAUSTED. So, here’s what the SWB is up to:

The RWQCB was asked by our Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee to “stand down” with the CDOs to give the County and community “breathing room” for the County to take over the wastewater project and get up to speed. NO! said the RWQCB. They had to had to rush-rush these CDO hearings through, including going non stop over Christmas, over New Years, moving goal posts, time-crunching citizens with impossible to meet deadlines, running them ragged, hurry, hurry, hurry!

Then, when the appeal on those few who were processed and issued CDOs was sent in, on time, with 94 reasons for vacating the decisions and a box of evidence and exhibits, suddenly, Oh, Gosh!, Oh, No, THESE WON’T DO. You have to separate out each document for each individual petitioner, and you have 5 working days to do all that and get them to us, said The State Water Board, Hurry! Hurry!Hurry! And if you need access to the documents, the docs are posted on the RWQCB’s web site . . . OH, WAIT, heh-heh. Uh, no, suddenly they’re . . . gone. Removed. Oh, gee, so how’s a person to do a document search? Oh, you’ll have to submit a Public Records Request and wait, oh, months? Weeks? Whatever, to get a reply.

Then, it gets better. Here’s section 2050.5 (b):

The State Board shall review and act on the petition within 270 days from the date of mailing the notification described in (a), unless a hearing is held by the State Board. If a hearing is held, the State board shall act within 330 days from the date of mailing the notification described in (a) or 120 days of the close of the hearing, which ever is later. If a formal disposition is not made by the State within those time limits the petition is deemed denied. These time limits may be extended for a period not to exceed 60 days with written agreement from the petitioner.

Count e‘m, folks, count ’em. 270 days. . . 330 days. . . plus 60 days . . . That’s how long the State Water Board can sit on these appeals, thereby preventing any citizen from getting anywhere near a “real” court of law to get redress of their grievances in anything close to “a timely manner.”

So, now check the date of the county’s 218 vote for the new sewer. Is it now becoming clear just what these CDO’s are really all about? And since citizens can get NO LEGAL protection of their rights until AFTER 270 days, 330 days, plus 60 days, (i.e. “exhaust the administrative remedies”) the citizens will get no legal protection of their rights. Unless a local judge understands this game for what it is and issues a “stay” against the CDO proceedings altogether. [Update: Just got an email noting that attorney Shauna Sullivan, who's representing some of the Los Osos 45 in their appeal, has re-filed in court with Judge LaBarbara and "served a default on the SWRCB for the quashing of the Briggs deposition and not making him available for hearings." So while the SWRCB may wish to try to delay and make all of this moot, the actions of some of these Los Osos 45 and Judge La Barbara may ensure that all the rest of the community will finally be afforded "real" protection from "real" laws in their appeal to a "real" judge in a "real" court. This is an effort that this whole community had better be paying attention to and help support since the outcome for the Los Osos 45 is the outcome for the entire community. Those few people are the template for the town.]

On the other hand, look how nicely this Administrative Process Schedule locks in with the County’s 218 vote.

Not that any illegal electioneering’s going on here. Oh, sure a Board member noted that what was needed to be done in Los Osos was to “change the political will” of the people and if and when this appeal gets to a “real court,” the whole issue will be moot since the critical vote would already have been taken so who cares if the entire case gets tossed out then– it’s real purpose will have already been served -- but heaven forefend that somebody suspect that electioneering’s going on here, using a regulatory agency to do it. Why, we’re shocked you would even think such a thing, aren’t we?

And if you’re wondering, Gosh, where’s the press? Neil Farrell, the Managing Editor of the Bay News, our little local paper that should be all over this story like white on rice, noted this in an editorial comment to a recent letter-to-the-editor: “I know for a fact the water board staff considers the Los Osos sewer situation to be a direct defiance of their authority.” That’s from the managing editor. What Mr. Farrell apparently doesn’t know is that the RWQCB is not mandated to punish citizens because some staff members feel their “authority” is being defied. Worse yet, the citizens of Los Osos were not “defying” anything; they were simply trying to move a sewer plant out of the middle of their town. That a managing editor of our local paper so misapprehends what happened in Los Osos and misapprehends what this Board is supposed to be doing explains why this entire process has gone so wrong and just how a regulatory board can run so badly amok without even the simplest check from a “watchdog” press.

So, if ever you want to see a regulatory system run amok, this is the case for y ou. Wolves guarding foxes running the chicken coops. Los Osos is the test case for the rest of the state. Looking for checks and balances? You’ve come to the wrong place.

But here’s a challenge for Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee. What happened here in Los Osos is a textbook case of how and why this system has failed and continues to fail. Who in Sacramento has the courage to start hearings into ways to get the SWB & RWQCBs back on track, make the institutional and procedural changes needed to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future, get better funding so that the Regional Boards have the resources needed to run competently ( i.e. for a start, institute the recommendations found in the recent Science & Technology report issued by the SWB itself), and put in place vital checks and balances that can give better protections to prevent future citizens from being harassed and injured by a Board and staff bent on illegally and improperly abusing its powers.

As water issues become more important throughout the state, reform of the SWB should be a top priority to every person and every city and county in the state. If communities and government agencies think, Oh, it can’t happen to me, think again. It can and it will.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Molly Ivins Can’t Die, Can She?

The following was emailed to me by a friend. It’s a tribute written by her column editor. In the Feb 1, L.A. Times obit, are two observations: One by Lewis Lapham, editor emeritus of Harper’s magazine, “She reminds us that dissent is what rescues democracy from a quite death behind closed doors.” And PBS news anchor Jim Lehrer: “her targets ‘are the hides and egos of just about everybody in the politics and gutters of today. Her language is that smooth whiplash thing called Texan Sharp, of which Molly is a laureate.’” Hers is one sharp, funny voice that will be greatly missed.

Goodbye, Molly

Anthony Zurcher
Wednesday, January 31, 2007
(01-31) 18:51 PST -- MOLLY IVINS is gone, and her words will never grace these pages again - for this, we will mourn. But Molly wasn't the type of woman who would want us to grieve. More likely, she'd say something like, "Hang in there, keep fightin' for freedom, raise more hell, and don't forget to laugh, too."
If there was one thing Molly wanted us to understand, it is that the world of politics is absurd. Because we can't cry, we might as well laugh. And in case we ever forgot, Molly would remind us in her own unique style.
Shortly after becoming editor of Molly's syndicated column, I learned one of my most important jobs was to tell her newspaper clients that, yes, Molly meant to write it that way. We called her linguistic peculiarities "Molly-isms." Administration officials were "Bushies," government was in fact spelled "guvment," business was "bidness." And if someone was "madder than a peach orchard boar," well, he was quite mad indeed.
Of course, having grown up in Texas, all of this made sense to me. But to newspaper editors in Seattle, Chicago, Detroit and beyond -- Yankee land, as Molly would say -- her folksy language could be a mystery. "That's just Molly being Molly," I would explain and leave it at that.
But there was more to Molly Ivins than insightful political commentary packaged in an aw-shucks Southern charm. In the coming days, much will be made of Molly's contributions to the liberal cause, how important she was as an authentic female voice on opinion pages across the country, her passionate and eloquent defense of the poorest and the weakest among us against the corruption of the most powerful, and the joy she took in celebrating the uniqueness of American culture -- and all of this is true. But more than that, Molly Ivins was a woman who loved and cared deeply for the world around her. And her warm and generous spirit was apparent in all her words and deeds.
Molly's work was truly her passion. She would regularly turn down lucrative speaking engagements to give rally-the-troops speeches at liberalism's loneliest outposts. And when she did rub elbows with the highfalutin' well-to-do, the encounter would invariable end up as comedic grist for future columns.
For a woman who made a profession of offering her opinion to others, Molly was remarkably humble. She was known for hosting unforgettable parties at her Austin home, which would feature rollicking political discussions, and impromptu poetry recitals and satirical songs. At one such event, I noticed her dining table was littered with various awards and distinguished speaker plaques, put to use as trivets for steaming plates of tamales, chili and fajita meat. When I called this to her attention, Molly matter-of-factly replied, "Well, what else am I going to do with 'em?"
Perhaps the most astounding aspect of Molly's life is the love she engendered from her legions of fans. If Molly missed a column for any reason, her newspapers would hear about it the next day. As word of Molly's illness spread, the letters, cards, e-mails and gifts poured in.
Even as Molly fought her last battle with cancer, she continued to make public appearances. When she was too weak to write, she dictated her final two columns. Although her body was failing, she still had so much to say. Last fall, before an audience at the University of Texas, her voice began as barely a whisper. But as she went on, she drew strength from the standing-room-only crowd until, at the end of the hour, she was forcefully imploring the students to get involved and make a difference. As Molly once wrote, "Politics is not a picture on a wall or a television sitcom that you can decide you don't much care for."
For me, Molly's greatest words of wisdom came with three children's books she gave my son when he was born. In her inimitable way, she captured the spirit of each in one-sentence inscriptions. In "Alice in Wonderland," she offered, "Here's to six impossible things before breakfast." For "The Wind in the Willows," it was, "May you have Toad's zest for life." And in "The Little Prince," she wrote, "May your heart always see clearly."
Like the Little Prince, Molly Ivins has left us for a journey of her own. But while she was here, her heart never failed to see clear and true -- and for that, we can all be grateful.
Creators Syndicate, Inc.
Anthony Zurcher, a Creators Syndicate editor based in Austin, Texas, has been Molly Ivins' editor and friend for many years.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Calhoun’s Cannons, The Bay News, Morro Bay, CA, For Jan 31 07

Yes, It’s The January 22nd RWQCB’s Ongoing Disgraceful DumbShow Presentation of “Torquemada’s Mad Hatter Tea Party & Auto-de-fe Public Beheading & Traveling CDO Show Of The Los Osos 45, Part, Uh, Oh, Heck, I Can’t Remember, There Have Been So Many of Them”

First, the dumbshow boffo laffs as The Grand Inquisitor, Reed Sato, tried to claim that NOBODY connected with the RWQCB and/or staff would ever, EVER use the phrase . . . “vacate the premises . . “ as what will happen if the CDO’s drop dead date of 2011 comes and there is no sewer to hook up to. He further tried to make clear that NOBODY, except a COMPLETE MORON, would ever, EVER think, for a moment, that “vacating the premises” was even on the radar, was even the REMOTEST possibility, so he couldn’t figure out WHERE THESE STUPID CDO PEOPLE GOT THAT IDEA, THAT PHRASE, THOSE WORDS!

Until RWQCB staff member Matt Thompson was asked (under oath) if he ever said to a CDO recipient that if there were no sewer by 2011 “. . . you’d have to vacate the premises. . .” and Matt answered, “Uh, yeah, I guess I did . . .”

Oh, right. THAT’S where these stupid CDO people got that idea. From the staff go-to guy, the Main Man, the Primary Contact for all things CDOish, the Horse’s Mouth.

Then, The Weirdness: The RWQCB’s attorneys have fought from day one to make sure NOTHING gets into the record, except what they want there, which always raises the question: What is that Board scared might get into the record? If it’s irrelevant, a “real court of law” will dismiss it. If it IS relevant, a “real court of law” will have need of it. So what’s the problem? Unless this Board is afraid of certain evidence even as they deny the need for any evidence to justify what they’re doing.

Next up, The Scary Part: From the start, the game here has not been a legitimate process intended on solving a real problem. Even though the requirements of pump, repair, inspect is given as the reason for issuing a CDO, evidence had already been presented that this mitigation would NOT do diddly to the groundwater during the short delay until the county completes its new wastewater project. But, this process does have one clear function as a blandly deniable illegal electioneering tactic for the homeowners’ upcoming 218 vote by tying their vote directly and ultimately to the requirement to “vacate [your] premises” if the vote fails.

Hence the CDO tactic of moving the goal posts, changing the rules, even sending out some critical time sensitive documents that demanded responses within very tight time frames using a postal meter WITH THE WRONG YEAR ON IT, constantly morphing the language of the CDOs in an effort to create a Kafkaesque process designed to confuse, harass, exhaust and keep The Los Osos 45 chasing their tails until, under exhausted duress, they’d finally sign anything, thereby turning the fate of their property over to a bunch of guys who didn’t know how to set a postal meter correctly.

But it was the Board itself that remained the curious dark star in this proceeding. CDO recipient Bill Moylan challenged the Board to stop what they were doing since it wasn’t necessary, made no sense and that they alone had the power to stop harassing sick old people with a pointless procedure that was causing real damage to people’s health and lives.

The Board members and Staff sat passive and indifferent. Had their actions damaged people? Oh, yes. They knew that. They’d seen first hand evidence of what this process was doing to people. Were their policies irrational? Contradictory? Bait & Switchy? Mad Hatterish? Pointless? Intended to beat citizens down into exhaustion? Oh, yes. They knew that too.

But they simply didn’t care. To choose an ethical and common sense approach might actually require the smallest effort. Clearly that was out of the question. And to actually care about the people appearing before them would take courage they either didn’t have or chose not to have.

Instead, they again portrayed themselves as helpless victims, washing their soft hands of any responsibility, taking refuge in rules they had invented in order protect themselves, choosing expediency over meaningful action.

Finally turning away, smiling secretly sadistic smiles, these frightened, passive men, men who were faced with a moral decision, instead reached for a self-serving hankie, then left the room.