Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Was It The Full Moon?

Every so often the various handful (same ones mostly) of people posting comments on this site, get all Looney-Tune and have to be spanked -- threatened with being 86'd or having their over-the- top comments dumped. I understand some of the Tribune's blogs have also been dumped or shut down for the same reason. Clearly, some of these posters just lose it.

And there are a few of issues that some these sophomoric posters keep whining about that may need clarification.

First, accessing a blogsite is a privilege not a right. My Blog, My Rules. Don't like it? Go get your own blog. It's not a "free speech" issue. The uglier your comments, the tighter the rules will get. This blogsite used to allow anyone to comment. A lot of "anyones" got Ugly On A Stick, so I changed the site so people would have to go to the trouble to get an free account and sign on. A lot of the Uglies did that and continued their often sophomoric Neener-Neering. Short of shutting down all comment, I started using the little garbage can icon to dump some of the worst of their posted comments. Or I also would have to step in to play Mommy and spank. I know. It's pathetic. But it does indicate the level some of these folks are operating on, including some people who actually use their real names. Jeeze, you'd think . . . . ?

Second, I am not a "journalist." I write an Opinion Column. Been doing that for about 12 years or so. Opinion Columns go on the Opinion Page of the paper. Opinion columns are supposed to be biased. That's what makes them . . . Opinion Columns. If an Opinion Column didn't have a bias, it would be, oh, say, a Time/Tide Table, or the Stock Market listings, or something. Amazingly, some people don't get that.

Third, and most interesting of all, many of the posters keep claiming that this is a deeply polarized commuity, and if you read the comment section you might think that's so. Worse, that it's a community full of Furies at each others' throats. Ron Crawford, who's been gleefully reporting on the Sewer Wars for years now, has just posted a very cogent Opinion piece on his website, Worth a read.

While his numbers are guestimates, his point is well taken. I opinied a similar notion in my previous Can(n)on, "Bye-Bye Big Lie." This is not and never was a "deeply" divided community. (Hard to be deeply divided when 30-40% are permenantly out to lunch.) But it was a community lied to and lied about and very nearly destroyed because of that lie, a community that is now trying to re-set itself on a path and a process that should have been taken years ago.

Still, there's plenty of room for spirited debate and . . . Opinions. . . But on this blogsite, I ask that those posting comments, Get a Grip. Or check the phases of the moon on the Tide Charts and maybe stay away from your computer during those Looney Tune times.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Is That A Foot In Your Mouth, Or Lack Of Context, or Just A Still-Spooked Community?

I’m sure a lot of jaws dropped upon reading a quote in yesterday’s Tribune story by Bob Cuddy discussing the 4-1 margin of approval on the 218 vote. In the last few paragraphs, Cuddy says, “But board member Julie Tacker, who fought against the Proposition 218 vote, said she will monitor how the county treats the district.

“’They should be listening to us,” Tacker said, ‘We know how to derail a project and we will derail it again’ if needed.

“Tacker referred to the 2005 recall election that stopped the sewer project on the so-called Tri-W site in midtown by replacing board members who approved it with those who were opposed.”

O.K., show of hands, how many of you scanned that story, had the quote jump out at you, said, “Yikes! What was she thinking?” and then skimmed over the following paragraph that set the quote in a better context.

Perils of writing anything about The Hideous Sewer Wars. Unless you footnote the footnotes and set everything in a terribly complex, explanatory context, in a spooked community, a lot gets misread and misunderstood. Buzz words become the new lingua franca and real understanding stops, i.e.”anti-sewer obstructionist” as a label for anyone who dares raise a criticism about anything sewerish.

So, this being a spooked town, I got a clarifying email from Julie, enlarging the context.:

"Context is everything...When I spoke to Bob Cuddy regarding the 218 vote and Saturday's 10/27 story I did say, “We know how to derail a project, and we will derail it again”. What I was referring to was the Tri-W property, its sale, and that project. I remain committed to stand in the way of that project.
Not only did the Tri-W project increase the cost of a sewer to the community by its force-it location in the heart of town, but it did not return water to the over-drafted basin in a manner in which will address our Level Severity III water shortage. The County's work this last year underscored the inadequacies of the Tri-W project, validating my concerns of the past. If the County puts forth a project that does not address the real issue, water supply, then I (and others) of course will stand in the way of good money thrown after bad at projects that merely clean waste water.
Water is the issue, it always has been, the water reuse/recharge (instead of importation i.e. Nacimento/State Water) component has been the Achilles heal of every project before this community over the past 30 years.
It is my sincere goal to assist the County and the community in pursuit of a sewer solution that it is sensible and cost effective. That has always been my objective, from activist to elected official and everything in between. I see the problems in Los Osos for what they truly are, to "Move the Water" goes hand in hand with "Move the Sewer".

See what I mean about needing footnotes on footnotes? Cuddy’s one paragraph “context” can be easily missed when spooked alarm bells are going off in your head.

Yet another reason why everyone needs to BREATHE. This 218 process ain’t over. During the protest window, there will be protests lawsuits filed (Hey, it’s Los Osos. It’s what we do out here. See below.) The issues raised in the 218 challenges need to be answered sooner rather than later, the county Process needs to keep on a clean, transparent track, the community needs to stay engaged. And while the BOS will have the final decision, Julie is right about one thing: If this community is lied to again and bait and switched and handed a project nobody wants, then, Yes, “we” do know how to derail a project.

But “we” also know how to support one, too. So, stay focused, my fellow Ursians.

And, speaking of which . . . .

Is That A Lawyer In Your Pocket, Or Do You Just Live In Los Osos?

As I mentioned above, during the 218 “window,” protests will be filed. The following is a letter from attorney Timothy J. Morgan that was presented to the Clerk of the Board. As noted at the end, it’s also posted on The Rock’s website. Again, as I have frequently noted, I’m not a lawyer and I don’t even play one on TV, so have no way of knowing which of the issues he raises are valid, which require going into court to resolve.

Some of the ISSUES he raises are certainly worth considering (and may already be covered in the water component section of future fees and charges) and the sooner the County deals with them, the quicker they can be resolved. At this point, I can see no reason for any delays in dealing with Mr. Morgan’s stated concerns, BUT there will be delays if any of these issues are valid and go unresolved only to turn up later as Great Big Lawsuit Rocks In The Road. So, please, BOS & County Council. Carpe diem, Clock’s ticking.

The Letter

October 23, 2007
County of San Luis Obispo
Clerk of the Board
1055 Monterey St.
Room D-120
San Luis Obispo, CA 93408.
Via Facsimile to be hand
Original to follow via US Mail
Re: Upcoming Vote on Los Osos Sewer Project

Dear Sirs:
My office represents several property owners whose lots will be affected by the assessment(s) contemplated by the ballot currently being taken in Los Osos.

This letter is meant to comply with the requirement stated in your circulating documents for a written complaint before the ballots are tallied in order to preserve the issues for later complaint.

In my view, there are several significant problems with the ballot action, which render the
balloting invalid.

First, the overarching problem with the entire process is that the sewer system contemplated by this assessment is not one that will confer a ‘special benefit’ within the meaning of Proposition 218 on those parcels within the Los Osos Prohibition Zone, but rather one that will confer a general benefit on all parcels in Los Osos and which is fundamentally designed to confer a benefit on the people of the State of California by way of preventing inappropriate waste discharge to enter groundwater and, by way of interaction between the groundwater and seawater, the estuary and bay waters offshore from Los Osos. To the extent that this project will provide better drinking water, it covers parcels outside the Prohibition Zone who are receiving the benefit at my clients’ expense. To the extent that it helps with pollution in the nearby ocean, this is a benefit to the people of California generally and again, represents a benefit to others paid for by this assessment. These benefits to others, which seem to be the main benefit claimed for this system, are general benefits paid for with a special benefit assessment. This is improper.

The proposed sewer system represents merely a replacement for existing sewage systems. I understand that improved properties in the Prohibition Zone are typically served by individual septic systems, or, in some cases, by septic systems which serve multiple properties. In any case, these properties have effective waste systems already. The replacement system contemplated by this assessment adds no special benefit to these properties.

One potential ‘benefit’ I can see is that these properties are currently the subject of cease and desist letters from state water quality management board which threaten massive fines if the septic systems remain in use. It would be an unconscionable public policy if one government agency could justify a project as a “special benefit” to avoid action by another public agency.

Thus would be created a “good cop, bad cop” situation where any agency seeking to create an assessment for any project could get another agency to threaten action to justify the assessment. This cannot be tolerated.

It is my view that the alleged benefit in this case is a general benefit to the entire region and, therefore, this should be put to a general election with a requirement for a two-thirds majority vote. In addition to the overarching problem with whether there is any “special benefit” conferred by way of this assessment, there are numerous problems with the ballots and ballot information itself, rendering the vote illegal.

First, many properties were issued multiple ballots, each representing some proportional interest in the property and a proportional fee. I can see no justification for this process - each lot should have one vote. It is my opinion that this unnecessary process was intended to confuse voters. I note that the notice mailed with the ballots speaks of ballots in the singular when instructing homeowners how to prepare and mail in the ballot. See section seven of the notice.

I have anecdotal reports that property owners with multiple ballots were under the impression that they had received too many ballots, rather than two or more ‘partial interest’ ballots. They sent one ballot in. They are, therefore, voting half a vote. In addition, multiple ballots, representing partial assessments will create the impression that the assessment is lower than it actually is on a per-lot basis. This creates likely confusion for the voters of Los Osos.

Second, I understand that property owners of unimproved lots have received ballots showing their assessment at $0. To the extent that this assessment is, by its own terms, meant only to cover only those improved lots in the district, these ballots for unimproved lots are inappropriate.

They have the effect of soliciting “YES” votes from persons not effected by assessment and thus “stack the deck” against those homeowners whose properties will, in fact, be subject to the massive assessment contemplated by this proposed assessment district.

Third, the ballot and supporting materials’ language is confusing and unclear. The voters of Los Osos cannot reasonably discern the nature and extent of what they are voting on. In particular, there seems to be an open-ended assumption of future costs for the sewer project for which no estimate is even attempted by the County. The ballot language reads as follows:

Shall the Board of Supervisors of the County of San Luis Obispo establish the
proposed San Luis Wastewater Assessment District No. 1, levy an assessment not to exceed the amount set forth above on the parcel identified, issue bonds or incur other debt obligations in the amount of the unpaid assessments, and proceed with the financing for the proposed public wastewater system improvement project

The notice gives an estimated total cost for the project, but there appears to be no accounting for interest on the bonds or other debt obligations authorized by this vote. If these figures are included, they are not spelled out and this runs afoul of Article XIIID(4)(c) of the California Constitution in that there is no final estimate of the total amount chargeable to the entire district.

Fourth, the question of how the unimproved lots will eventually be assessed is left unanswered in the ballot information. A substantial portion of the overall cost of the project is allocated to these lots. How are these lots ultimately to be covered and assessed? Will a separate vote be held? Will each lot carry a (substantial) development fee to cover the sewer costs? Such a fee would be inappropriate to them as they did not have the opportunity to vote on the project assessment in the first place. So, the problem is that the source of a substantial portion of the assessment is not adequately explained.

In the same vein, how will the county cover the costs associated with that portion of the project allocated to the unimproved lots in the event those lots are never improved? Given the regulatory difficulties generally associated with any building in the coastal zone, it is not unreasonable to assume that many of these lots will remain unimproved.

Their assessments, which are calculated as part of the overall cost of the project, will be uncovered. That, by definition, increases the financial responsibility for those lots which are improved. There is no accounting for this amount, and the voters are not provided with any estimate what those increased costs could be in the future.

Fifth, it appears to many opponents of the measure that the County is using out-of-date assessor’s parcel information for the ballots. Anecdotal evidence says that recent purchasers are not receiving ballots, while former owners are. This is not a large set of owners – the ballot information says that less than 5,000 owners are subject to the assessment. Even a small percentage of inaccurate records will skew the result of the election. It will, thus, become important to understand how exactly the data has been collected and how recent the data base is which was used to generate the list of owners subject to this assessment.

I note there is an issue with the proposal which may be subject both to a challenge under
Proposition 218 as well as additional challenge under various state and federal regulatory rules. I understand that competing technologies are available which could achieve the same result – lower or eliminated waste water discharge - for vastly less money. To that extent, the amount of the assessment may be out of proportion to the expected benefit – if it can be done for less, with the same result, then the amount of the assessments is too high. This, of course, assumes that the lessening of wastewater discharge can be demonstrated to be a “special benefit” to these properties in the first place.

In addition to issues with the propriety of the vote method that has been chosen, and the
mechanics of the vote, my clients have identified numerous substantive issues with the proposal.

Some of these may represent state regulatory issues, state law issues, federal regulatory issues and federal legal issues. As a result of the wide variety of possible actions, I foresee the possibility of state and federal actions in the event the sewer assessment passes. These additional issues are:

1. The assumption that apartments and other multiple dwelling units would have only 3/4
the wastewater effluent than single family homes is unsupportable. Many homes have
one resident, and many apartments have more than one. Apartments and other units can
produce as much waste water as a single family house, so this provision for a 3/4
assessment on apartments is unreasonable.

2. Improper compliance with a variety of regulatory requirements including oversight by
various state agencies, compliance with regulations regarding “environmental justice,”
and the like.

3. The proposed system is not the most cost effective way to achieve the goal of lower or
zero waste water emissions. Competing systems, with costs tens of millions of dollars
below the system proposed in this assessment, are available and it is a violation of the
rights of the property owners in the assessment district to not pursue the most costeffective system available.

4. A significant problem is the speculative nature of the science behind the project. There
has been no satisfactory demonstration that the houses of the Prohibition Zone are, in
fact, the true source of the pollution which is the underlying problem to be addressed by
this system. There are credible allegations that farming in the region, but outside the
Prohibition Zone, is the true source of the pollution – this goes directly to the question of
whether those properties in the Prohibition Zone are receiving a special benefit.

5. Moreover, the lines describing the Prohibition Zone are arbitrary and not supported by
scientific evidence. To the extent that the entire basin sits atop the groundwater table,
then the entire basin, or at least a greater area, should be in the Prohibition Zone.

6. Inadequate environmental impact reports have been prepared for sewer project, and sewer leakage has been ignored as a significant source of groundwater infiltration of pollutants. Consequently, this project may not provide a solution that is ultimately sufficient to meet the requirements of the Regional Water Quality Control Board, leading to continued possibility of enforcement actions as well as increased long-term costs for repair and remediation of this leakage.

7. Section 12842 of the Public Utilities Code2 limits public utility districts, which is presumably what is to be created by the measure in question, to incurring indebtedness of more than 20% of the assessed value of all real and personal property in the district. In the event that few or any property owners in the new district pay the assessment immediately, and the district has to issue bonds or take on other indebtedness, it is possible that the amount of said bonds may approach or exceed that 20% limit. In particular, the open-ended nature of the project financing gives real pause that this might happen. The District would be obliged to perform the research to determine what percentage of the district’s assessed value would be represented by the cost estimates of the project.

The County will bear the burden of demonstrating that the parcels covered by this assessment district will be receiving a “special benefit” over and above those benefits they already have and new benefits which are general to the community and not merely to the assessed parcels.

Further, the County will bear the burden of demonstrating that the balloting procedure, including multiple ballots per lot, unclear and incomplete ballot notices, etc., used for this ballot is correct.

I specifically request advance notice of the time and place where the ballots will be counted. This information is likely available now, so please contact my office immediately upon receipt of this letter with information on the counting process. I will look forward to hearing from your office.

Timothy J. Morgan

Comments or questions regarding the Protest Letter can be logged at where it is also posted.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons, Bay News, Tolosa Press, San Luis Obispo, CA for Oct 26, 07

Bye-Bye Big Lie

Predicting anything Sewerish in Los Osos is a foolishly dangerous occupation. The Hideous Sewer Wars have go on for so long that they have turned into a Saga to rival the endless, arcane and unreadable Beowolf (soon to be a major motion picture), and have had so many soap-opera, cliff-hanging, breathless changes of fortune that the Saga has now become Beowolf Meets Star Wars, Part 37.

And since the copy deadline for this column is a week before the paper’s publication date, as I write this, I do not know how the Proposition 218 vote will go, nor do I know what the numbers will be when the ballots are opened on October 24th.

But here’s what I do know: The time for the Big Lie is over.

For years, the Big Lie has portrayed Los Osos as a community of Anti-Sewer Obstructionists, urine-swilling Moonbeam McSwines opposed to doing anything to protect their groundwater, willfully cocking a snook at regulators, stupidly recalcitrant and thus worthy of the harshest kind of judgment and punishment.

When citizens questioned the viability, cost and placement of the Tri-W project, they were vilified as Anti-Sewer Obstructionists. When a technical task force presented their concerns to the State Water Board in Sacramento, the Board was told, Pay no attention to anything those folks have to say, they’re Anti-Sewer Obstructionists. Present evidence of “bait and switchy” to the Coastal Commission that should have required a closer look? Nonsense, closer looks are not required when dealing with Anti-Sewer Obstructionists. When several pre-recall CSD members pleaded with the State Revolving Fund NOT to add on gazillions more in unsecured SRF loans shortly before a recall election, the message to Sacramento was simple: Don’t listen to those Anti-Sewer Obstructionists.

Even after the recall, before the new CSD Board was even certified, the word went out to the regulators to “fine the CSD out of existence,” and why not? Clearly they were all Anti Sewer Obstructionists! The Blakeslee Compromise? You can’t compromise with Anti-Sewer Obstructionists. Single out and drag 45 hapless citizens through a Regional Water Quality Control Board CDO Mad Hatter Tea Party And Torquemada Auto de Fe Kangaroo Court and thereby ruin their lives for nearly two years? That’s the only thing you can do with Anti-Sewer Obstructionists!

And so it went. The Big Lie was whispered from Los Osos to Sacramento and all around the county. If anyone raised any valid questions or concerns, they were decried as obstructionists. It was an effective lie designed to silence debate, cut off any questions and even shut off critical thought itself. Is it any wonder then that so many government agencies that should have kept this sewer train from the cliffs, thereby preventing the totally unnecessary train wreck that nearly destroyed this town, shrugged instead and turned away? After all, why should responsible agencies listen to anti-sewer obstructionist crazies?

Now, however, the Big Lie’s reign is over, killed off by the County Process, starting with the TAC’s preliminary fine screening report. And if my guess is correct, the Prop. 218 vote will likely show that the majority of homeowners (you know, all those Anti-Sewer Obstructionists?) signed and returned their ballots scant weeks after receiving them, all voting Yes on moving this project in the right direction -- this time away from the cliff.

That likely will be the good news. However, this is Los Osos, so it’s possible that there will be some deus ex machina demented ju-jitsu Grendels popping up to scare us silly before this Saga comes to a close, so vigilance on the part of this community – and a good dose of tranquilizers – will still be a good idea. In short, BREATHE. And keep your eyes open.

POSTSCRIPT: According to the Tribune, nearly 70 percent of the ballots were returned, (about 10% more than the original mini-assessment vote a few years ago) and of those, 79.6 percent voted Yes, and 20.3 percent against.

Like I said, The Era Of The Big Lie is over . . . for now. But, unlike last time, this community better not fall asleep again. Eyes open, stay involved, speak up, keep watch. Otherwise, we could see deja vu all over again.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Stop The Press! Missing 10% Show Up!

The Tribune reports today that "About 6,000 of the nearly 8,700 ballots that were mailed to the town's propertyowners were returned, . . . about a 70 percent voter response. "

Oh, My Gaawwwwddd! During the first mini-assessment vote, about 40% of the ballots were never returned. During the hotly contested recall election, about 40% of the qualified voters didn't bother to vote. All of which led me to observe that maybe 40% of Los Osos is permanently out to lunch?

But if about 70 percent have returned their 218 assessment ballots . . . Gosh, maybe now we can say that only 30% of the community is out to lunch?

The count continues today, results maybe tonight or tomorrow morning . . . or sooner. Hmmm, is somebody calling their lawyers to challenge the vote or the assessment or the hanging chads, if there are some chads to be found, even as I type? Hey, this is Los Osos.

Is That A Lawsuit In Your Pocket Or Are You From The RWQCB And You’re Just Glad To See Me?

In case you believed the nice smiley-faced false info being bandied about by all parties that the RWQCB has backed off and are holding the CDOs in abeyance, Uh, WRONG. They’ve never been in abeyance. Only the full Board voting to vacate the CDOs now issued should be considered “abeyance.” That’s why the people who spoke at the protest hearing of feelings of coercion and intimidation and of retaliation by the water board weren’t just blowing smoke out of their ears. The following press release from PZLDF makes clear just what’s STILL happening to your friends and neighbors and . . . what waits for YOU at any time, completely at the whim of the Roger Briggs.

Lawsuits and Funding-----Meetings Monday Oct 22 and Oct 29 -------BOTH at 7:00 PM at Washington Mutual Bank..
I am not certain that the community fully understands that the enforcement has never been in abeyance for the PROHIBITION ZONE PROPERTY OWNERS.
In December 2006 and May 2007 the first 50 were randomly selected in 2005 were prosecuted, trials held, and then each was issued enforcement orders (CDO's=Cease and Desist Orders) and Settlements (CAO's=Clean Up and Abatement Orders). The appeal was required to be filed to the State Water board, and they rejected it. That was the point in June that allowed the legal challenge of the enforcement, the basis for enforcement, and all the 111 causes for actions, including the basis for enforcement (83-13 and the prohibition zone and faulty data etc) coercing the vote and requiring a 218 to pass. The appeal pleading are listed at . This is currently filed in superior court lawsuit IN BEHALF OF THOSE WITH ORDERS ---AND ALL THE PROPERTY OWNERS IN THE PROHIBITION ZONE. This has been funded entirely donations by PZLDF, the CSD and individuals, and more is needed.
Sullivan and Associates has made substantial progress advancing the enforcement appeal lawsuit in Superior Court for hearing. The appeal asks that all enforcement orders are vacated and the individual enforcement on ALL Prohibition Zone private homes and business property is halted. We have additional pleadings due this week and hearings being scheduled. The administrative record must be purchased, and donations are needed for this effort. Additionally the water board has set Dec 6 water board meeting to consider vacating the 46 orders already issued.
In the event the 218 is protested (no vote succeeds) the ENFORCEMENT warning noticed in each homeowners 'NOTICE OF VIOLATION' will be issued to every property owner. These are likely Clean up and Abatement orders, and these endanger your property with fines and enforcement.
Generally, the opportunity for you property to be listed under the enforcement appeal (that is already in motion) exists for all the properties. Listing your property but by retaining Sullivan and Associates, and joining the PZLDF lawsuit guards your rights for no delay in obtaining due process because the lawsuit is already filed. In joining the enforcement lawsuit you can move quickly and economically to halt the Regional Water Board taking actions against your property, and there is strength in numbers.
I understand that funding for the 218 challenge is also being sought by other parties, it is vitally important that the enforcement lawsuit is fully funded as well. If the current enforcement lawsuit is lost, due to a lack of funding, the 218 challenge may do little good to protect you home for enforcement.
A meeting to discuss how lawsuits might coordinate to achieve the best outcome is needed. We will also discuss the actions you need to consider taking to best protect your property interests.
Topics on actions and strategies to deal with the enforcement ALREADY in motion will be the topic in Meetings[ ,. . . . .] Oct 29 [. . . ] at 7:00 PM at Washington Mutual Bank..
Viewpoint, Gail McPherson, of PZLDF

Have Some Coffee. It's Not Time To Fall Asleep

I have previously written here of the importance that this community NOT fall asleep after the vote is in, with everyone heaving a huge sigh, Awwww, Whew, Now Big Uncle Daddy Will Make Magic And Give Me Free Purple Pudding With Cherries On Top So I Won’t Have To Trouble My Pretty Little Head About All This Anymore. That's what happened last time and look where it got us today.

The really dangerous/exciting part of this process will occur AFTER the vote, and that will require careful attention to see that the train continues to chug along on the track the
majority of the community wants –you know, the silent, asleep, clueless, out to lunch, pay-no-attention-until-it’s-too-late majority. If people fall asleep again, it’s likely this whole mess will simply repeat itself – community wakes up to find something on their doorstep which they didn’t want, put there by subtle and not so subtle little sticky fingers on the scales. It’s all about squeaky wheels and getting grease; it’s eyes on the prize and flyswatters in hand to smack away sticky fingers, it’s constant attention to the fee-back loop to catch those critical moments when the track can branch off to make sure it's branching where the majority of the community wants it to branch.

So, please stay awake, Los Osos, this bumpy ride ain’t over ‘till it’s over. Even now, before the vote’s dust has even hit the ground, there’s already whispers in the chaparral, Ursine grumbling in Banded Dune Snail land, rumbles in the shrubbery, unsettled ghosts returning to haunt unresolved issues yet again. So, eyes open, folks.

Viewpoint by Gail McPherson.

Will we wake up on Oct. 24th to 'ground hog day' Los Osos style? Just as in the Bill Murray movie, we just can't seen to get it right. I have been asked about how I think the vote will go. Without pontificating on the outcome, I believe the vote will be close, in spite of all the risks and pressures applied against the NO vote.

Those who vote no may do so, not because the people aren't sincerely committed to solving the sewer issue, but because they either simply can't afford it, or because the county has repeated the mistakes of the past, and once again made the project just as confusing, costly, uncertain and unknown as the bait and switchy project. (The county even kept TRI W on the table) And that may prove to be a huge mistake.

Most know the Vote is a "damned if you do and damned if you don't" decision, But the county could have done better than zero-sum. They spent $2mil more on top of the millions already invested. Without insulting the hard working TAC, most thought the process was more smoke screen than fine screening of alternatives. At the end of the day, they don't have a clue what project or location they are committing a huge chunk of their home to.

That makes it plain risky to vote YES, but where we are in history, many sense it may be more risky to vote NO. It is just too bad that the County adopted that obsolete parental process before they understood the real needs of the community. They used that same formula from the past. Pay now and eventually, you will know what it is, where it will be, and the complete cost. It is the purest definition of insanity to keep repeating the same actions over and over and wondering why the results are the same.

There are angry voters, hopeful voters, tired and obstinate voters. Even the most optimistic voters, who know the technical reasons and practical justifications for "the county process" fear voters are in the dark feeling like they are trapped with a pickpocket or worse. I don't disagree with the county's reasons, logic for some of their process decisions and timing, but that is the flaw. The cart is before the horse and that just doesn't build the trust needed to succeed. Promise Accountability builds trust, and accountability to the community is completely missing before the vote. The vote should be the county's scorecard, but most feel a whiff of extortion and coercion.

In any event, many will refrain from voting at all. To date less than half the ballots have been returned. from what I hear it will be close. If it is a yes, I believe the assessment will be challenged, resulting in more wasted time and expense. But the real message of this vote, if Gibson and the county will just listen and respond, is you need to work hard on trust . If the voter hires you to complete this job, you must install a process that includes holding you accountable.

You can build trust adopting policies for the formation of a community commission, whose purpose is to assure affordability criteria is developed and met, and can work on funding and payment plans to halt displacement and ease hardships. Deliver the best value through competitive and creative solutions, and loosen up with flexible out-of-the-box funding plans.

Above all- as true servants of the public, the best advise I was ever given was take care of the community like you'd take care of you own family members.. "If one family is displaced-it diminishes us all" was a statement to the Governor from the original CSD board. That should be printed up and replace every YES and NO signs in Los Osos to remind us all of our duty to our neighbors, and what makes a community.

Gail McPherson
Los Osos

And, finally,

O.M.G.! Starbucks Finally Found . . . Small.

So, I go into Starbucks in Arroyo Grande and order a “small” coffee and the nice young lady behind the counter says, “Do you want a “short” or a “small?” And I laughingly say, “Isn’t the “Tall” your “small” heh-heh?” pointing to the sign that says they have “Tall” and “Grande” and Venti, and nowhere does it say anything about “short.”

“Oh,” she pleasantly pipes, “Besides the “tall,” which is “small,” we have a “SHORT,” and then shows me, you know, like a NORMAL paper cup, like the kind you used to get when you went into a coffee shop and ordered a “small” coffee, before this Venti, Talli, Realli-Talli, Grande, Grandiosi, Humongous, Ginormous, Oh Jeeze Get A Crane! sizing took place?

So, I sez, “Uh, when did you guys get a NORMAL “small” cup size?” And she said, “Oh, we ALWAYS had what we called the “short.” We originally started out with only two sizes, “short” and “tall,” then I guess people wanted bigger sizes, so we shifted our “short” to being “tall,” and now use our original “shorts” for Kid’s hot chocolate servings.”

I gazed in wonder at the menu board and all around the counter, looking for this miraculous word “short,” as she quickly added, “No we don’t have that posted anywhere.”

Duh, of course not. The “short” costs a “normal” $1.50. Why would you post that when you can con people into thinking that small is tall and then charge them waaaay more money and send them out the door with waaaayyy more caffeine than they really want? This is America, folks. Change the name, jack the price.

So, if you ever want a “normal” cup of coffee and find yourself in a Starbucks, just ask for a “short.”

Monday, October 22, 2007

Paradigms, Or Is It Ever Possible To Get Out Of The Box?

The following was part of an email that was cc’ed to me. It was part of an email written by “The Waterguy,” i.e. David Venhuizen, P.E., commenting on a NOWRA international conference in Baltimore last march ( with various info presented listed under Resource Documents) David’s been writing about water issues for years. His comments should be read by all in Los Osos because the community needs to understand that paradigms and evaluations are only as good as the evaluators involved, that human nature abhors change of any kind, even beneficial change, and that perception, no matter how cockamamie, too often becomes reality.

Busting the Paradigm is a Full-Time Job

It was 18 years ago that the decentralized concept of wastewater management was formally laid out, complete with a set of rather compelling arguments that decentralized concept systems would, in many situations, be more fiscally reasonable, more societally responsible, and more environmentally benign than conventional centralized systems. About 7 years ago, Congress weighed in, saying that decentralized concept systems would be a superior way of addressing wastewater management needs in many settings. Yet today, all around us wastewater system planning is proceeding with no regard for anything except business as usual, for anything except “the Paradigm”.

While the report to Congress listed a number of barriers to proliferation of the decentralized concept, the first stop for any consideration of that problem is at the engineering community—the Keepers of the Paradigm. Highly recommended reading for anyone who wonders why practice in this field does not seem to evolve is a paper written by Australian researcher Sharon Beder entitled Technological Paradigms: The Case of Sewerage Engineering. The abstract of this paper presents a stark overview of our present situation:

“Sewerage engineering practice operates within a paradigm in the sense that the engineering community reached a consensus [early in the last] century that a narrow range of … options would form the basis of its subsequent practice. This consensus prevents serious consideration of alternative technologies … at a time when the paradigm is no longer adequate in a changing environment where sustainability is crucial. A technological revolution is required but is unlikely to emerge from within the sewerage engineering community unless that community recognises that their existing paradigm is inadequate to the needs of the community and the broader environment.”

We see evidence in many quarters that this recognition is lagging. On EPA’s decentralized list-serv, we hear of situations in North Carolina, in Arizona, in Montana, in Alabama, in West Virginia, where citizens are frustrated that very costly conventional centralized “solutions” to their problems are the only options being explored. On the eastern shore of Maryland, we hear of small communities seemingly tailor-made for decentralized concept solutions being offered only the conventional approach by the consultant. In north-central New Mexico, we see planning forging ahead on pipe-it-away “regional” systems in an environment where reuse-focused decentralized concept strategies would seem to be an imperative.

Facility plans for decentralized concept wastewater systems to serve about 30 colonias in the Lower Rio Grande Valley indicated this strategy would cost something like 40% of the estimated costs to either extend sewers from existing centralized systems or to set up new “regional” plants. Despite the magnitude of the potential savings, this study seems to be the best-kept secret in the Valley, completely ignored by all the consulting engineers and wastewater service providers in that area as they plan their “regional” systems.

Here in my own community, the wastewater utility planners have made a very conscious decision not to consider anything except extensions of conventional large-pipe sewers for service to new development areas. This is a region that will face increasingly severe water resources challenges in the coming decades, challenges that can be effectively addressed by moving to decentralized concept water reclamation and reuse systems, rather than funneling ever more long-term investment into water-inefficient centralized systems. In a small community near here, where the water supply issue is very current, the community fathers and their consulting engineer adamantly insist that a conventional, pipe-it-away-and-dump-it system is the only option for an organized wastewater system worthy of their consideration.

What seems to be common to all these situations is a rather complete incognizance of the decentralized concept by the engineers. It is one thing to review the options and then to rationally defend a decision to go with a more costly option, or with an option that does not reflect the long-run economic value of water. It is quite another to refuse to look at certain options at all. As Beder points out, engineers seem to act in this way because they work within the Paradigm, and they all seem to agree that options lying outside the Paradigm do not merit their attention. To have any hope of gaining consideration of those options, one has to meet and defeat the same arguments—that are “rational” only within the Paradigm—on every project. Truly, attempting to bust the Paradigm, to open up the field to better options, is a full-time job.

Certainly there are other factors that must also change in order for the decentralized concept to move into the mainstream, to take its rightful place as a legitimate organizing paradigm for a wastewater management system. But it is clear that for these more fiscally reasonable, more societally responsible, more environmentally benign wastewater systems to proliferate in our society, first and foremost the engineering community must recognize “… that their existing paradigm is inadequate to the needs of the community and the broader environment.”

Humpty Dumpty Speaks, Sort of

The following email exchange was bounced over to me by someone from the “Reclamator” team. Apparently somebody had emailed that group for more technical information on the “Reclamator.” (Both the county and the RWQCB have requested lots more detailed info. Don’t know if they’ve received it yet. ) I’m not an engineer, nor do I play one on T.V. so I make no claims for any onsite system or about anything written in these emails posted here, BUT, what I did find interesting in item # 6 is something I have always found attractive about onsite systems in general.

If the homeowner screws up his system from misuse, he alone is responsible for its repair. In community wide collection and treatment systems, the whole community has to pay for abuse done by certain individuals, i.e the overall cost for a community wide treatment system is high just so it can treat and handle illegally dumped motor oil, other illegally dumped toxins and drugs poured down the toilet, (or into a collector storm drain in the dead of night, as has happened in other cities), cigarette butts, diapers, icky unmentionables and toxic crud of all sorts, whatever crap people want to dump because they’re too lazy to recycle or dispose of things properly & etc. Everyone pays a higher cost to fix the messes caused by the wastewater system abuser. With onsite systems, however, there’s a much more elegant solution: YOU dump crap down YOUR septic system that “kills” it, then YOU get to pay for the damage and repair, not your neighbor.

[response to email below]

Hi *****,

I really appreciate you questions. Obviously, you are in the industry in one way or another.

One of the reasons I haven’t gone into depth on “technology description” is due to the fact that I am no “selling” the system, but only the service of eliminating the discharge of pollutants at the source. You wil be able to educate yourself on the biological process technology of the Reclamator by going to the old website, This site explains the technology quite well and is geared toward educating the engineering community.

Again, we are not selling the Reclamator. I own the Reclamator which I utilize to provide the service of “eliminating the discharge of pollutants” at the source through entering into an agreement with the homeowner much like the cable company, gas company or garbage company. We all own our components which are required to provide the services. For that reason, I haven’t really put much effort into educating the public as to the technical aspects of it as it is about as technical as a gas meter and who really cares how the gas meter works as long as they get the gas through it.

I will answer your questions below and if you wish to have anymore information, please contact me direct at 775-848-8800. I would be curious as to why you have such a great interest in the Reclamator.

Tom Murphy

[Question from original email inquiry]
I am particularly interested in seeing the information you intend to place on the "Technology Description" page on your web site. Presently I only get a "Page Not Found" message when trying to link to that page.

Specific items of interest include:

1. What is the specific biochemical process in the Tertiary Bio React Zone.
The biological process a continuous feed cyclic reactor (CFCR), not an SBR. It is an intermittent decant extended aeration (IDEA) process which I developed in 1988 which is superior to the conventional continuous process and batch processes. I currently hold several patents on this latest biological process, both in the US and additionally international.

2. This appears to be a batch type extended aeration process.
I understand that is the first assumption as not many know of the new innovative biological process technology, however, it is not an SBR, nor conventional extended aeration. As I explain the basic difference, the IDEA CFCR is a single basin complete mix process which accommodates influent flow on a continuous bases, provides for inherent nitrification and denitrification, liquid/solids separation and ultra filtration (UF) water purification decant which produces a permeate which meets the MCLG standard for treated drinking water, “a non-enforceable public health goal.” It takes the “BS” out of the SBR. It isn’t batch nor sequential, but rather continuous and cyclic.

3. What are the air input volumes and contact times used.
As the IDEA CFCR is a extended aeration process, the same design criteria is used in the design of the Reclamator. As the total volume of the Reclamator is 1500 gallons, the contact time of a 250 gpd flow would be a 144 hour detention time, well over a sludge age of 1000 days; this is why the Reclamator produces such a low volume of sludge. With over a 20 year track record, it has proven, with typical use, it only has to be wasted an average of every five years.

4. Where are the air pumps located?
The little diaphragm compressor is typically located near the house; however, we have some located within the riser of the reactor. It is extremely flexible as to the location of the compressor. Lately, we locate it inside an irrigation box beside the foundation of the house at the electrical connection.

5. What process is going on in the Pre React Zone?
The Pre React Zone is a primary react zone. The process is an anaerobic process which serves to reduce the total organic load, prepare the phosphorous for absorption and trap all inorganic waste products. It additionally serves as a source of carbon which feeds into the Pre React Zone during each decant so as to initiate controlled, consistent denitrification.

6. What limits are there on the influent quality in terms of waste from garbage disposals, clothes washing detergents, water softener backwash effluents, etc?
There are no limits on the influent quality as long as it is domestic household wastewater. The Reclamator has demonstrated itself to handle all domestic wastewater flows and strengths, even without the Primary React Zone. However, due to the fact that AES is totally responsible for all management of the Reclamator as a part of the service provided, we have designed the Reclamator with the Primary React Zone so as to provide an extremely hearty facility which allows for a very long period between service requirements. We haven’t experienced any downsides with clothes washing detergents nor water softener backwash effluents. The only effect the waste from the garbage disposal has is cause shorter periods between service requirements; this is why the client pays for the wasting as the use of the Reclamator is directly related to how often it needs service.

If a “user” puts anything down their drain which is not compatible with the Reclamator, such as used motor oil, etc., the Reclamator will signal AES (or anyone else who wants to be notified, even any authority who wishes to monitor also) via Wi-Fi and we will respond, service it and bill the client for the service as a “System Abuse” charge. You may see information on this in our “531” Proposal on our site.

8. What are the electrical service requirements in terms of voltage and amperage?
The Reclamator operates on 120 volt service just like most other household appliances. Both the compressor and the effluent discharge pump draw less than 5 amps.

8. What are the normal power demands in terms of wattage?
The Reclamator operates on approximately one KWH per day.

9. Are critical components such as the Effluent Discharge Pump, level sensors, and control hardware redundant?
Not in a single family application. We have found the components to be extremely reliable with an average of a 10 year life expectancy and the Reclamator is monitored 24/7 via wireless and Wi-Fi communication which sends a report every four hours which will tell us how many gallons of water we have produced and if the Reclamator needs any service plus the Reclamator has a reserve capacity of 48 plus hours; therefore, there is no justification for redundancy within the Reclamator.

10. In the event of system failure and the need to use the Emergency Bypass, what is the proposed disposal method for this discharge?
Into the existing drainfield which is currently receiving septic effluent now. It beats the ocean or estuary which would receive the discharge from a conventional publicly owned centralized sewer facility. However, keep in mind; we will receive a notice of service requirement BEFORE the system even starts to bypass. There is no problem which cannot be resolved with a matter of less than an hour service call. Even the bypass effluent is of a tertiary quality of less than 5/5/5 BOD/TSS/TN.

On a final note, the UF membrane is a “definite barrier” to pollutants, i.e. virus, pathogen and fecals. The UF membrane is designed to interface with a TSS level of 50 parts per million (ppm) continuously and only interfaces with less than 5 ppm in the Reclamator application. The UF membrane also is designed with a FLUX rate which provides for it to flow 5,000 gallons per day (gpd) when in the Reclamator application it only flows up to 500 gpd. No pollutants can bypass the UF membrane, thus eliminating the need or justification for any continuous testing or effluent monitoring of the system as the physical treatment technology is not subject to variation as the system would be if it were only biological. Any equipment or process failure which would cause any degradation of the substrate to the point it would not permeate pass the UF membrane, we will receive a high level notification. We will simply respond, initiate the repair and get the Reclamator back on line. As I said earlier, we have 20 years with this system which has given us a tract record of reliability. All components used within the Reclamator are of commercial grade and are the very same components used within the municipal and industrial systems, i.e. diffusers, float switches, and pumps.

Tribune? You’re Years Too Late and Gazillions of Dollars Too Short.

Sorry, Trib, but your crocodile tears in today editorial come waaaayyyy too late. If you had been doing the watchdog job you should have been doing years ago, this sewer train wreck would never have happened. For years, Ron Crawford over at has laid down a complete trail of breadcrumbs that anyone, even a myopic newspaper editor, could have followed, breadcrumbs that kept leading to the kind of provocative, investigative journalism that newspapers are supposed to be doing. Instead, for years, you ignored those questions, ignored the evidence and documents in front of your faces, (even when they were posted on Ron’s website in pdf form, to be read by anyone,) and instead simply turned into cheerleaders or spinmeisters. It’s been a disgraceful performance, so, plluuueeeze, spare Los Osos your electioneering (today’s last minute sidebar with bold sub-heads, “Last chance to ward off individual fines” . . . . Awwwww my Gawwwwwddd we’re all gonna die in the streets like dawgs! ) and your phony crocodile tears this late in the game.

Protest Vote Tuesday, Oct 23, BOS

2 p.m. in the BOS chambers. Vote count, Wednesday, Oct 24, at the county clerk’s office.

The following Protest Ballot/Letter was e-mailed around as just one example of some of the reasons various people are protesting this assessment ballot. I’ve removed any names, since some members of the community and certain anonymous people posting on this blogsite (since 86ed by me) had “threatened retaliation” if people voted “no.” What’s important here isn’t “who,” but “what,” and that is the general content and the concerns being presented. They’re serious ones and ones both the County and State and Feds need to be aware of and deal with them, since failure to solve these concerns may well end up causing another train wreck.

[one] Ballot/Assessment ProtestWe. XXXXX (Assessment #24**) and XXX (Assessment#24**) protest the assessment on APN 038-***-***.

We object and protest for the following reasons:Concerning our votes, we were subject to intimidation and coercion bythe SLO County Board of Supervisors, the CCRWQCB and Ca. Rep. SamBlakeslee by their statements and actions leading up to this ballotassessment. (Most notably, the CDO's and the RWQCB's refusal to vacatethese orders.

Also, the RWQCB's threat to issue blanket CAO's to theentire Prohibition Zone if the 218 assessment failed).We fear possible retaliation and/or harassment by the CCRWQCB andprivate individuals due to the public disclosure of our vote. The SLOCo. BOS has refused to make our vote private, despite repeated requeststo do so. They have stated that they believe that they are unable to doso under law. We believe they are mistaken.

We object to the ballot itself, believing it has technical flaws that effect our voting decision and the outcome.We believe the SLO County's process leading up to the assessment balot was flawed.

The assessment ballot is being decided prior to thedetermination of what Project we will have (i.e. design, location,technology) or its final cost.

SLO County has refused to conduct an EIRaccording to CEQA guidelines prior to the 218 assessment and thus deprives us of the information we need to make an informed choice on ourballot.

The SLO County's process using the Technical Task Force to evaluate the County's "Fine Screening Report"--the basis for the Engineer's Report--was biased and flawed in many ways and did notprovide an adequate analysis which would allow us an educated vote.

There was no independent, objective peer review of the "Fine ScreeningReport" prior to the 218 assessment vote.

This 218 assessment and total project costs are unaffordable."Unaffordable" means we would have to leave our home of 25 years.Others are also in this same situation---e.g. many seniors who havelived in Los Osos longer than we have. The socio-economic diversity ofLos Osos would be permanently and negatively impacted, and this iscontrary to law.

The Public Utilities Code does not allow public works projects to cost in excess of 20% of the assessment value of the property in the District(the Prohibition Zone). We believe the proposed viable project alternatives (and certainly the Tri-W project) exceed this amount and so is unlawful.To drive residents from their homes for a sewer project such as the one proposed, is both immoral and illegal under Ca. Government Codes.

The Prohibition Zone (PZ) is being singled out from the rest of Los Osos to pay for a "special benefit" that the entire community will benefit from.The PZ is being singled out from the rest of Los Osos to pay for more than its fair share of "general benefits". The next assessment or charge for these "general benefits" is unknown at the time of this 218 assessment vote.

We protest a lack of Environmental Justice as ordered in the Ca.Government Codes.

We object to being prohibited by the CCRWQCB from considering an on-sitewastewater treatment system as a possibility, and we demand our rights under AB 885 to consider an on-site system.

We object that a design-build option under Government Code #5956 and also the design-build-finance option has not been included in the options analyzed by the SLO County LOWWP team prior to the 218 assessment ballot.

We object to the SLO County process that will require further assessment, the results of which we will have no control over.

We object to taking on the financial burden of the LOWWTP that was the obligation of SLO County for many years and they failed to build the LOWWTP, as required. We object that SLO County allowed over 1,000 newhomes to be built in the Los Osos PZ since the 83-13 order by the CCRWQCB (and the 1988 building moratorium) which has made our water and sewer situation worse. We object that SLO Co. never implemented order83-12, as required by the RWQCB, regarding septic tank maintanence.

We object to the electioneering done by the Co. BOS and its staff, the CCRWQCB and its staff and the Tribune newspaper. The level of misinformation/disinformation, threats and fear-mongering have tainted the 218 assessment which is supposed to be a fair and uncoerced voting process.

We object to the specific order by the CCRWQCB which states that the LosOsos Prohibition Zone must comply with their "Zero discharge order"which requires all residences and businesses in the PZ to cease all discharge by 2011. (Previously, the RWQCB santioned the construction of a wastewater treatment plant in the PZ which allowed 7 mg per liter of nitrates to be discharged at the Broderson leachfield site---hardly"zero discharge".

Numbers, Gimme Them Ol’ Time Numbers, Gimme Them Ol’ Time Numbers, They’re Good Enough For Me.

The Trib editorial states that as of that writing, “40 percent of the eligible voters have not cast their ballots.” That’s an interesting number, if correct, because in the original mini-assessment of 2001, was it?, 40 percent didn’t bother to return their ballots either. If that percent holds now, then I think it would be safe to say that when it comes to assessments, 40 percent of Los Osos is permanently out to lunch.

My guess on this vote? A guess only? Because the votes were “weighted,” and because the Big Lie that this town was nothing but a bunch of “Anti-Sewer Obstructionist Urine Swilling Moonbeam McSwines” was ALWAYS just that, a big lie, I’m guessing that a “Yes” majority was achieved a few weeks after the ballots were initially mailed out (not that there’d be any way of verifying that unless the ballots are time-stamped as they come in?) It’s also my guess that a few years ago, if that post-recall “October Compromise” had been put to a 218 vote, it would have been the same: Yes, keep laying pipe, move the plant out of town, get going. Which means all the RWQCB’s ACL, CDO stupidities and Taxpayer Watch lawsuits, dissolution attempts and other Medean idiocies that ensued were totally unnecessary and should never have happened. That’s my guess anyway. What’s yours.

Tick, tick, tick, tick……

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Dog Lovers, SIT! Listen up!

For all you pet owners out there, it’s no secret just how difficult it is to find a rental that will allow pets of any kind. This is a shame since it’s been my experience that responsible pet owners are also responsible people in general, which makes them great tenants. It also tends to make them nearly-permanent tenants since they know how hard it is to find another rental that will allow pets, so they have a tendency to stay put, if only for the sake of their pooch. All of which means that a landlord renting to a responsible pet owner ends up with a double bonus: responsible, long-lasting tenants, which saves a landlord no end of expensive revolving door re-dos for a parade of constant move-outs.

The following is a press release from Deborah Sutton. I originally met her through her group called No Place Like Home, a volunteer group that helps get dogs re-homed. And while doing that she realized that so many pets were being given up because their owners couldn’t find living quarters that would accept them, no matter how great the dog was. The usual policy is NO PETS, NO EXCEPTIONS, GO AWAY, SHOO!

For that reason, she started this company in an effort to educate landlords to the benefits of renting to responsible pet owners and by letting responsible pet owners know of rentals available. Sounds like a win-win situation. She gives the website, so if you’re a pet-owning renter, check it out. And if you know of other pet-friendly landlords, or responsible pet owners looking for a pad, you might suggest they get in touch with Pads for Pets and get listed. Win-win. Woof!

Pads for Pets has 2 available pet friendly rentals. One is in Cayucos, and one is in Morro Bay
If you know of anyone looking – check out our website: – photos and info about the rentals are there under available rentals.

Also, we are going to have an open house for both rentals tomorrow (Saturday) from 10-12.

Deborah Sutton

Dog Lovers SIT! Listen up! Part II

Don't forget, the Wood's Humane Society's Wiggle Waggle Walkathon, today, Saturday, Oct 20 at Laguna Lake Park, from 9 a.m. - 1. There'll be booths, contests, demonstrations, dogs for adoption (or at least you can start the process), information, all kinds of fun, lots of dogs. I'll be personing the Greyhound Adoptption Center information booth, featuring The Mighty Finn MacCool as Greyhound Poster Dog Of Los Osos. Whether you own a dog or not, it's a fun day for the whole family.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A Pope For Los Osos

The LOCSD voted last night, 3 - 2 to vote yes on the 218 for the properties held by the CSD. The folks making public comment seemed pretty evenly split between, Make Up Your Own Minds, Note No, Note Yes, Please Abstain. The arguments for each position were well articulated. In the end, the Board clearly "made up their own minds." And, after the vote count on the 24th, it will be interesting to see if, percentage-wise, that 3 -2 vote accurately reflects the citizen's votes, in a clearly divided, concerned, distrustful (for good reason) community.

Next up, the October 23 Protest Hearing at 2 pm. in the BOS, then the vote count on the 24th.
After which, things will get both dangerous and interesting.

Dangerous because my guess is this community will go back to sleep, thinking that Big Uncle Daddy is busy working to make all their Christmas dreams come true, just for them. Dangerous, because Big Uncle Daddy is under enormous pressure from all kinds of OTHER Big Uncles to do things that may not be in the best interests of the sleeping community. Which is why I have noted that my fellow Ursians better not think that now is the time for hibernation. Otherwise, they might wake up next spring with a great big surprise waiting on their doorstep and we'll be stuck in the middle of deja vu all over again.

Interesting, because there will be opportunities to fast-track this project (since everyone's so concerened with speed and time and cost) to what could be a total, competitive private design/build/finance options from pre-qualified top Sewer Guys who have been ready to roll for months. A total design-build (not just pieces put out to competitive bid later) competitive opportunity would get this communityt hard numbers really quickly, hard numbers locked into a bid proposal, a bid proposal locked into a contract, shovels at the ready, likely two years earlier than planned.

Is that something the community is interested in exploring seriously? If so, then the county needs to know that from we Ursine folk so they can move whole project design/build further up the schedule to-do list, instead of keeping it stuck in the back.

After all, I constantly hear that speed is of the essence, since speed is money, so why not consider issuing a nation-wide Request for Qualifications, prepare a project scope document for a complete package design/build, (the TAC has already laid out the criteria and critical goals), see who shows up, pre-qualified, then let the games begin. Having private design/build firms attacking and tackling the whole animal might result in some innovative total results, rather than simply handing them the already pre-decided, pre-digested, 30% already-engineered bits and pieces in a year or two. It's the difference between hiring someone to write the whole screenplay and hiring several writers to come in long after most of the movie's been shot and hope they can doctor it up to save a few bucks. By that time, the film's budget is already blown, the plot set and if it's gonna be a flop, no amount of competitive doctoring at that point will save it.

Is innovation and speed and serious cost issues of importance to the community? If so, then the BOS needs to hear from the Bears now. Not in the spring, all sleepy eyed and waking up to find another done deal sitting at their cave entrance.

Does the community understand that when it comes to Peer Review, there's, uh, Peers and then there's, uh, Peers. Do they understand that He who picks the reviewers controls the review? A lot of people have asked the BOS for some sort of formal, official agreement to make sure Dr. T and the Water Resources Institute will be the Big Guns brought in to do any reviewing. The BOS has refused to make that committment official, instead they reiterate the principles of peer review without a firm committment to Dr. T and the WRI. That's a serious concern I have, but is that concern shared with the community? If so, the BOS needs to hear from the community earlier than later.

And so it goes. Instead of clear sailing, this 218 vote, however it comes out, will result in a truly dangerous time. So if the community doesn't want a repeat of the past, they need to start drinking coffee and popping NoDoz and make sure their wide-awake eyes are on the prize and their growling voices are heard. Otherwise, they'll get what somebody else wishes to hand them, then they'll get the bill. It'll be a rerun, only this time with no do-over.

Officer, There's A Bug In My Soup. Call The Sheriff. Oh, Wait, It IS the Sheriff.

When I first posted comments on this Sheriff-sued-by-deputy case, I noted that it was likely to have "wrinkles." In the latest Tribune story, Sheriff Pat Hedges has released documents concerning the "why" of the bugging -- he was investigating allegations of various criminal activities involving drugs, money, jail imates, possible "dirty cops," etc. which he makes clear, turned out to be false allegations.

However, here's what I still don't get. In all the cop procedural shows on TV, there's usually a scene wherein cops, suspecting some evildoer of evildoing, rush a warrant for a wiretap to a judge in the middle of the night, much pounding on doors, judge tousel-headed and sleepy, in a bathrobe grumbling, "You'd better have probable cause here, McNulty, grumble, grumble," after which he reads the warrant, asks some Hollywood Questions, then either signs it, or if the plot requires some more rushing around, grouses, "Sorry officers, but you'll have to do better than that. You don't have sufficient evidence for me to sign this," which sends them rushing around some more until the next commercial break.

So, here's the question: If Sheriff Pat Hedges has sufficient evidence or sufficient probable cause that there was lawbreaking going on in his office, why didn't he rush over to, say Judge Piquet's house a 2 a.m., pound on the door, stand there while Judge Piquet sat at his desk in his bathrobe grumbling and reading the warrant and then either signed it or said, "Get outta here, Pat. Ya don't have sufficient probable cause. Bring me something I can sign. How's the wife and kids? See you at Rotary. How about a round of golf Sunday? "

That's what I don't get. As I said. Wrinkles. All the time, WRINKLES!

Laguna Lake Nighmare

Leo Tolstoy noted that , "All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

I was reminded of that last night, watching the latest TV news report of the police findings about the murder/suicide of the Rivard family.

Few of us know the sorrows that others around us carry in their hearts and souls. Old wounds, unimaginable past histories, new troubles, secrets, lies, desperations and fears of all kinds. As a species, we are particularly adept at Smiley-Faced Denial and Hiding.

But two things are absolutely known: We are only as sick as our secrets. Only our deluded ego thinks that we're unique and that everyone else is "normal," hence the secrets and hiding. If it weren't so tragic, it would be hilarious. None of us is exempt from our follies and burdens and bungles and failures. None of us.

And, two, the death spiral of drug and alcohol abuse, spousal abuse, family abuse, untreated mental illness, and the slow unraveling of the mind and soul that unspools into the unrecoverable depths is a clearly understood, well-marked, well-trod path. Absolutely predictable without some sort of miracle or intervention.

That miracle didn't come for the Rivards and their one daughter. I can only hope that the miracle will arrive for the other two surviving children, that their burden of sorrow and horror can be mitigated and lessened somehow, that their paths can be kept in the light.

As for John, Barbara and Olivia, I can only feel the deepest sorrow and pity and empathy, and pray for the peace of their souls.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Los Osos Sewerish Stuff

Email from Mike in Los Osos states: "The emergency Services Committee voted to not give the [CSD] Board a 218 vote recommendation. The Committee will report that the Fire Department assessment will be around $170 per month and will come from reserves. The vote was 3-2.

It was reported taht the Water Ops voted for the Board to abstain from voting on the 218. The Finance Committee also recommends abstention. . . . . "


Supervisor Gibson and Paavo Ogren have requested to bump up the time they'll be on Dave's show from 5:30 to 5 - 6. So, to hear the latest from them and get your calls and questions in, tune into The Dave Congalton Show, KVEC, 920 am from 5 - 6 pm this evening.


Trot down to the community center for pre-closed session public comment at tonight's LOCSD meeting regarding the 218 vote scheduled for this evening. The bankruptcy issues will be affected one way or the other, so you can sick in your nickle's worth of comment then and again at the 7:30 regular meeting.

And now, the "Yup, I figgered As Much" Department

Tribune announces this morning that "Paavo Ogren is likely to be tapped to succeed Noel King as director of county Public Works."

First off, congratulations to Noel King, who will be retiring. And a warning: Get some rest now because after you retire you're likely to find yourself busier than you ever were in "real life" and will start longing for the "easy" 18 hour days of being back at work. Rocking Chair Retirements are sooo over.

As for Paavo, when this Sewer Trainwreck was bifurcated and the county was given a shot at solving the Gordian Knot, I knew then that whoever is involved in any way with this project, if it fails, it will be a career-buster and everyone involved will end up with "mud on their face." But, if anyone involved manages to pull this off successfully, they will end up with a ginormous "feather in the cap."

Reason? The Hideous Los Osos Sewer has been watched by many, many eyes over the years, most on faces with mouths hanging open, the jaw dropping to the floor and the sound, "Whaaa, whaaaaaaa?" coming out of the gaping maw. With this specacular train wreck (totally predictable, and totally unnecessary, alas) now the whole world is watching -- literally -- the engineering world, the financial world, the legal world, the sewer world. Agog. Curious. Checking the numbers. Eyeballing the page. Emails flying fast and furious. Say What? Say Whaaaatt? From Dr. T. & the Water Resources Institute, the Ripley Team, , Orenco, Lombardo, you name it. They're watching this extraordinary Saga, the tightrope walker over the chasm, while little Sewer Jihadi-mices of various stripes jump up and down on the wire -- boing-boing-boing.

All these eyes know the perils, the complexities, the promises. They're watching. Dooo-deee--doooo-dooo. And whoever is involved with a "success" will find feathers in their caps and job offers on the table.

Failure will bring coffee-blown-through-the-nose contempt and calumny. Mass mud on face all 'round. No promotions for you! Nuh-huh.

The stakes couldn't be higher for everyone involved.

Who Is That Masked Man?

This morning's headlines from Sona's story: "Sewer competitor's ads called misleading." Story concerns AES and Mr. Murphy and Mr. Low's "Reclamator," of course.

Now the powers that be are going after the ads that are flooding the airwaves and appearing in print. As I posted previously, at the BOS meeting Tuesday, it looked like a case now of Humpty Dumpty, meet Humpty Dumpty, as Mr. Murphy claims he'll be going head to head with Roger Briggs of the RWQCB. Good luck to 'em both.

When I met Mr. Murphy at a public information meeting months ago, I told him I had two words for him: Roger Briggs. He maintained that he didn't need no stinkin' Roger Briggs, that federal laws trumped Roger Briggs and a federal court would settle that hash right quick.

When I noted that few people in this town can afford to hire a lawyer and go into federal court, Mr. Murphy pointed out that you don't need an attorney in federal court. You can go pro per. I didn't bother to point out to him that very few people in this town can afford to go into federal court representing themselves because they can't afford the hotel bills to go and stay in L.A. weeks or months or years on end, including meals, gas, & etc, not to mention loss of time from work, all of which time can be strung out FOR YEARS by the RWQCB (who are being paid by the taxpayers so they have all the paid time in the world to drag out cases until everyone dies of old age and a whole new generation comes along in some Dickensian Bleak House scenario), not to mention the gazillions required for court reporters during discovery and depositions, the gazillions required to pay for a court record, pay for subpoenas (like the case of the Los Osos 45, the subpoenas can be quashed by the Board as the subject of the subpoenas, Mr. Briggs, sails off to sea, out of reach, for a long vacation, & etc.), and pay for the gazaillion things needed to successfully get a case in court. Not to mention, one misfililed document, one missed deadline and, ka-poof! your case is out the door along with all the money you've spent so far.

And that's just the start up case. If you survive all that you may still end up in appeals court for CENTURIES.

As noted in the Tribune story, and noted in yesterday's BOS meeting, the Reclamator will be evaluated along with other alternative systems during the CEQA process. But, in order to evaluate a system, the engineers (and the RWQCB) will need to see complete data. So far, that data hasn't been made available, to my knowledge. Simply asserting you don't need no stinkin' data puts you in league with the RWQCB that asserts they don't need "proof" of pollution to torture people for nearly two years then hang them anyway. In these parts, it's all "Chinatown, Jake. Chinatown."

As I noted: Humpty Dumpty? Meet Humpty Dumpty.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Two Popes Down, One To Go

Like days of old, when the archbishops gathered in the Vatican and locked themselves into the stronghold to pick a new pope, they would signal how the vote was going by burning ballots. Black smoke meant, no vote yet; white smoke meant we have a pope.

So far, as concerns the Prop 218 vote for The Hideous Los Osos Sewer Project, there are three official votes due on property owned by the public agencies with the following tally: San Luis School Board: Yes. Board of Supervisors (yesterday): Yes. CSD: Thursday night.

Humpty Dumpty? Meet Humpty Dumpty.

Ah, it looks like the battle of the century is shaping up here in Los Osos. At the board of supervisors meeting yesterday, Mr. Murphy of the AES Reclamator company, the company that’s touting the onsite Reclamator as a solution to wastewater discharges and pollution problems in the PZ, has asserted in the past that his system is above the laws governing “discharges” since it doesn’t pollute, meets all federal regulations and so it does not need any permits from the RWQCB.

Yesterday, Harvey Packard of the RWQCB asserted otherwise.

I have previously indentified the RWQCB to be like Humpty Dumpty in Alice in Wonderland’s, “Through The Looking Glass,” who would sniff that when HE used a word it meant exactly what HE said it should mean, nothing more, nothing less. The RWQCB are masters of such assertions. “Do you have any empirical evidence that Mr. Smith is “discharging” anything into the waters of the state of California?” “No.” GUILTY anyway! And so forth.

Now comes Mr. Murphy asserting that his Reclamator doesn’t pollute and so doesn’t need permits and now we’re told that Mr. Murphy has bought a home in Los Osos, will shortly be installing the Reclamator and will see the RWQCB in federal court.

Battle of the Asserting Humpty Dumptys! Get your tickets sometime in 2011 or so.

Meantime, Paavo Ogren noted that he still had not received complete data and documentation on the Reclamator and so he cannot fairly evaluate it as a viable alternative, but he will reserve judgment as to such time as he actually gets complete documentation. He did note, however, that any viable alternative systems wishing to be considered during the CEQA process must take seriously all regulations and must demonstrate with data that they meet all the regulations – even ones they may assert don’t apply. If they don’t, they’ll be out of the running.

Paavo also pointed out that treated wastewater being used above ground for onsite reuse (i.e. purple pipe to water the petunias) is subject to testing for coliform and other nasty bugs and that testing is humongously expensive so that if there were 5,000 Reclamators all over town, they might work perfectly fine, BUT the bill for testing the water coming out of the purple pipe would be extremely high. Even subsurface disposal would require a certain degree of testing and monitoring, all of which would be expensive.

So, the battle of Mr. Murphy and Mr. Packard may be shaping up: Humpty Dumpty? Meet Humpty Dumpty. Is so. Is not. Uh-huh. Nuh-hunh. No. Yes. Sez who? Sez Me. Show me the data. Don’t need to. Do so. Nuh-hunh. Make me. No. Yes.

On the other hand, AB885 is coming down the pike which means that all septic tanks outside the PZ and in the basin and anywhere in an impaired watershed in the state of California will come under the control of their respective RWQCB’s. Which means that everyone outside the PZ will come under the tender mercies of Roger Briggs.

If the Reclamator works as advertised and the data supports its use, it may be a viable system that can be used by folks outside the PZ who will be forced to upgrade their systems with new technology and RWQCB follow up testing & etc.

Also, on the other hand, if Mr. Murphy installs his Reclamator in his newly bought house and keeps data and test results on the output to document what the system is doing, by 2011 he’ll have built up a clear data stream that can be refuted or not, as it will be confirmed and verifiable information and/or a track record over that three year period. That shouldn’t be anything to sneeze at.

Still On The Table

1. Design build. Right now, the plan is for design build competition for parts of this sytem, i.e. collection system, and/or treatment plant, etc. However, it’s still open whether design/build companies can’t also come in with whole projects.

2. Peer Review by Dr. T and the highly respected National Water Research Institute

3. According to Vicky Shelby of the County Clerk’s Office, regarding the “threats” made by some anonymous folk to make the 218 vote “public” and hold people “legally accountable” or attempt to “embarrass them” if they “voted the wrong way,” etc. (you read one such stupid threat on this site by an “anonymous” poster who I 86’ed off this blogsite because of it), the clerk will keep a log of people who want to view the ballots, so you can check to see who’s checking, providing the checkers don’t lie about who they are and use “anonymous” fake names. Whee! Maybe we’ll end up with the “outers” being “outed” by the “outeees.” And other childish bully-boy games. (And you wonder why people roll their eyes at Los Osos?)

4. The community survey will come before there may be really hard numbers, but according to Paavo, a professional survey team can write a survey that will be highly sensitive to various costs. ( The SLO Coastal School District did that with their Measure A bond issue, years ago. Alas, then Superintendent Denton ignored the findings and cranked the tax rate up to the maximum because he knew better what the community wanted than did the people being surveyed and his rubber-stamp school board majority went along – Why not since it meant more money in their coffers). In this case, unlike Dr. Denton, the County wouldn’t directly benefit from such a blatant ploy. so will likely be more mindful of the survey results.)

Oh, No, It’s Medea Still On The Battlements!

Tuesday’s Tribune story, “No refunds for those who paid for failed sewer,” noted that “Recalled district board member Gordon Hensley, who was one of the first property owners to file a nearly $3,300 claim last year, said the decision Monday [not to refund the money] wasn’t the most favorable but gives him hope that he and other property owners may be refunded if their is no successful bankruptcy plan.”

Here’s what I don’t get about this whole “refund issue.” Somebody correct me, but wasn’t the original assessment vote to get funds to begin to design and buy land for “a [unspecified] wastewater treatment project?” So, wasn’t the money spent (and/or earmarked/committed) long ago on “designs?” And wasn’t it spent on buying land? And mitigation? And whatever preliminary stuff needed to get done to move along “a [unspecified] wastewater treatment project?” And since the project wasn’t specified in the original assessment (much like this present assessment) would somebody please tell me why anyone thinks the money should be refunded. Didn’t it buy exactly what it was supposed to buy? Designs? Land?

I mean, it wasn’t like Gordon and other CSD members took that money and went to France. And if part of what it bought later wasn’t used or maybe turned out to be un-usable, is there anything in that original assessment ballot as it was written that said, If this or that part isn’t ultimately used in whatever the final project turns out to be, then I’ll get a refund on the various components that were discarded or unusable by the time the opening ribbon is cut?

Well, maybe the bankruptcy judge can ‘splain that to the community.

And On the Radio

Paavo Ogren and Supervisor Bruce Gibson are scheduled to be guests on the Dave Congalton Show, KVEC radio, 920 am on Thursday afternoon at 5:30. And remember, CSD meeting Thursday night at the community center for the CSD’s vote on their 218 ballots.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Reclamator Saga Continues, BOS Meets, Dr. T May Be Mentioned, Yes, It's The Tuesday Sewer Report In SLOWTown, 2 p.m.

During the Sewer Hour at the BOS meeting, starting at 2 pm today, I received an email that the RWQCB has sent AES/Reclamator folks a letter regarding their system. Personally, I no longer believe anything the RWQCB staff has to say vis a vis evaluating anything "scientifically." Not since sitting through the ACL & CDO hearings. I mean, nobody who knew anything about septic systems and soil and vados zones or anything like that would have ever -- EVER -- dreamed up that cockamamie bi-monthly Mad Pumping Scheme with a straight face. EVER. So, right there, that told me these guys didn't know what the hell they were doing. Unfortunately, they still claim regulatory power to do anything they like, even if they have to make stuff up. So, I'll be interested in what they have to say about the Reclamator technology. And I'll try to keep a straight face. (Especially since there's apparently a problem with Morro Bay's aging, leaking sewer pipes that keeps now popping up on the Royal Rumor Radar. Old, Leaking Sewer Pipes?? Awwww Gaaawwwwwddd, I hope nobody tells Mr. Briggs about this. He'll slap ACLs and CDOs on Morro Bay residents and force them to pump out their toilets every twenty minutes. Oh Dear, stay tuned.)

According to previously posted emails, the matter of having Dr. T and the peer review group vet whatever systems the county ends up with is supposed to be mentioned. It won't be an agenda item, but is supposedly a topic that will be touched upon.

It's a week to go until the Official 218 protest hearing (also scheduled, last I checked, at 2pm. on Oct 23) so if anyone has any issues with the ballots or proceedures, they'd better speak now or forever hold their peace. Also, if they haven't mailed in their ballots, today may the last day to try to mail anything, thought there've been mail delays so your ballot may not get there in time. It would be far safer to hand carry the ballots to the Clerk's office (inside the front doors, across the lobby from the BOS chambers) and deliver them in person. That way you'll be sure they're received.

And the following, a copy from PZLDF, compiled from a variety of citizen-imputs as recommendations to the County (to assure a clean Process) . Lots of good ideas there, and if the 218 passes, constant citizen vigilance will still need to be there to make sure no little micies start jumping up and down on the scale in the dark, boing-boing-boing.

Los Osos Citizens Requests and Recommendations
( to assure a Clean Process)

The Citizens of Los Osos, both inside and outside the Regional Water Board defined “prohibition Zone” are committed to protecting and improving the water quality in Los Osos and assuring ample clean water supplies in the future;

The Los Osos Community Services District has pursued and diligently supported a wastewater solution for the community, and fully cooperated with the County and other agencies to bring a wastewater solution to fruition for the community under difficult circumstances.

The County of San Luis Obispo has assumed responsibility for the Los Osos Wastewater Project as authorized by Assembly Bill 2701 (Blakeslee), which became effective on January 1, 2007. And the County has substantially completed their Project planning efforts and is seeking funding approval in the form of a property assessment.

The request herein acknowledges that the county is under no obligation to assume responsibility for the Los Osos wastewater project, however, the citizens of Los Osos require reasonable assurances that the County will serve the taxpayers and citizens of Los Osos in good faith during the decision process, and after.

The County must at all times exercise the lawful and ethical execution of responsibilities, including due-diligence, providing an open and transparent process, accountability and assurance of prudent fiscal management of resources, and providing measurable and auditable results while exercising respect for the whole community, and to advocate for the community they serve. To this end, the citizens request the following matters are considered and acted upon, and the actions/corrections reported to the community:

Relief from individual enforcement actions: The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board has issued enforcement threats and orders against individual homes, and therein contains requirements for the passage of the 218 assessment. The threat of facing a prosecutorial process to collect up to $5000 per day in fines is counterproductive, and meant to coerce the assessment vote. The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board has within its purview the ability to vacate the 46 random orders and notices of violation which breach election laws, and undermine a process to implement a wastewater project in Los Osos. The citizens of Los Osos, as the subject of the said enforcement, request that the County, as the representative of the Los Osos Community wastewater project, support and advocate the vacating of the enforcement against individuals.

Provision of a private and secure 218 assessment vote: It is the explicit responsibility of the County to assure a vote free from intimidation and coercion, and can easily do so through exceptions which allow for closed ballots.

Government Code Section 6255(a) provides an exception that applies to all public records and is appropriate and justifiable.
6255 (a) The agency shall justify withholding any record by demonstrating that the record in question is exempt under express provisions of this chapter or that on the facts of the particular case the public interest served by not disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record.

Affordability: “The displacement of just one family diminishes us all”
In a conflict of goals, the process thus far has failed to apply criteria for affordability standards available from the federal and State governments. This has been inappropriately differed or ignored when developing the alternatives analysis. No enforcement zone specific studies have ever been conducted. The project budget was not established, no budget cap has been established, nothing has been fixed to base the cost for financing for the project, or even to provide a spending guide. Without such input the alternative analysis is flawed, and the cost analysis for the engineers report is invalid. Reports that establish the basis for the assessment engineers report are not certified and stamped. In all these areas, The County has been remiss in carrying out their fiduciary responsibilities.

Sustainability: Affordability and sustainability are closely connected. “SRF loans have the potential to influence water and land use practices in both positive and negative ways.” (SWRCB January 2005 Resolution No. 2005-0006), the State Water Board declared “sustainability and environmental resources to be one of its core values.” Direction by the SWRCB on Jan 20, 2005, for the California Water Boards to consider sustainability in all future policies, guidelines, and regulatory actions.

The application of sustainability is a core value of the Los Osos Community, who requested representation for sustainability through out the planning process using specific trimetrics, such as energy consumption, social impacts, and environmental challenges. The community must know the real costs of various collection, treatment, and disposal/reuse plans as they relate to escalating costs of energy use due to fossil fuel depletion, and required green house gas mitigation in 2012 under AB 32-2006. This information must precede approval of the funding and the project .

Environmental Justice: Environmental Justice is defined by California statute as "The fair treatment of people of all races, cultures, and incomes with respect to the development, adoption, implementation, and enforcement of all environmental laws, regulations, and policies." The Citizens of Los Osos, regardless of social status, income level, culture, race, age, or enforcement based location, requests the County provide findings that the proposed assessment funding, the plans and project is in conformance with the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) and the Boards, Departments, and Office (BDOs) which state they “….shall accord the highest respect and value to every individual and community, by developing and conducting our public health and environmental protection programs, policies, and activities in a manner that promotes equity and affords fair treatment, accessibility, and protection for all Californians, regardless of race, age, culture, income, or geographic location.”
Respect for the will of the people: The electorate of Los Osos voted in 2005 to recall three directors, after repeated attempts since 2001 to affect changes to the proposed wastewater project, the community rejected the proposed project site, the energy intensive technology, the lack of a complete project (deferred elements) the incomplete costs information, the unnecessarily high cost, the lack of effective water management, and water disposal elements that were inadequate.

Measure B was passed at the same time as the recall by a small margin, but sought to provide all residents a voice in the form of a vote to approve the site , the technology, and cost. AB 2701 acknowledged the importance of the voter’s knowledge of the true and full cost for the project, and well as consideration for lower cost options. The promise has been that the will of the electorate and the spirit of measure B are observed. Therefore, only after the final project approval, based upon a community vote, is it appropriate for the full funding to be secured.

Impartial reviews: Quality control/quality assurance is best achieved through 3rd party impartial panel review. Alternatives must be tested against the core values, and in peer reviews. This should include the recommendations from the SLO Green-Build, Sierra Club, Surf rider Foundation, and other stakeholders.

Peer review should involve site specific and sustainable collection systems that combine the most compatible and innovative solutions while applying current and forward regulatory compliance to ensure water quality and quantity. Full review of the project requires completing an accurate needs assessment, energy modeling and embedded energy analysis, life cycle cost analysis, and a detailed community and region based socio-economic impact analysis. Assembling a non profit team of experts, such as National Water Research Institute (NWRI) will assure impartial reviews.

Incorporate all viable proposals: The CSD has update the required Wastewater Facilities Plan for a project, (Ripley Pacific) which was independently reviewed (NWRI) and validated, and must be included in project selection process.

The best value and lowest cost options can not be discarded because of the bias of a competing consulting firm hired by the County. The duty of the County is to seek out and to provide the community with the very best solution. This includes Private and partnering opportunities (Design-Build) by utilizing Gov code 5956 to ensure water quality and achieve regulatory compliance, ensure competitive pricing to maximize affordability, and ensure technical expertise, and increase operating efficiencies. The County commitment to prepare a design-build selection model based on life cycle costs, which requires third party oversight.

Water management: The Citizens of Los Osos and the CSD has worked diligently toward water quality improvements, pursued establishment and implementation of Water Conservation planning and adjudicated water management plans, and has updated the required Wastewater Facilities Plan for a wastewater project. The County supported policy toward the adjudication of the basin and assistance with water management planning should continue, as well as efforts to obtain prop.84 and prop 50 grants for the Los Osos water recycling and water quality enhancement projects. A County supported policy to establish a priority for build out first, in the long restricted prohibition zone, and meeting overall water supplies through cost sharing project with water purveyors to meet water needs is requested.

Citizens advisory council : The County should avoid the political bias and work through the community service organizations. An advisory council made up of broad cross section of representatives (non-technical) including representation of the business community, the low and fixed income groups, families and minorities.
The groups focus should be on the project’s socio-economic and community impacts, and should assist with applications for funding assistance, affordability studies, special legislation for income based rate discounts, community block grant funding for on-lot costs, and zero percent financing for households that meet fail to meet income affordability criteria. Coordinate USDA grants applications, and special projects to help neighbors, and community outreach.

Avoid conflict of interest and litigious entanglement: A commitment to keep the project independent from the CSD debt is essential. The provisions for a protected vote, assuring a sustainable project is delivered, and providing the necessary financial assistance to members within the community helps provide confidence and support for the County led wastewater project. Existing lawsuits from Taxpayers watch, contractors, and others within the sphere of the bankruptcy protection process must not entangle the County.
Regardless of the governors signing message about the loan default, rectifying the CSD debt is not within the scope or authority of the County.

The concern is that the State Water Board has sought to bypass the legal path through the courts to recover the disputed loan default, and contractor claims in several ways: Enforcement-fine the Los Osos CSD, fine individuals, and bring pressure on the County to mix disputed CSD sewer debt with the new project funding. Any mudding of the new project funding by working behind the scenes, outside the intent of AB 2701 threatens the public trust, and impairs County’s ability to bring a successful project to completion. The County must avoid pitfalls that will add costs and diminish support.