Monday, May 26, 2008

Your Monday Poem

Oops, got busy Sunday, and am now off to get even busier today. Here's your Monday Poem. by Brad Leithauser, printed in the May 29 New York Review of Books

Old Globe

For her big birthday
we gave her (nothing less would do)
the world, which is to say

a globe copyrighted the very year
she was born -- ninety years before.
She held it tenderly, and it was clear

both had come such a long way:
the lovely, dwindled, ever-eager-to-please
woman whose memory had begun to fray

and a planet drawn and redrawn through
endless shifts of aims and loyalties,
and war and war.

Her eye fell at random. "Formosa," she read.
"Now that's pretty. Is it there today?"
A pause. "It is," my brother said,

"though now it's called Taiwan."
She looked apolgetic. 'I sometimes foget . . ."
"Like Sri Lanka," I added. "Which was Ceylon."

And so my brothers and I, globe at hand, began:
which places had seen a change of name
in the last ninety years? Burma, Baluchistan,

Czechoslovakia, Abyssinia, Transjordan, Tibet.
Because she laughed, we extended our game
into history, mist: Vineland, Persia, Cathay . . .

She was in a middle place --
her fifties -- when photos were first trasnmitted,
miraculously, from outer space.

Who could believe those men -- in their black noon --
got up like robots, wandering the wild
wastelands of the moon,

and overhead a wholly naked sun
and an Earth so far away
it was less real than this one,

the gift received today --
the globe she'd so tenderly fitted
under her arm, like a child.

Finally, there's cake; nine candles in a ring.
. . . Just so, the past turns distant past,
each rich decade diminishing

to a little stick of wax, rapidly
expiring. I say, "Now make a wish before
you blow them out." She says, "I don't see --"

stops. Then mildly protests: "But they look so nice."
We laugh at her -- and wince when a look of doubt
or fear clouds her face; she needs advice.

Welll -- what should anyone wish for
in blowing candles out
but that the light might last?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Yup, Déjà vu Some More

I’m sure Neil Ferrell’s excellent report in the latest Bay News ( on the Local Parks plan to possibly put up an entry kiosk at Montana de Oro and charge an entry fee will start up the usual howls of protest. But it’s all déjà vu to me.

It seems like only yesterday, the head State Park Ranger assigned to the county here, came out to Los Osos to propose just such an entry kiosk and the cry from the audience sent shivers down his spine. Nooooo, NOOOOOO, BOOOOOO! BOOOOOO! they said. And since the county owned the road and declined to allow the state to put up an entry kiosk, the whole plan went nowhere.

But now, it’s Baaaaack. Pete Jenny, our new county parks director, is again in the same pickle he’s been in for years: No Money. Poor guy’s trying to run a park system which, like so much in our society, is suffering from the End Game of the Reagan Revolution.

Years ago, Americans decided they valued The Commons wherein all paid a few shekels to create a Commons for all to enjoy, even . . . . .EEEUUUUUUU . . . “poor people.” The RR changed all that. The RR said, bleep “poor people.” Ya want a. . . eeeeuuuuu . . .“public” park, pay for it yourself when you use it. Why should people like MOI pay any money out so . . . eeeuuuuu. . . “poor people” can go sit in a park, paid for with some of MOI money, and enjoy a baloney sandwich with their families on a Sunday Afternoon. If "those people" want a park they can jolly well get together and go buy one. Feh!

And so forth. So one by one our parks, road, schools, bridges sank into the slough of despond and crumbled into crap or disappeared into the arms of private developers (privatize that road and turn it into a money making toll road!) and various park managers had to struggle along doing more with less and less.

Meantime, of course, more and more rich and . . . eeeeuuuuuu . . . poor alike continued to use the various public parks, convinced that THE OTHER GUY was paying for them.

So, here we are. Ya wanna go out to see Montana de Oro, you’ll likely have to cough up $5 bucks for something that will be called a “day use pass,” or a “parking pass” or you can buy an annual pass, good for unlimited visits.

Or, Americans can once again sit down and have a conversation among themselves about the Value of the Commons and do they, as they once did before Reagan, all cough up a bit so that all may enjoy fully funded, excellently maintained, (with more park land acquired before it’s lost forever) parks, roads, bridges, schools & other publicly held amenities. And decide whether these things are valuable assets to be held in common or merely commodities to be sold to the highest bidder for the benefit and enrichment of the few.

Yes, Your Little Girl Is Being Brought Up In An Isolated Culture To Believe That God Want Her To “Marry” and Have Underage Sex With Her Old Creepy Uncle? Grand Nephew? Grandpa? (The DNA Isn’t Yet Clear) And Have Lots Of Babies, But That’s O.K., She’s Only 11 Now And So Isn’t In Any Danger, YET. We’ll Check Back With You Next Year And See How Close Her Old Creepy Uncle Is Getting To “Marrying” Her, THEN We May Step In To Keep Her From Being Sexually Abused, But Not Before, Because To Do That Would Interfere With This Girl’s Religion And Family And If We’re Off By A Couple Of Weeks And Creepy UncleNephewGrandpa Does The Deed, We’ll Run Some DNA Tests To See Who Creepy Old Daddy Is Then Smack Him Around Some, Meantime, We’re Returning Her To The Bosom Of Her Loving Family.

Near as I can tell, that’s the legal reasoning behind the recent Texas court’s ordering that many of the children seized from the FLDS mothers must now be returned to their Mummies. Since most of the kids were too young to have been sexually abused by the men they were being groomed to “marry,” they’re in no present danger and so can be returned to the mothers and the culture that will now restart grooming them for their eventual fate. And the grooming of the young boys to grow up and get into positions of power so they can have many “wives” can continue unabated, including the very real possibility that if they’re excess men in that culture, they may face expulsion, certainly a life with no wife, lurking on the edges, as all excess males are wont to do in polygamous societies. (Interestingly, to date, I haven’t read about the State attempting to portray this society as one “unfit” for children, or “depraved” or other such code words that usually are used, for example, to remove kids from a family of drunks, or crackheads & etc. In those cases, the kid isn’t being given drugs or booze directly, but is certainly being raised in an “unfit” environment, one not particularly conducive to a healthy upbringing, one you could say will doom him to a certain life choice that will likely end badly. Wonder what the difference here is? Maybe as this case proceeds forward, Texas will ‘splain.)

At any rate, apparently all of this is (for now) O.K. with the Texas courts, since it’s the right of the parents to raise their kids as they see fit and the state can only interfere if and when sexual abuse takes place, i.e. Creepy old uncles “marry” and consummate the marriage with their underage half-daughters? nieces? Half-neices? Grandchildren? And someone complains or notices that fourteen year-old girls are running around with babes on their hips. Their babies. And so forth.

Ah, America.

Ah, Em Mah Own Granpaw, Twang-Twang-Twang

And now, this. The Tribune reports that, according to State Senator Abel Maldonado’s campaign manager, “‘Abel’s mother, who is a Democrat, said, “Son, I want to vote for you in the Democratic primary, and I want it to count.’”

So Sen Moldanado gets his name on the Democratic primary ballot so he can run both as a Democrat AND a Republican.

Sez Moldanado, “Why not give Democrats a chance to vote for me and have their votes count?”

Sez the Tribune, “If Maldanado won the write-in race, it could save him the effort of campaigning in the fall – as well as the money he would spend.”

Sez Mark Buchman, chairman of the SLO Democratic Central Committee, “It’s really weird . . . I can’t imagine why somebody that’s been an assemblyman and a senator and supposedly touts himself as being successful would feel like he needs to do this.”

Sez me: Ah, yes. The money. It's always about The Money, isn't it?

Sez me also: Good God! Is there NOTHING that man won’t do to get his name and picture in the paper? Remember when he was using any excuse in the books to get himself snugged up next to Schwartzenegger just to get himself photographed next to the big guy? He reminds me of Sammy Davis Junior HUGGING Nixon fer Chrissakes. Or John McCain HUGGING Bush after Bush’s minions had trashed his family. All while the cameras were rolling, of course.

Politicians who pull this kind of crap have no character. Don’t we have enough of those people already in office? Enough all ready.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Calhoun’s Cannons, The Bay News, Tolosa Press, SLO, CA for May 22, 08

Three Five Oh

If it were three six oh, it would be a complete circle. The last would be first, the first last, Alpha and Omega, the end as beginning, the beginning coming to an end.

The 350 in question is 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. That’s the number that NASA’s chief climatologist, James Hansen, believes is the maximum amount of CO2 in the atmosphere “if humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted. . .” Three five oh and we have a chance to continue living in a familiar world. More than that and the world itself takes over and finishes the job. Permanently.

The amount of CO2 is now 385ppm and rapidly climbing.

As Bill McKibben notes in his May 11 Los Angeles Times Opinion Piece, “We’re the ones who kicked the warming off; now the planet is starting to take over the job. Melt all that Artic ice, for instance, and suddenly the ice white shield that reflected 80% of the incoming solar radiation back into space has turned to blue water that absorbs 80% of the sun’s heat.” Add to that a warming permafrost giving up massive quantities of methane, vast swaths of dying forest decomposing and releasing even more carbon dioxide, warming seas unable to absorb any CO2, and you begin an unstoppable cascade that slides out of human control and into the end-game: A planet not suited for “civilization.”

Concludes, McKibben, “And we have, at best, a few years to short-circuit [this] – to reverse course. . . . If we did everything right . . . we could see carbon emissions start to fall fairly rapidly . . . Before the century was out, we might even be on track back to 350. We might stop just short of some of those tipping points, like the Road Runner screeching to a halt at the very edge of the cliff.”

Adds “scientist and economist Rajendra Pachauri, who accepted the Nobel Prize on behalf of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, . . . ‘If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.’”

And as such, surely it is past time for a national/international Alternative Energy Manhattan Project. If Victory Gardens sprouted in backyards all over the country during World War II, why can’t Victory Solar Panels sprout on rooftops throughout the America? Rescind all the subsidies and hidden supports for carbon-burning energy, let the market determine their “real” price and see how quickly cheaper alternative forms appear. Right now, America lags behind so many other countries, which is a disgrace given our ingenuity and resources.

But here’s what our President is doing: Nothing. And here’s what our Congress, in thrall to oil and coal is doing: Next to nothing. And here’s what our military/industrial/corporate/legislative complex is doing: Nothing but Business as Usual, since Profit Now trumps no future at all. And here’s what the American people are doing: Watching “American Idol.” And here’s what some of our Presidential candidates are doing: Pandering for a summer gas tax “holiday,” thereby encouraging people to drive more, burn more gasoline, and put more carbon in the atmosphere, thereby worsening the deadly process.

And what of our eagle-eyed public watchdogs in the Corporate Media? Are they hot on the trail of the biggest story the world has ever seen – the end of civilization as we know it, the destruction of the planet as we know it, a Brave Terrible New World dangerously teetering into being, a world just a few years away from tumbling into an unstoppable ecological Armageddon? Nope. Here’s the important breaking news story of our time: Which Presidential candidate isn’t wearing a little flag lapel pin?

As a sign of national insanity, it doesn’t get clearer than that. Or sadder.

Three Five Oh. Two Oh Twelve. Two Oh Fifteen. While there are many solutions, there are only two clear choices: Act now to reverse direction, or deny, delay and dither. One gives us a future; the other ends it. Perfect circle. Three six oh.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Your Sunday Poem

This one from Billy Collins from his book: Nine Horses, available in paperpack at your favorite store and full of wonderful Billy Collins poems.


It's only a cold, cloud-hooded weekday

in the middle of winter,

but I am sitting up in my body

like a man riding an elephant

draped with a carpet of red and gold,

his turban askew,

singing a song about the return of the cranes.

And I am inside my own head

like a tiny homunculus,

a creature so excited over his naked existence

that he scurries all day

from one eye socket to the other

just to see what scenes are unfolding before me,

what streets, what pastures.

And to think that just hours ago

I was as sour as Samuel Johnson

with a few bad sherries in him,

quarreling in a corner of the Rat and Parrot,

full of scorn for the impertinence of men,

the inconstancy of women.

And to think further than I have no idea

what might have uplifted me,

unless it was when I first opened

the front door to look at the sky

so extensive and burdened with snow,

or was it this morning

when I walked along the reservoir?

Was it when the dog

scared up some ducks off the water

and I stopped to watch them flapping low

over the frozen surface,

and I counted them in flight,

all seven -- the leader and the six hurrying behind.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Will The Real Number Please Stand Up?

The following remarks were made at the last TAC meeting by Dr. Ruehr. Should we presume the questions he raises will actually be answered in the EIR? Stay tuned. Posted with permission

May 12, 2008

My name is Tom Ruehr and I live within one block of this building. I have served on the Los Osos Nitrate TAC and the Waste Water Alternatives TAC plus I have served on the County Biosolids Taskforce.

The critical issue is treated waste water reuse or disposal.

First, testing at the Broderson site resulted in a water “infiltration” rate of 180 gallons per day per square foot “through the wetted surface of the trench” during prototype testing. This must have included side walls!

Second, the Fugro West 2004 study recommended using a maximum application rate value of 30 gallons of treated waste water per day per square foot.

Whereas, the previous sewer project in 2001 determined a recommended rate of 7 gallons of treated waste water per day per square foot.

Third, the Broderson site percolation rate data in 2003 indicate all sites had percolation rates greater than one minute to percolate one inch of treated waste water.

Table 2 and Figure 1 of the March 2007 draft law AB 885 says under these conditions, a maximum application rate is 1.2 gallons of treated waste water per day per square foot.

What is the correct value? 180, or 30, or 7 or 1.2?

As a soil scientist, I know a sustained water application rate of the lowest rate of 1.2 gallons of waste water per day per square foot can not be sustained on the Los Osos dune sands.

These sands are permeated with thousands of horizontal pencil thin clay lamellae. These lamellae cause water to move faster horizontally than vertically.
Bottom line is the Broderson site is dead in the water for high rate waste water application as is every other possible site any where on the Los Osos dune sheet.

This is an absolute fatal flaw in the proposed sewer. I made this known in 1992 and the County has tried to cover this up since then.

What must be done?

One: The citizens of Los Osos deserve a thorough explanation of why various engineering firms have chosen these values and why no agreement has been reached after millions of dollars of studies.

Comparable values in units of gallons of waste water per day per square foot should be used in all calculations, rather than hiding data by using other units of measurement.

Two: We must have an independent reassessment by an outside unbiased recognized authority to determine the one waste water application rate to use.

Three: This result must be dealt with appropriately in the Environmental Impact Report.

Four: The final proposed sewer project must have an effective and environmentally sound and unified collection, treatment and waste water application system.

It must not be segmented with the idea of solving the waste water application system in the future.

This fatal flaw will cause EACH residence of Los Osos to have to pay over 1 million dollars to fix this problem created by the inability of these studies to provide a single unified value.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Design Build Reminder

The following Press Release, a reminder about the Design Build Conference this weekend.

May 14, 2008

Contact: Barbara Jackson
College of Architecture and Environmental Design

Leading Experts on Design-Build Present Full-Day Seminar at
Cal Poly’s University Union, Saturday, May 17
SAN LUIS OBISPO ‑ Cal Poly is hosting a design-build seminar on water and wastewater projects Saturday, May 17th, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the University Union.
Titled “Discover the Possibilities: Design-Build for Water and Wastewater Projects,” the seminar is being presented by Cal Poly’s California Center for Construction Education (CCCE) and the Design-Build Institute of America. A pre-seminar networking reception will be held the evening before at the Edna Valley Winery, Friday, May 16, from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The reception is free to seminar participants.

Design-build is an integrated design and construction approach where engineers, architects and contractors work as a collaborative team with agency officials to deliver a project from start to finish. Design-build projects have been approximately 6 percent less costly and delivered 33 percent faster than projects delivered under the traditional low-bid approach. This is especially important for California, where public officials are faced with the burden of repairing and upgrading aging systems, complicated by an economic downturn and budget shortfalls.

Designed to educate public officials, and professional practitioners at utility agencies and in private practice, the seminar will feature many of the nation’s leading experts in the area of design-build for public projects.

For more information, please contact Barbara Jackson at (805)756-1723 or To register, call (805)756-6381 or visit

And If You Can’t Make The Conference, Don’t Worry. The World Will End Shortly

The California State Supreme court has ruled that gay people can get married, which means the world will end shortly because, God knows, we do not want a government that believes “An individual’s sexual orientation – like a person’s race or gender – does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.”

Gee, ya think?

Well, not to worry. While Rome burns – war, global warming, economic crashes, lost jobs, increasing poverty and hunger, healthcare off into the ditch, the country sinking into a morass of HUGE problems – we can now drop everything and all turn our attention to the good old fear mongering God/Gays/Guns and get busy to get the California Constitution amended so we can once again re-create a two tiered system – First Class Citizens, with full rights and responsibilities, and Second Class citizens, i.e. those Gay People who need to get to the back of the bus.

Even our own State Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee supports this division. It’s o.k. by him to be the representative of a two tier system – full rights for his straight constituents and second-class citizenship for his gay constituents. Like God intended.

Frankly, I think the States should get out of the “Holy” matrimony business altogether. Since the States have a vested interest in certain property and child welfare issues, they need to establish and have the legal right to oversee “Civil” marriage for all citizens wishing to get “married” Then the “Holy” part of “marriage” can be decided by each person according to his or her religious beliefs and each church or synagogue or mosque can set their own rules as to who they will or will not “marry.”

Then we can get on with far more pressing issues.

Monday, May 12, 2008

And Now, A Word From Our On The Spot CDO Recipient Bev deWitt-Moylan At The Recent Stealth Onsite Basin Plan Update Hearing At The RWQCB’s Hearing Room on Aero Vista Place, May 9, 2008.

Please note that there apparently is a new Board member who appears to know more about the proper running of onsite systems than the Staff. He thinks the staff should use SCIENCE ? Bwa-hahahah. Oh, Dear Lord, he IS new. Yep, behind the woodshed with him! But now a question: Why was anyone with an onsite system sitting on the Board allowed to vote on this in the first place? Wasn’t this all a conflict of interest requiring that they recuse themselves? Wait, what am I saying?

Bev's Brief Report:

They listened attentively, changed "shall" back to "should," and voted unanimously to accept Roger's and Sorrel's harmless characterizations of their amendments.

Luckily, 2 things happened.

1. Dr. Hunter reminded staff publically that economic impacts are as much a part of environmental justice as environmental impacts. So that is on the record.

2. Mr. Hodgin said that he has a septic tank that hasn't been pumped in 16 years and could probably go a few more. So it is now on the record that a water board member hasn't pumped his tank in years and doesn't intend to any time soon. He also said that staff ought to use things like "science" before making pronouncements like requiring pumping every five years. That is on the record. So he was in agreement with at least changing "shall" back to "should" on the pumping requirement. The new guy. He probably got taken behind the woodshed to straighten out his attitude.

Of course, the Trib printed none of it.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


The Bay News is now online. Actually, The SLOCity News, The Bay News and The Coast News are all on line at You can click on which paper you want to read. It's all there, news, opinion columns, photos, community notices, ads, everything. So you can keep up with what's happening in communities from Cambria to the Five Cities. Way cool.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Calhoun’s Can(n)ons, The Bay News, Tolusa Press, SLO, for May 8, 08

Dear Sir! Letters, Part Duh

Ah, April. Cruel. Crueler. Cruelest. At least it was for a few folks who were not selected to be part of the Tribune’s “Poetry Month” offerings. And Crueler yet, when Ms. Dian Sousa, our SLO Poet Laureate (San Luis Obispo has a poet Laureate? Who knew?) noted that she was “somewhat disappointed with the overall quality of this year’s submissions.” Letters of High Dudgeon appeared in the April 25th edition, letters both sad, funny, and highly instructional.

Reading those Cri du Coeur missives, it was clear to me that the writers were likely the victims of a Creative Writing Class taught by a proponent of the Self Esteem Movement. You recall that Edu-philosophy that swept through a whole generation of school children, teaching them that no matter what they did, it was all WONDERFUL simply because THEY were wonderful? That expressing themselves was all that was important, and judging their work by some objective standard was too demeaning and, well, too “judgmental.” And besides, an objective critique might wound one’s delicate sense of self-esteem.

So, instead of standards, a whole generation of kids grew up thinking that whatever they put their hand to, no matter how mediocre, would automatically get them a gold star and much praise – bad artwork, bad writing, bad term papers, bad poetry – it was all WONDERFUL! Thus, the intention of the writer – how he or she felt about the subject – became the all important thing: My work is wonderful because it means so much to me and should only be judged by the depth of my sincerity.

And thus some members of the Esteem Generation (or victims of a sadly misinformed Creative Writing teacher) ran smack dab into tough cookie Poet Laureate Sousa, whose response to their letters was to pour, not soothing treacle on their wounds, but gasoline and a match by noting that she will henceforth “tape their efforts to my refrigerator next to my little niece’s drawing of a pancake.”

But the letters did illustrate the bigger problem. The gist of their arguments can be summarized by the headings: “Laureate’s words hurtful,” “Poetry is personal,” and so forth. One wounded writer observed that Ms. Sousa, as the SLO Laureate, was also “SLO in understanding the meaning of respect, SLO in understanding the courage it takes to pour your feelings out and subject them to critiquing and really SLO in understanding the concept of creativity.” And another writer found “beyond understanding,” Ms. Sousa’s admonishment that budding poets, if they wish to improve, should “read and read and read.” (Uh, yes, indeed they should. I’d have the same advice for a budding painter: Look, Look, Look.)

What went missing from those letters (and likely from the creative writing classes that preceded them) is the hard fact that when it comes to “Art,” there remains an enormous chasm that separates the personal from the public, the amateur from the professional, and when it comes to separating good art from bad art, the gap remains lethally high: You deliver or you don’t. Sincerity has nothing to do with it.

And poetry is not simply good prose broken up in odd ways to look creative on the page. If great prose is like the finest wine, then great poetry is like brandywine, a distillation of words that concentrates meanings into an implosively dense brew of such lethal proofing that the results can blow the top of your head off. It’s a potent art form, one that’s risky when left in the hands of amateurs.

But most importantly, poetry is not simply an adjunct to psychotherapy. While confessional poetry may be good for the confessor’s soul, the true poet’s job isn’t to simply express his deepest feelings; it’s to use his genius and the absolute mastery of his craft to make the Reader feel what the Poet wants him to feel. The former is easy and results in bad poetry. The latter takes the inner to the outer, the personal to the Universal, and is harder to do than anyone can imagine, which is why being a good poet is such a dangerous profession – don’t try it at home. Euterpe and Calliope are harsh mistresses. I would not wish their holy demands on anyone, not even offended budding poets or SLOTown Laureates. They all have my deepest sympathy.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Look Out, Shandon, Nipomo, Santa Margarita, Here They Come

Yes, it’s Roger Briggs & The Gang, now coming to a community near you. And all you people out there in the county’s unincorporated areas laughed at poor Los Osos. Bwa-hahahah. You’re next. Best of all, this Stealth Update, according to the RWQCB documents, has absolutely no environmental impacts that would require any kind of EIR. None. Zip. It’s a miracle!

And, true to form, "public comment," even serious, technically involved and documented public comment, was all quickly dismissed with the usual unsupported bland assertions. Which means this poorly thought through stealth update will not get a serious review (with an eye to actually making it better) and will be rubber stamped and sent up the line for more rubber stamping. The PROBLEMS then that will be caused by a rubber stamped stealth update plan will be visited upon the unincorported areas when it's far TOO LATE to fix the problems and the residents will be abandoned by their county government and will be left at the mercy of Roger Briggs. Just like Los Osos.

All of us here in Sewerville, can't wait to hear their astonished and fearful outcries then. Our response will be Bwa- hahahahah. Told you so. But you didn't listen, did you?


May 7, 2008
CONTACT: Gail McPherson, Citizens for Clean Water -PZLDF-805-459-4535

--------San Luis Obispo Ca.

Regional Water Board Changes its Rules for Septic Systems. Targeted communities question their motives, the lack of notice, and public process.

Sweeping changes will affect over 100,000 properties in 7 counties with onsite septic systems, especially in the communities of San Martin, San Lorenzo Valley, Carmel Valley, Carmel Highlands, Prunedale, Arroyo Grande, Nipomo, Upper Santa Ynez Valley, Los Olivos/ Ballard, according to the water Board staff report. However, none of the actual property owners have been notified of the proposed changes. The Regional Water Board will hold a meeting to adopt the resolutions May 9 2008.

The Regional Water Board has the authority to regulate septic systems, and delegates the costs and responsibility for implementing rules to local jurisdictions, such as the County, through Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreements.

The Regional Water Board staff report also states that their agreement with San Luis Obispo County’s permitting of septic systems expired in 2004, and they were dissatisfied with County septic system program performance. Several areas in SLO county rely on septic systems. In addition to Los Osos, Shandon, Templeton, Santa Margarita, Nipomo, and other unincorporated areas in Paso Robles and Atascadero, and in the South County.

The Board of Supervisors recently voted to put a interim verbal agreement in place until the final rules are known. In County staff estimated it will require several additional employees, and additional funding for the already fiscally strapped County.

Citizens for Clean Water, a local watchdog group, claims the Regional Water Board is looking for justification for enforcement action against other targeted communities, and to cover the 4 year lapse in an agreement with the County.

In 2006 the Regional Water Board launched random enforcement against a handful of homeowners with septic systems in Los Osos, and sent notices of violation to all 5000 properties promising stop orders in a streamed-lined enforcement process. Los Osos Citizens filed a defensive lawsuit in May 2007 (CV 070472) that appeals the actions and conduct of the Regional Board. Among the claims is that the agency abused regulatory authority, and did not comply with basic due process and constitutional protections.

The Water Board spokes person, Sorrel Marks has said in the staff report to the Water Board that revisions are minor and only apply to new systems. The revisions are to correct vague and confusing language in current rules. “That is just what was said before, and look at what has happened in Los Osos.” Said Chris Allebe, one of the property owners issued a Cease and Desist Order.

Most would agree that the rules contain confusing language. In fact, the Water board is being challenged on vague language from a similar resolution which used to justify enforcement against Allebe and others in Los Osos in 2006. A similar basin plan revision in 1983, (resolution 83-13) was adopted to accommodate growth. The document stated 1150 more homes could be built, yet placed a septic system prohibition in order to control new discharges. The resolution actually encouraged growth in order to pay for a community sewer. The sewer wasn't built, and a building moratorium in the resolution stopped growth within the prohibition area in 1988. Years later, the resolution has been reinterpreted to force people from homes built before 1988 unless a sewer is constructed by 2011.

The Regional Water Board proposed resolutions to be adopted on May 9th requires local agencies to implement septic management programs, and will allow waivers for existing systems if properties are enrolled in a local program. The waivers can be revoked at any time, and likely won’t apply to Los Osos.

A reading of the staff report and the letters from various agencies request the water board provide more information and postpone adoption of revisions on May 9.

Among the concerns are the costs of the required new programs that must be implemented by the local agencies are unknown and unfunded. The State has been working since 2000 to set statewide septic system standards. Many believe making local changes now, ahead of the proposed statewide plan puts “the cart before the horse’ according to several letters to Water Board staffer that Marks received in response to proposed changes.

According to Gail McPherson, a retired wastewater professional, the normal process for Basin Planning revisions is to notify and involve the stakeholders in the Basin Plan revision process. “A working group approach is completely absent here. The lack of information to justify the action is appalling. The basic who, what, when, where, and how and (how much) for implementation has to be answered. The anticipated cost to taxpayers, and impacts to individuals with septic systems must be explained”. She believes that “this is required information that has either not been thought out beforehand, or is being purposely hidden.”

Some further concerns question the affects on land planning, the environment, changes to the technical criteria for new systems, adding even more vague language, foreclosing on ‘green sewer options’, and the promotion of unsustainable systems that sacrifice affordable housing and granny units.

McPherson Says, “Communities should not expect better treatment in their communities- The punitive and abusive actions by the Regional Water Board against Los Osos spun completely out of control, and we believe individual enforcement orders, and conduct of the Regional Water Board is unconstitutional. McPherson is the spokesperson for Citizens for Clean Water-PZLDF, the non profit group challenging individual enforcement in Los Osos.

Link to Water Board Agenda and document for item 9 & 10
See letters posted from respondents.

More Information: CCRWQCB Appeal Lawsuit CV070472: Prohibition Zone Legal Defense Fund vs.. Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Sorrel Marks
Sanitary Engineering AssociateCentral Coast Water Board895 Aerovista Place, Suite 101San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
805/549-3695 (Sorrel's desk)

Other Contacts:
Sullivan & Associates
Shaunna Sullivan,
805- 528-3355

Central Coast RWQCB
Michael Thomas

Sunday, May 04, 2008

A Sunday Poem


Life is the only way
to get covered in leaves,
catch your breath on the sand,
rise on wings;

to be a dog,
or stroke its warm fur;

to tell pain
from everything it's not;

to squeeze inside events,
dawdle in views,
to seek the least of all possible mistakes.

An extraordinary chance
to remember for a moment
a converstation held
with the lamp switched off;

and if only once
to stumple on a stone,
end up soaked in one downpour or another,

mislay your keys in the grass;
and to follow a spark on the wind with your eyes;

and to keep on not knowing
something important.

Wislawa Syzymborska

Translated from the Polish by Stansilaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanaugh

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Why Does Mother Calhoun Have To ‘Splain This AGAIN?

O.K. Here goes, again. CSD member, Julie Tacker, again, landed on the front page of the Tribune, this time accused of violating several conflict of interest issues. The gist of the violations are: Sent a letter to the Supervisors offering the services of a business Tacker owns (528-FLOW) and which Jeff Edwards, her boyfriend, is its marketing manager, offering to, as the Tribune puts it, “provide and install low-flow plumbing fixtures for Los Osos residents. Tacker and Edwards suggested the supervisors revise wording in the law to require a kind of low flow showerhead that their business installs.”

Then, as Boyfriend Edwards tells the Tribune, “ the company would provide the retrofits at little or no cost in exchange for the water credits the residents would receive. Those are development credits given for conservation of water. . . . The company [Tacker’s 528-FLOW] could then stockpile the credits, which would then allow it to develop projects in the town or sell the credits to other developers, Edwards said.” (And guess who’s the “developer” who’s likely to do that? Yep. Edwards.)

Sweet deal. Doesn’t even begin to pass the smell test. Then it really goes off the ethical rails when Tacker took off her 528-FLOW hat and put on her CSD hat and voted to support a CSD ordinance that could result in her 528-FLOW company maybe doing a deal. Even if there were no quid-pro-quo, that’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed.

I saw the same thing at work years ago at School Board, wherein one clear, ethical member, recused herself from voting on an issue because her company once did business with one of the bidders, years ago. The connection was extremely tenuous, at best, but this Board Member’s ethics were such that she was willing to remain like Caesar’s Wife – above suspicion, not merely inches from the ethical line.

The problem gets compounded by our method of government: Citizens volunteering to serve part time which constantly brings them into conflict with all sorts of legal and grey ethical lines since living real time in a real community doing real business will constantly challenge the lines.

Even harder is the pretense we make that someone can take off their hats. That is, an elected official can stand up at public comment period anywhere on any issue and declare,”I’m not here as a (fill in the blank,) but merely as a private citizen.” Legally, that’s supposed to put them in the clear. Practically speaking, that bell cannot be unrung and EVERYBODY knows they’re (fill in the blank.)

Add to this mix is the fact that we live in a small community where everybody knows everybody else, gossip spreads like wildfire and Guilt by Association, while unfair, is a reality. Also, in Los Osos, no elected official can ever forget that there are still ugly Sewer Wars factions willing to play Medea to the Teeth; the long knives are still constantly out. And CSD officials need to tread carefully.

And finally, there’s all the stuff your Mom used to warn you about. As the old saying goes, “Lay down with dawgs, git up with fleas” and “Ye shall be known by the company you keep.” The role of Caesar’s Wife -- not only must she actually BE above suspicion but she needs to BE SEEN to be above suspicion -- is an often impossible role to play, but, IF an elected official wants to have any credibility, it needs to be attempted, at least.

Of course, there’s the question: Does the elected official wish to have any credibility? Or even any viability as a Board member? If not, then it’s time to change hats. One way or the other, the voters will have the final say.

And Now, For Something More Serious

Heard about Peak Oil? Well, it’s Time to Talk About Peak Water

At the blog linked below: