Monday, November 09, 2009

Dump That Lawn & Grab Yer Rutabagas!

The Sunday Tribune reports that the Paso Robles city council has okayed a demonstration “ food forest,” as organizers call it, to teach people how to convert grass yards into other vegetation types that require less water. They also plan to each people how to grow their own food.”

Right now, a plot of land in front of Paso Robles Centennial Park Community Center will be turned into a “food forest.” And instead of just settling for a community garden where people living in apartments or condos without any land available where they live, could “rent” in order to garden, the plans of the Transition Towns Paso Robles Food Group are far broader than that.

With mandatory water conservation likely to become a way of life (Paso’s water, like so many California cities, is in overdraft and unless the climate changes to “all wet” it’ll likely stay in overdraft from now on,) the City Council at least recognizes that lawns may be likely to become a thing of the past.

Which makes a lot of sense since urban lawns were always a middle-class affectation of the unhorsed and unbooted trying to ape their aristo betters who could demonstrate their wealth, in part, by building massive homes on acres and acres of servant-tended “lawns.”

In a water thrifty world, lawns may come to be seen as a wasteful public display of conspicuous consumption that will be ridiculed as arriviste tacky, an occasion for much risible finger pointing among neighbors. Indeed, lawns may become some sort of shameful secret sin, a little patch of grass hidden behind tall fences, drooled over and guarded from prying eyes like a collection of vintage pornography. Or, maybe lawns will become a horticultural obsession like that found among orchid growers – a passionate hobby with people spending hours laboring over their pampered patch, with prized cuttings, seeds and rhizomes collected and traded among afficionados--- “Psst, I’ll trade you one Bermuda plug for two Buffalo Grass clumps.” Maybe we’ll even see Grass Lawn Open House tours as a fund-raising event, with donors in long lines trooping from one secret lawn garden to another to gape and marvel. “My God, I haven’t seen a dichondra lawn for 50 years. Didn’t know they grew those any more!”)

Well, good for Paso Robles. I hope my fellow Los Ososians will follow their lead. Dump the lawn, plant natives and some turnips. Last year amongst the salvias and rock roses in the front yard, I stuck in a couple of salvaged rhubarb roots and darned if they didn’t grow and darned if I didn’t get a bunch of rhubarb all summer long so darned if I’m gonna plant a few more roots of the stuff come winter. True, I suspect that rhubarb is an acquired taste, (from a few people who have wrinkled their nose and run their tongue out and make ack-ack noises when I mentioned the word) but what the heck, I love the stuff so I’ll follow Paso’s lead and think seriously about what other foods will grow in a water-thrifty garden.

Please, Pluuuueeeese, Go Away

Sunday’s Tribune also had a long follow-up story on the Edge/Wilcox mess. The Tribune got access to a huge stack of Edge-Wilcox-Hossli (the county’s human resources director, Deb Hossli) interoffice emails before all of them ended up flying under a bus of their own making. I think the Tribune was trying to make sense of what happened with this mess. And their conclusion was that a system of checks and balances was removed the day the BOS changed the way the CAOs were set up, put one at-will guy in charge, then removed some key civil service procedures and protections and then acted surprised that this train went off a cliff. And ironically since the Supervisors thought that by putting the CAO directly under their control they’d avoid some of the problems of a more layered approach, without understanding that “politics” is always present, that even Civil Service Commissioners are not above “politics” and if staff understands that a CAO is the “darling” of a majority of the BOS (more “politics”), it could be career suicide for an employee to bring problems to their attention. Hence, things can fester quietly until the explosion, thereby defeating the notion that more direct control will result in quicker response time, faster problem-solving efforts, etc, all of which had been viewed as stymied or slowed by the clumsy Civil Service procedures of yore.

So, lessons? Well, one thing was clear to me when the Civil Service rules were removed and Edge jammed his own pick (Hossli) into a newly created slot, that those rules actually can avert problems: “by requiring open and competitive recruitment, tenure and discharge for cause, the civil service system is intended to protect employees from adverse actions during political power changes and is also intended to prevent favoritism.”

While you may get speedier results with an at-will CAO, having that same CAO operating an at-will system for departments and staff serving under him is asking for trouble. Fish rots from the head down, as the old saying goes. A “good” CAO under such a system can create an outstanding staff than can change direction (and department heads and re-staff) quickly, as needed. A “bad” CAO under such a system can result in a dysfunctional bunch of cronies working under a spoils system, all toadying up to each other and the boss in order to keep their jobs, with all indirect staff members having to keep mum for fear and favor.

Not good. Costly train wreck ahead. As the county taxpayers have found out.

Ah, Good, One Less Thing To Worry About!

The House has delivered a much-chewed up “health bill,” to the Senate where it will likely die because a tiny handful of Senators are a totally owned subsidiary of the insurance industry (Lieberman) or are so ego-wrapped that they serve only to further their own political interests, not the People’s Business (Lieberman). So, I’m pretty sure that the whole effort will end up DOA.

If, by some miracle, some chewed up form of “health care reform” does survive, it will come in a form which will still have Americans continuing to get crap health care and expensive crap health care coverage, all while still paying more for it (than most “civilized countries”) and they’ll still end up with worse medical outcomes (than other "civilized countries") and still have millions of uninsured, or underinsured and these folks will continue to die by the thousands for lack of decent health care/coverage. And through all of this, I’m betting the voters will STILL be unable to connect the dots.

In a way, it’s funny, this Lemming-like blindness, this clinging to “death panel” lies and other politically dishonest horse pucky. And all through this amazing sturm und drang, we have witnessed the bizarre spectacle of usually thrifty, bargain-hunting, excess-spending adverse Americans now ferociously insisting on sticking with a jerry-rigged, out-of-date system that costs more because it MUST guarantee fat profits for insurance companies and big pharma, and doing all this while begging for “health care reform” and “lower insurance costs.”

Phooey. Americans don’t want health care reform or even health insurance reform or even lower costs. If they did, they’d elect officials who would deliver just that. Instead, they’re still stuck in the same old, I’m all right, Jack, mode, so long as Bad Stuff happens to The Other Guy, not them, while they’re still all oblivious that they’re always a hair’s breath away from being . . . The Other Guy.

So, until they can connect those few dots, it’s futile to get concerned about “Health Care Reform.” Complete waste of time.


Watershed Mark said...

The board's staff recommended the ban due to its assessment that septic systems are the major cause of pollution in Malibu's watershed. The decision has infuriated many Malibu citizens and city officials, who say the board's staff report was based on outdated evidence from the 1980s and ‘90s.

Off topic comments are better than no comments at all.
Imagine now how much attention the WB will get now that it has pushed its style of enforcement into Hollywood's playground...

Watershed Mark said...

Oh, I forgot to mention, vaccum collection and a $7.4MM tertiary treatment technology that uses less energy than any other system design will be reviewed were thinking peopleuse common sense to make sound decisions based on facts.

Ellen said...

Glad to hear someone is keeping on eye on Malibu and how differently a Regional Board will act if there is lots of money from the residents to sue the State.

Ellen said...

Regarding the Edge situation: What happens when a non-management employee tells the CAO that a Board member, for purely political reasons (protecting corporate interests) has targeted them for dismissal for doing their job?

The CAO chuckles and says he knows what is happening, as it has been going on for a number of years, then adds, as if to be comforting, You are still here aren't you?

Watershed Mark said...

Public corruption is a cancer and it needs to be surgically removed..

Churadogs said...

Ellen sez:"Regarding the Edge situation: What happens when a non-management employee tells the CAO that a Board member, for purely political reasons (protecting corporate interests) has targeted them for dismissal for doing their job?

The CAO chuckles and says he knows what is happening, as it has been going on for a number of years, then adds, as if to be comforting, You are still here aren't you?"

By that I presume you're implying that said CAO was protecting his non-management employees from corrupt BOS types? Ah, yes, there's the double-edged sword of "at will" CAOs. If they are non-political and have integrity and are not corrupt, they may end up getting fired for doing the right thing and protecting their employees. On the other hand, they will do nothing to blow the whistle on the corrupt BOS members for fear of losing their job. On the other, other hand, if they're weak and fearful, they can be corrupted to do the corrupt BOS member's dirty work and they'll be protected. Coming under some third party review (i.e. civil service) may prevent some of that. Of course, civil service board members are "political" as well.

What's missing in all this is a County system that requires, demands, mandates, encourages and protects WHISTLEBLOWERS. We don't have that and the result is as you see.