The following Op-Edish email by Gail McPherson includes an Op-Edish email by Bill Garfinkle. These Op-Edishes are a perfect example of why the Hideous Los Osos Sewer Project always remained so difficult to accurately ‘splain or describe. The first is the use of the often false and always negative generalized and misleading description of anyone who disagrees with the writer. The perfect example is the Phamous Phrase, “anti-sewer obstructionist.” This tar-brush branded anyone who raised a critical question, even a critical technical question, as some Moonbeam McSwine urine-drinking blockhead who was mindlessly blocking any progress just for the sake of doing it. In this case, Bill Garfinkle describes people who disagree with him (i.e. people who want others to file a protest) as people who are trying to derail this project, or people who “inflicted hardship on the community.” (The Sustainability Group “inflicted hardship on the community?” Really? That’s a perfect example of false broad-brushing. ) All of which misses the point, which as McPherson points out, is this: The protest vote is a legally required process that’s asking a very simple question: Do you want these charges added to your yearly tax bill (or, if the county figures out a way to send the bills out monthly) or not – Yes, No.
(Perhaps it’s the name – “protest” vote. Sounds very negative, doesn’t it? Like something an evil “anti-sewer obstructionist” would be in favor of. Or someone who’s “inflicting hardship on the community.” Evil. Bad. Oooo, “protest” vote. Had it been labeled “Sewer Affirmation Vote,” would people be bringing out their tar-brushes?)
But the second, really serious problem has to do (as always) with numbers and costs and how slippery they have always been, depending on who’s doing the figuring. People wanting to put the largest smiley-face on this project’s cost will move certain figures off the page. For example, when giving monthly guestimates, Bill apparently thinks that the hook up costs shouldn’t be in the total monthly costs since some people will pay for that in cash which apparently, in Bill’s world, somehow takes that amount off the table? Ditto for the $18 a month for the previous assessment. So it appears that he views adding in those numbers is somehow a “scare tactic?”
In the real world, however, the real world of real money, real monthly expenses, those numbers aren’t “scare tactics;” they’re . . well, real. It doesn’t matter what box you put them in (previous assessment, hook up fees, sewer/water charges, regular water charges) their total divided by 12 will be what a homeowner will really be paying each month. So you can end up with individual lows and highs, but pretending somehow the high numbers aren’t correct because you’ve put them in a different box is just dishonest and misleading. Yet that tactic has been consistently used by all sides, which just adds to the distrust and confusion.
So, please. The Protest paperwork is a legal process, your response is entirely up to you. As Gail points out, if you can’t afford what’s being proposed, you say No. If you can afford it and want it, you don’t do anything since doing nothing counts as a Yes vote. Simple. And the sewer cost numbers really need to be dealt with honestly without parsing them into pretend categories. Take ALL your total guestimate costs and divide it by 12. Simple. Then pray the contractors are hungry in these lean times and the bids for the project will come in much cheaper and the undeveloped property owners vote to cough up a chunk of money early on to start paying for the project well before they can develop. Then start thinking up ways (and start saving and budgeting for major low-flow product purchases) to cut your indoor water-use. And wait to see if the county uses the 2010 census numbers rather than the old 2000 census numbers they’re presently using and then hope that some alarm bells will ring in Washington so that someone will do an affordability study so we’ll know what percentage of our community will be forced to leave their homes, then pray for those people.
But, for Chrissakes, retire the “anti-sewer obstructionist” mantra. That phrase and others like it were a deliberately designed marketing/branding device to spread the Big Lie about a lot of people in order to quash any and all criticism and/or input from anyone who opposed Tri-W and/or disagreed in any way with the person using the phrase. It was and remains dishonest to the core and has caused untold damage to this community. Enough, already.
Déjà vu in Los Osos
Once again the same group of people -- who forced the 2005 waste water project to be canceled, wasted the monies secured in the 2001 Prop 18 assessment (which we are still paying), caused the LOCSD to enter into bankruptcy, and opened the door for the Regional Water Quality Control Board to issue cease and desist orders -– have launched a campaign to derail the County waste water project for Los Osos.
This vocal minority of residents has put together a mass mailing to the property owners in the Los Osos prohibition zone to persuade them to send in formal protests to the current Prop 18 Rates and Charges Ordinance that will be heard by the Board of Supervisors next Tuesday, December 14th.
The document that was sent out is rife with unfounded assumptions, half truths, misleading statements and scare tactics.
To arrive at their estimate of monthly charges at $243 to $363 they add in the $18 from the failed 2005 project which they stopped but still must be paid regardless of the outcome of the protest vote. Also included in their figure is an ongoing charge of $50 to $100 for sewer hook up which is not a component of the projects monthly cost. Each homeowner will approach the one time cost to hook to the system differently. As a result the actual projected costs on a monthly basis would range from $169 for a single person residence to $244 for a family of 6 based on estimated water usage.
If the undeveloped properties are brought into the project, which is highly likely, then the range of costs drop down to $137 to $213.
The writers of the document state that if the protest vote fails (i.e. the project moves forward) then the County will have no incentive to complete the HCP (Habitat Conservation Plan), LCP (Local Coastal Plan) Update, amend the Estero Area Plan and have a ground water master plan. This is all untrue. The Coastal Commission requires this in order for the project to be completed.
It is also important to note that all of the costs for the project are based on calculations made in 2007 with built in inflation based on the economy at that time. Since then we have entered into a recessionary period and all signs suggest that the project could come in well under those numbers. This would further reduce individual Rates and Charges.
The county is currently working diligently to access additional funding through grants and special financing that could reduce the costs and also provide assistance to disadvantaged property owners. Hopefully by the time that the Rates and Charges begin in 2014, options will be available.
The bottom line is, however, that the costs will never go down. And additionally if the project is once again delayed it is likely that the RWQCB will begin enforcement of Basin Plan prohibition through fines to individual property owners.
This group of people who dominate all public meetings and hold out false hope must not be allowed to inflict more hardship on the community. I urge all property owners in Los Osos to ignore their petition and allow the process to continue. Do not send in your protest.
Chair of the former Technical Advisory Committee on the LOWWP
Chair of the former Technical Advisory Committee on the LOWWP
Gail’s Op-Ed-ish Response
. . . . UNDER THE CA STATE CONSTITUTION Before YOUR personal property can leined (and thereby taken if you can't pay) you are asked "Can you afford it?" (reasonable question) Yes or No?
This is a legally required question to the people putting their property at risk and paying the bill.
. . . . .
The issue is IF you can personally afford to foot this ordinance for an "open ended" sewer charge filled with uncertainty and millions is added misc. costs. The rates as presented by the County right now will force you to pay $250 to $350 per month on top of your current household budget. (Your on-lot construction/connection is NOT included)
Personally affordible? THAT is the question. The decision IS YOURS ALONE.
If yes, no problem ---do nothing.
If NO send in the protest letter, it protects you now and in the future. It is your say. If enough say NO- the sewer costs must be reviewed for affordability standards, charges reviewed and refined. The Co will be armed with YOUR "NO " and can press harder for grants with the 218 protest in hand. Interest rates can be lowered, past $6.5 mil forgiven, and a NO helps establish the disadvantaged community status, so low income programs promised by Gibson are made available.
Review the power point presentation with the County costs included. A huge concern is approving the "minimum rate structure" The assessment + an open rates/charges= $250-$350 a mo.
A NO forces A CAP on costs. Contracts with a guaranteed maximum cost were developed, then tossed, and these need to be enforced to control costs.
If you can't afford this, there is no down side to sending in a letter.
A NO letter simply says you can't put your property and family at risk without some assurance of a maximum you can pay. Your home is the loan collateral for the nearly $183 mil in borrowing required to date.
I did not address the unfairness in allowing the vacant lot owners to shift the balance, although they do not have an assessment stake or water to develop their properties.
I hope this helps. Feel free to pass it around.