Well, yesterday's Regional Water Control Board mini-hearing didn't go too well for staff CAO, Harvey Packard. Agenda #14 was supposedly about asking the Board to remove the useless, stupid, horrible, pointless, no good CDOs from The Los Osos 45. And, as the truth of the matter slowly spilled out, it turns out that it was several new Board members who had asked for an update and status review on the matter. But instead of making that clear in an official, formal, complete notification to all the 45, Harvey was forced to fess up that he didn't do that. Instead, he just sorta blew the whole thing off and instead casually asked CDO-holder, Bill Moylan, if he (Bill) could contact some of his fellow 45ers and see if they'd like to send in comments.
It soon became clear that for Harvey, this Board request was just like, Oh, Whatever. And his lackadaisical approach left the Moylans with the clear idea that the whole thing was Harvey's idea. Even his final staff report made no mention as to the source of this agenda item. So it was a shock when he came back with his lame, ludicrous reasons for disapproving what clearly appeared to be his own request in order to keep the CDO's in place.
Naturally, once Harvey's muddling of this issue unwound at the hearing, I do not think the Board was amused. But, wait, it got worse. Supervisor Bruce Gibson showed up to again request that the CDOs be removed and noted that if the Board was worried about compliance, the County has an ordinance in place that mandates -- with both civil and potentially criminal penalties -- that homeowners hook up when the sewer goes on line.
Then Harvey was asked by a new Board member, whether he was familiar with the ordinance. No, apparently Harvey had to admit he was unaware of its existence. Then, to make matters worse, the new Board asked Harvey what other regulatory/legal/procedural methods were available to him (and/or the Board) to ensure compliance. And CAO Harvey hemmed and hawed and had to admit he wasn't sure, possibly something could be done by the Attorney General, maybe, or he didn't know.
All of which made clear what/who the problem with the RWQCB has always been: A Board and staff too often unprepared, uncaring, sloppy, incompetent, indifferent, heedless of consequences, or in the words of former staff member, Matt Thompson, uttered at Roger Brigg' insane Mad Hatter Tea Party Trial and Torquemada's Auto de Fe Extravaganza, that I guess we didn't think things through . . . .
(And, to be fair, a staff often undertrained, overworked, understaffed, and a Board burdened with enough technical reading material to digest and rule on that would choke an elephant. And, I need add, "rule on" complex issues too often outside their area of expertise. Since these same people have the power and ability to ruin lives and injure communities, the disconnect between competence and overburden is a chronic, systemic problem and what can make regulators, without a good system of checks and balances, so dangerous.)
Well the upshot of all this was that Dr. Monica Hunter (who is now free to participate fully since the reason for her recusal as a Los Osos resident has been removed), sternly schooled Harvey for how he was to proceed when this issue again comes before the Board in September: He is to formally, officially notify ALL the CDO recipients with full information notifying them of the hearing. None of this slipshod, whatever.
So, no, not a good day for Harvey. BUT, I think it may well have been a very good day for The Los Osos 45. The new Board members were clearly uneasy about those CDOs, saw no point in them, expressed discomfort about the sheer unfairness of them. (Former Chairman Young, who deserved to have a paper bag put on his head while this item was being discussed, wisely kept his mouth shut. He's smart enough to know you can't defend the indefensible, and the looney Mad Hatter Trial over which he presided had jumped the shark so far there was no hope of ever recovering.)
And so the consensus of the Board was to try to set up two-step hearings on the same September day. The first item would be an informational hearing as to exactly what enforcement mechanisms are available to the Board. (The Board is fearful that if they free the 45 that somehow they'll be helpless to do anything to anybody in the PZ ever again. It's an example of a Board that still hasn't thought things through.) Then the second agenda item will be an action item: Discussion, public testimony, then a vote on whether or not to stop this nonsense and free The Los Osos 45.
Meantime, the Board will write a MOU to the 45 excusing their August requirement of tank pumping, a burden that pointlessly blows $600+ out of their budgets, a burden only The 45, out of the whole community, have to bear.
So, good news? For the community, maybe. As Supervisor Gibson noted, in making the case for stopping this insanity, the inherent unfairness of the continued Board refusal to remove those CDOs is still an impediment to finally bringing the community together.
Indeed. And that's because the CDOs remain a painful symbolic reminder of the basic injustice meted out to those 45 citizens who were stupidly, unfairly, pointlessly, sadistically hung out to dry. And left there to swing in the wind for years while everyone else in the community went on their merry way.