Monday, August 08, 2005

LOCSD Hangs Their New Public Information Officer Out to Dry

by Ron Crawford

I feel sorry for Michael Drake, the new Public Information Officer for the Los Osos Community Services District.

He came into his new position just a few weeks ago with an optimistic message for Los Osos and the local media: "I will not spin," he said.

But the problem is, his new employer already has him, completely unwittingly, spinning hard and heavy and often. New face in the LOCSD office. Same spin.

Poor guy. That is very embarrassing, and I truly feel sorry for Drake. It's not his fault.

In the two times I have interviewed him, the spin was so extensive and utterly sourceless, that I gleaned absolutely no new information from those interviews and subsequent e-mails. But I can't blame him for that. He's too new to the game. No, the problem lies with the staff of the Los Osos Community Services District and a consultant that they kinda-sorta work with in a
sort of way. They were the ones responsible for getting Drake up to speed on the story, and they failed miserably in that endeavor.

How do I know?

When I asked Drake in a recent phone interview, "What's the source of the 'strongly held community value' that any sewer project in Los Osos must also include "a wastewater treatment facility that is a visual and recreational asset to the community," Drake carelessly pointed to the fluffy and outdated Vision Statement, created by just a handful of Los Osos residents in 1995, including curiously strong parks advocate, Pandora Nash-Karner.

As readers of this blog are well aware, that is an embarrassingly indefensible answer to my question.

"Every community has a vision statement," he said, adding, "That vision statement calls for 'visual and recreational assets for the community.'”


That reply is so wrong on so many levels, and I blame it all on his coaches. There's no way Drake could have mangled that question that badly, all by himself, after just two weeks in the game.

As readers of this blog also know, the "strongly held community value" that any sewer plant in Los Osos must also double as a "centrally located" "recreational asset," understandably, simply does not exist, and never has. (That notion is actually kind of funny when you think about it. I mean come on? What community "strongly" says, "Our very expensive sewer project must also contain a multi-million dollar park that our community can not afford?" That's intrinsically ridiculous.)

And there's tangible evidence everywhere that shows that that "community value" never existed, but the people that have Drake's ear neglected to brief him on that evidence -- evidence like Measures E-97, D-97, and the LOCSD's own $28,000 public opinion study that showed almost non-existent support for the idea of including a multi-million dollar park in the sewer project -- a park that is dictating the plant's downtown location and adding multi-millions of dollars to the project.

If they had, he would have known better than to point to the Vision Statement as the source for that "strongly held community value."

That was embarrassing.

Another embarrassing moment for Drake came when I asked him why a site on the outskirts of town known as the "Andre" site was not selected as the location for the sewer plant. He said, "because the extra energy cost needed to pump (the sewage to the Andre site) would be very expensive." That is an argument that project proponents have been erroneously using for years, so it's kind of odd, to say the least, that Drake would go to that invalid argument so quickly.

Apparently, the LOCSD forgot to show Drake a few of their documents that instantly dismiss that argument. Like the documents that show that the cost added to the project to pump sewage about two miles out of town for the next 20 years is around $400,000, yet the cost to maintain the park over that same amount of time is estimated at $3 million, on top of the estimated $2.3 million needed for the park amenities themselves, like an amphitheater, on top of the multi-millions of dollars needed to cover the cost of the extensive environmental, visual and odor mitigation required due to the sewer-park's downtown location.

In other words, by removing the park from the project -- and thus the "project objective" of "centrally located community amenities" that should never have existed in the first place and led to the selection of the "centrally located" Tri-W site -- the cost savings would pay for about 200 years of additional energy costs required to pump the sewage out of town.

Drake was also unaware of the document that says that all of the other potential sites out of town were "rejected" by the initial LOCSD Board because they did not meet the "project objective" of "centrally located community amenities."

Drake was unaware of any of those documents, despite the fact that he told me he was aware of SewerWatch. (Quick memo to Drake: As far as I know, all of the links on this site work. Please use them.)

Before I continue, I want to point out once more -- because I feel this is an important point -- the criticism in this article is not directed at Drake and his terrible answers to my questions, but at his handlers for their apparent intentional withholding of critical information from their newly hired PIO.

I want to make that clear because, unbelievably, another very embarrassing moment for Drake popped up in the course of our brief conversations.

After I informed him of the above-mentioned documents, Drake then fell back on one of the project proponents' worse takes -- a take they have been using for years, well before Drake's arrival, so, obviously, they coached him to rehash it.

"The Andre site is not feasible," Drake said.

Brace yourself for embarrassing moment #3.

When I told him that a senior staff member at the California Coastal Commission told me the day before our conversation, that the Andre site was not only feasible, but that the LOCSD "misled" the Commission on the feasibility of the Andre site, Drake replied, "That's news to me."

Really? No friggin' kiddin'? Let me guess... LOCSD General Manager, Bruce Buel and kinda-sorta-in-a-shaky-sort-of-way consultant, Pandora Nash-Karner just happened to neglect to tell you that little bit of information when they were briefing you on the story? Hmmmm?

Of course it's news to you, Mike. Just like Measures E-97 and D-97 were news to you. Just like the LOCSD's own public opinion study that showed almost zero support for the idea of including a multi-million dollar park in a $150-million sewer project was news to you. Just like the cost comparison conducted by the LOCSD that showed multi-millions of dollars could have been saved by relocating the plant out of town was news to you. And, just like the quote in the Facilities Report that says, "The sites on the outskirts of town, could not deliver a community use area that was readily accessible to the majority of residents," was news to you.

Kind of funny, don't you think, Mike, how all that information just happened to slip the minds of Buel and Nash-Karner when you arrived? You know what's not news to those of us close to this story? That's just business as usual for the LOCSD.

Drake, you very publicly pledged "no spin," and then your bosses, unbeknownst to you, tossed you directly into the spin cycle and hung you out to dry.

How's that taste?


Please support independent journalism:

Checks to:
Ron Crawford
P.O. Box 120
Santa Margarita, CA


  • Make 15% sale with Sweetfilter odor eliminators.

    We create a mirror website, you join a 3rd party affiliate program at for free, you link to your new website that we create and it pays you directly for every sale.

    Sweetfilter Sewer Smell Odor Eliminator Model SF-110. "Buy Now" button below includes, a 1 thru 4 inch universal fit pipe bushing, replaceable Zeocarbon media bag, 90 day 100% money back warranty and a 5 year manufacturers warranty with one FREE shipping coupon below..
    The problem, "sewer odor" from rooftop vent pipes going into the backyard and house, the solution is SWEETFILTER.(tm)

    Product ID #: SF-110

    Unit Price: $37.50


    By Blogger Stop The Stink, at 3:41 AM, April 06, 2006  

Post a Comment

<< Home