Friday, October 28, 2005

Saving Face

Lurking in the comments section of Ann Calhoun's great blog is this excellent point from Shark Inlet: "You believe the Solutions Group CSD (SGCSD) to be liars. (You've not yet suggested a good motive ... having one would make your argument more compelling.)"

I'll suggest a motive: To save face!

Want to have some fun with all of this? Put yourself in the shoes of Pandora Nash-Karner, Stan Gustafson and Gordon Hensley --all Solution Groupers, all CSDers -- in the late Summer of 2000.

That had to be a difficult time for those guys. Their sewer project that got them elected and dramatically changed the way Los Osos is governed, was nearly in ashes at that point, as some smart-ass reporter so brilliantly exposed.

What would you do at that time? Go back to those same voters and say, "Look, all those water quality professionals were right two years ago, before the election that formed the CSD, and the plan that we sold you as "better, cheaper, faster" and got us elected and formed the CSD, is not going to work. We're very sorry for wasting two years of everyone's time and money, and establishing this costly Community Services District for no reason whatsoever. But, hey, that's all behind us, so let's just 'move forward.' What should we do now?"?

That would have been a grapefruit-size pill to swallow. However, that is exactly what they should have done.

But they didn't. So, for me, at that point -- the Summer-Fall of 2000 -- it's not toooooo much of a stretch to kinda understand how someone involved with that initial CSD Board could've, maybe, perhaps, hinted something like, "Let the cover-up begin!"

I may not be Woodward and Bernstein, but I know what turns Government F**k-up into Government Cover-up.

Follow... me... on... this...

(In script form, for maximum comedic effect:)

    THE SCENE: A bleak, smoke-filled room with a bunch of initial CSD/Solution Group types huddled around.

    SOMEONE INVOLVED WITH THE INITIAL CSD, SAY, OHHH, AROUND AUGUST, 2000: O.K. here's what we'll do to save face, prevent the community from running us off with pitchforks and torches, and not become a gigantic civic embarrassment due to our very public and disastrous display of "out-of-the-box thinking."

    Everybody listen up, 'cause I think I've figured a way out of this mess.


    SOMEONE INVOLVED WITH THE INITIAL CSD, SAY, OHHH, AROUND AUGUST, 2000: Even though there is absolutely no rational to build our second sewer plant downtown, and by doing so we'll add multi-millions of dollars to the project, we'll keep the facility at the downtown Tri-W site, just like our awful Community Plan, by convincing the Coastal Commission that there's a "strongly held community value" for a "centrally located" public park in our sewer plant, and Tri-W is the only "centrally located" site, so it's gotta to go there, right?

    Yea. That's what we'll do.

    If we can pull that off, it will make it appear (to the media, at least) that the project that got us elected and formed the CSD is still kinda-sorta on the table -- see Los Osos, behold, there is a sewer plant at Tri-W, just like we promised you -- then, we'll simply call everything else a "design change," blur the history of the project, and paint everyone that catches on to our little scam as a bunch of whackos that require sheriff supervision -- "Why do the obstructionists want to continue polluting the bay? Why do the obstructionists want to continue to drive up the cost? Why do the obstructionists blah, blah, blah?"

    All of a sudden we're heros, not goats. Our face is saved, baby.

Sounds like motive to me -- motive that I'm having a hard time arguin' away.

Of course, that only explains a possible, and likely, motive for the CSD Board's cover-up once the Community Plan fell off the table. What was the motivation of the Solution Group to push their sewer project/paperweight as aggressively as they did in 1998? How's this for an answer.

Until I see bank statements from former Tri-W owner and Vision Statement signer, Al Sweitzer, and fellow Vision Statement signer and curiously strong proponent of building a sewer plant at Tri-W, Pandora Nash-Karner, that show all kinds of kickbacks around the 1996-98 time frame (if y'all get my drift), then I'm sticking with my "save face" scenario and this as the most likely motives for the actions of the Solution Group and initial CSD Board.


[P.S. There's a very good question I occasionally come across that relates to the story above. It hasn't been answered, and it needs to be. The question goes something like this, "If the Community Plan's treatment facility was going in at Tri-W, and everyone knew it, then how can all the people that voted for the Community Plan now justify the argument that the treatment facility needs to be moved out of town?"

That is an excellent question.

To be sure, Pandora misled Los Osos on a lot of things about the Solution Group's terrible plan, but there was one thing she made abundantly clear -- where that ill-fated lemon was going to be built: Tri-W.

Here's what that chain of events tells me about Los Osos:

"If our sewer bill is going to be $40 a month cheaper because of the Community Plan, then what the hell? Build the sewer plant downtown. What do we care?

But wait.... whoa, whoa, whoa. What's that? We're not going to save a few bucks a month because the Community Plan is not going to work? Then screw it. We change our mind. We don't want a sewer plant downtown."

Translation: Los Osos is cheap.

Is the "cheap" argument the best argument in the world to flip-flop on the Tri-W site? No. Is it an argument? Yes, because not only is Los Osos cheap, many in the town are cash-challenged. Hey, 40 bucks a month is 40 bucks a month.]

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  • Thanks, Ron, for answering my question.

    I would still submit, though, that an equally good explanation is that the low-interest SRF loan had already been obtained for the TriW site and so, any move out of town would most certainly have increased the already high costs.

    You are right, though, that the CSD at the time should have come to the people and asked for our input back then ... "Do you want a treatment plant in town at an estimated $x/month per household or do you want a treatment plant out of town at an estimated $x+$y/month per household?"

    If, as you state, we are cheap, I think that the community would have chosen to go with the in-town site.

    Along those lines, part of the reason the recall passed is that those who were supporters of the recall attempted to downplay the real costs of moving the plant. Many voted for the recall because they thought $200/month was too much. I hope those people remember their votes when they end up paying more later much the same way that I am regretting my 1998 vote to form the CSD and reject the county plan.

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 9:19 AM, October 28, 2005  

  • Sharkey. I too voted for the ill fated CSD, I do not regret it one bit, I have come to believe that we were lied to. I voted for the recall, I will not regret that either. And if I think we are lied to again I will vote to kick them out! Better yet I will be first in line demanding that they all resign. If the negotiations with Blakesly don't pan out favorably, I still think the best solution for us is to dissolve the CSD. I can't think of one good thing a CSD has done for us. Maybe you could refresh my memory? Mike Green

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:33 PM, October 28, 2005  

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