Monday, November 07, 2005

Solution Group Accountability Would Heal Los Osos

The Solution Group needs to apologize to Los Osos.

Nothing heals past failings in this country faster than accountability, and if someone from the Solution Group were to step up and simply say, "We're sorry," the healing process in Los Osos would begin immediately.

The Solution Group has already publicly admitted their failure, they just haven't publicly apologized for it. That's a big difference, and a difference that needs to be resolved.

The apology could take many forms, but it should go along these lines:

"Los Osos, we are very sorry for our actions back in 1997-98. We now realize (thanks to SewerWatch) that our futile, two-year pursuit of the Community Plan is the reason the town is so torn apart today. We screwed up, and for that we deeply and sincerely apologize, but now, you can either continue to hate us, or allow us to work this out with you."

If a former Solution Group member like Stan Gustafson, or Gordon Hensley, or Pandora Nash-Karner, or Gary Karner were to come forward and offer that apology, the brilliant town of Los Osos would come together and solve their wastewater problem, fast.

In the course of my extensive research on this story, I have come across only one person that has shown even the slightest bit of accountability for the situation in Los Osos.

That person -- of all people -- is Neil Farrell. Many in Los Osos and Morro Bay know Farrell as a long-time newspaper reporter in the area. He was working for the Sun Bulletin back in 1997 when that newspaper published a favorable series of reports on the Solution Group's Community Plan. The series lent the unviable, and ultimately disastrous, Community Plan much needed publicity and credibility. The editor of the Sun Bulletin at the time, Richard Palmer, lived in the prohibition zone in Los Osos. Also on staff, was current Tribune Opinion Page editor, and Los Osos resident, Bill Morem. The Sun Bulletin series would eventually play a significant role in the 1998 election that formed the Los Osos Community Services District and launched the ill-fated Community Plan.

Farrell recently told me that he now regrets working on that series of reports. I applaud him for that.

In 1997, I was the editor of the small Los Osos newspaper, The Bay Breeze (now The Bay News). I received the exact same press packet outlining the Community Plan from the marketing director of the Solution Group, Pandora Nash-Karner, as the Sun Bulletin, except I made the editorial decision to hold off publishing anything from that press packet until I could get the information confirmed by an outside source. Good thing. Almost everything in that packet would prove to be false, as the Questa Study exposed in the summer of 1998.

The Questa Study is a great part of this entire controversy. As readers of this site are aware, the Questa Study was a side-by-side comparison of the County's proposed project at the time and the awful Community Plan. It was ordered by the California Coastal Commission in 1998.

Aware that the Questa Study was forthcoming, I held off publishing much of the Solution Group's information on the Community Plan until I saw the study's conclusions. It was a blowout. The Questa Study showed that the County's plan was superior on every point in the study, and that the Solution Group was grossly fudging their figures -- on both cost and technical aspects.

Through the duration of the 1998 Questa Study, I contacted the president of Questa Engineering, Norm Hantzsche, several times for updates. I was the only member of the media to contact him personally. When the study was completed, due to my extensive contact with Hantzsche, I was able to scoop every media outlet on the Questa Study's findings -- a scoop that I am still very proud of today.

Unfortunately, the Karners, after spending thousands of dollars out of their own pocket and hundreds of hours on their deeply flawed Community Plan, did not share my enthusiasm for my scoop. They freaked out, and launched into full-on damage control mode. Spin cycle on high. They bashed me, The Bay Breeze, Norm Hantzsche, the Questa Study, Questa Engineering and anything else that went against them in the run-up to the November, 1998 election. Two years later, the Questa Study would prove to be highly accurate. Norm and I are still waiting for our apologies.

On the topic of the Questa Study, the following chronology has never been reported anywhere, and it will blow you away, as it does me. The snippet is from a story I sent to New Times just before the California Coastal Commission meeting last April. (New Times did not publish the story.) At that meeting, the Commission had the opportunity to revoke the CSD's Development Permit. I was arguing in the story that the Commission needed to do just that, and fix what they broke in 1998. What happened throughout 1998 in Los Osos is amazing, and applies directly to the mess today.

Before I get to my chronology, I want to start with a recent post from Los Osos writer, Ann Calhoun. It's from the comments section of her great blog.

Ann writes:

  • I liken the mess we're in to the Tar Baby: Lie one begets Lie Two, which begets Lie Three, until Br'er Rabbit is stuck tight.I would put Lie One back to the Solutions Group that campaigned for a CSD on the promise of a $35 million ponding system when they had in hand the Coastal Commission Staff Report stating that best estimates put the sytem under review at $78 million, and the Solutions Group said nary a peep about that number or that report, which, was Dated October 1998 (The election was Nov. 1998) From THAT lie, everything is linked.

That is dead-on-accurate. "From THAT lie, everything is linked." That is why the history of this story, specifically from 1998 on, is SO important.

From my unpublished story, Fix What's Broke, sent to New Times, March, 2005:

    Throughout 1998, the California Coastal Commission postponed issuing the County a Coastal Development Permit for their Los Osos wastewater project. The reasons the CCC gave for postponing the County's permit seven years ago were baseless (more on that later).

    The County should have been granted a Development Permit in January, 1998, but that process was derailed by the Solution Group, a small, yet vocal, community group comprised of 16 Los Osos residents that was, at the time, proposing an alternative sewer plan that they developed called "The Community Plan." It relied on "risky," and virtually untested technology, but that didn't seem to matter to the Solution Group. They lobbied their alternative plan aggressively to Los Osos and to the California Coastal Commission. The Solution Group was persuasive, calling their plan "better, cheaper, faster" than the County's project. The Commission bit, and voted, in January of 1998, to delay the issuance of the County's permit, and ordered that an independent study be conducted that compared the viability and cost of the two projects — the Community Plan vs. the County's project -- side-by-side... just what the Solution group had been begging for from the County for months.

    That County-funded study, known as the "Questa Study," was to have been completed by June of 1998, in time for the next Coastal Commission meeting, but the Solution Group, according to the engineering firm that conducted the study, Questa Engineering, failed to supply crucial information that would have shown that their project was simply not viable in Los Osos. If the Solution Group had supplied the information, Questa would have immediately spotted something called a "fatal flaw" -- the fatal flaw clause was put into the study specifically to save time. If Questa had spotted a fatal flaw in the Community Plan, the study would have wrapped up quickly, and the Coastal Commission would have likely granted the County a Development Permit at their June, 1998 meeting. There would have been no reason not to.

    But the Questa Study did not wrap up quickly. Instead, the study pushed up against the Coastal Commission's June meeting, where, AGAIN, the Commission delayed issuing the County a Development Permit. The main reason for the continuance: "The failure of the consultant (Questa Engineering) to identify the technical problems with the alternative (the Community Plan) earlier in the process as a 'fatal flaw'."

    Wow. Los Osos was that close, that close, to averting this disaster.

    An interesting note here is that Norm Hantzsche, president of Questa Engineering, didn't even know that the Coastal Commission staff was calling him a "failure" until I told him during a recent phone interview. "You know, Norm," I said, "that is their word: 'failure'." I reiterated: "... 'the failure of the consultant to identify the technical problems with the alternative earlier in the process as a 'fatal flaw'."

    "Huh," he said. "And I thought they were happy with the study."

    Apparently, Hantzsche, upon learning (from me) that the Coastal Commission was essentially blaming him for the mess in Los Osos, was quickly jarred into remembering a document he just happened to have archived that addressed the "fatal flaw" issue in the summer of 1998... nearly seven years ago (just a guess; but it seems Hantzsche has had that document locked and loaded and ready to go for quite some time). Not surprisingly -- and in a great cover-your-ass moment by Hantzsche -- he quickly e-mailed me that document, and, well... what-d'-ya-know?

    It turns out there was an interesting reason why Hantzsche did not spot the "fatal flaw" "earlier in the process"... just so happens that the Solution Group neglected to offer up a little bit of information, a tiny nugget of supporting data, that, if supplied, would have "immediately" led to the "fatal flaw," and ensured that the Questa Study would have lasted about 10 seconds, and allowed the Coastal Commission to issue the County its Development Permit in June, 1998.

    The following is straight from the Hantzsche document (he's responding to Coastal Commission staff's questions):

    • Relative to the "fatal flaw" step in our review, we had to initially accept much of the information in the two plans at face value until the completion of more detailed review; this was due to the shear volume of background material that had to be reviewed. Specifically, in regard to compliance with the Regional Board policies we proceeded under two assumptions that we later found to be unsupportable (SewerWatch Note: bolding is mine because that is an extremely important point). The two assumptions that we ultimately brought into question were: (a) the nitrogen removal performance data for AIWPS facilities; and (b) reduction of nitrogen content in wastewater from septic systems to 12.0 mg/L, based on percolation through 30 feet of sandy soils.

    Then he says (and here's where it gets good... really good):

    • The supporting data for the (Community Plan's) facility was not found in any of the literature provided by the Solution Group or through any other sources that we researched independently. Had the Solution Group indicated that there were no supporting data at the outset, we would have immediately identified this as a possible "fatal flaw" (again: bolding mine).

    Wow, again.

    Clearly, this is Hantzsche's big "Screw you!" to the Coastal Commission for pointing the finger at him for failing to identify the fatal flaw "earlier in the process." Allow me to translate what Hantzsche is telling the Coastal Commission by supplying me, in less than five minutes, with a seven-year-old document that absolves him of the sewer mess. Translation: "I didn't spot the 'fatal flaw,' you idiots, because the Solution Group withheld the information that would have allowed me to spot it. You want to point the finger at someone? Point it at the damn Solution Group!"

    The Development Permit item was continued to the Commission's October meeting. However, a letter from the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors, signed by former supervisor, Mike Ryan, interestingly, asked that the Commission reschedule the item to their November meeting. That meeting was held three days after the election that formed the Los Osos CSD, when the County's plan was all but dead and their Development Permit moot.

    According to Coastal Commission staff member, Steve Monowitz, the 1998 Commission seemed less interested in ensuring that a viable wastewater project be developed in Los Osos, and more concerned with giving the town a shot at local control through a Community Services District. "The Commission had an interest in giving the community self-determination," Monowitz said.

    The options for Los Osos at the time were clear: "Vote for the CSD and the CSD will implement The Community Plan that the Solution Group has promised, through an aggressive marketing campaign, is 'better faster, cheaper' than the County's plan," or "Don't vote for the CSD and let the County move forward with its $80-million project that the Solution Group has labeled "ruinously expensive." The CSD passed with 87-percent of the vote, riding heavily on the coattails of The Community Plan, and the ill-fated sewer project was officially underway.

    The problem? The Community Plan, as you may have already guessed, was never going to work. It crashed and burned the moment it came under official scrutiny. It was loaded with many "fatal flaws," and, in the end, after a futile two-year pursuit, it never had a chance... not even close. Furthermore, the Coastal Commission, it appears, knew all along that the Community Plan was dead on arrival. Several sources were confirming this in 1998, including the Coastal Commission's own staff and the Questa Study that eventually showed that the County's project was superior on every point in the study.

    Yet the 1998 Commission chose to ignore all those competent, credible professionals, and in essence, made this decision:

    "Ah, what the hell? Despite what all these credible agencies, with credible, competent staffs are so convincingly telling us, we're going to ignore them and give these lovable lugs, these feisty underdogs from Los Osos, led by the Solution Group, a shot at local control, and just to make sure that we get you get started off on the right foot -- right out of the gate -- we're also going to make sure that you are saddled with a massive public works project that we already know isn't going to work."

    "Let the record reflect," Monowitz said, "That was against staff's recommendation."

    The decisions by the California Coastal Commission to postpone the County's Development Permit in 1998 were completely baseless (In fact, in hindsight, it seems absurd that the Questa Study was even ordered in the first place). Not only were they baseless decisions, they were also careless decisions, tens-of-millions-of-dollars decisions, neighbor-screaming-at-neighbor decisions, and terrible decisions with terrible, terrible consequences.

    The California Coastal Commission needs to right its wrong and revoke the the LOCSD's Coastal Development Permit at their April 14 meeting, and give the entire community, not just a handful of citizens with questionable motives (the Solution Group), the opportunity to steer the town's sewer project.

As we all know now, the Coastal Commission did not pull the permit last April, and the previous CSD Board majority proceeded to needlessly pound multi-millions of dollars into the ground and shred the community to pieces before they were finally recalled six months later.

If Gustafson, Hensley, the Karners, and/or any former Solution Group member were to show the same accountability as former Sun Bulletin reporter, Neil Farrell (however, to a much, much greater degree), the healing process in Los Osos would begin immediately. I guarantee it.


(By the way, according to Farrell, the Sun Bulletin won awards from California Newspaper Publishers Association for their 1997 coverage of the Community Plan. Those awards should be revoked by the CNPA. You can contact the CNPA here.)

Please support independent journalism:

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


  • Ron,

    Glad you read Ann's blog. I find your and her perspective to be well thought out and worth reading (even though I disagree with both of you quite often). The fact that you've got your details straight is far better than the shrill "move the sewer" and unwise "no matter what the cost" crowd.

    Good article. Interesting read. Glad to have a few more documents to look over more carefully later.

    However, two or three questions come to my mind.

    First, it still seems to me that the original group was guilty of optimism rather than of lying to the rest of us. Even though they had been warned by the CCC and RWQCB that their ideas were possibly not going to work, they decided to be hopeful and to assume that if they just tried hard enough their good efforts and positive "can do" attitude would sway the mean old government. [On this point, I would like to suggest that the supporting information was supplied to Questa but Questa's unbiased appraisal of the materials was different than the solutions group's hopeful interpretaion of the materials.]

    I can't help but see the current board in exactly the same light. Officials left and right from the RWQCB and SWRCB have told this CSD, both before and after the election that if they take actions toward moving the project, bad stuff will happen. They were hopeful and took those actions anyway. How is this different? The same group that warned the earlier solutions group "don't do it!" warned the current group "don't do it!"

    A second question (or is it a third, I sort of wrapped two issues together above) is ... what should we do now? I can't help but think that to repair the damages done by the earlier board (whether due to lies, hubris or hopefulness or some combination we won't know) will cause even greater harm than the original damage? If the treatment is worse than living with a disease, who would opt for the treatment? Along those lines, if it were to end up costing us some $60/month more to have the plant out of town and we have to sell off TriW to developers to get the costs down to only $265/month, doesn't it seem like we're paying a lot more than we have to?

    Your point should be well taken by anyone following this issue ... unwise actions by well-intentioned Los Osos citizens have raised our bills. I would suggest that to continue this trend is a mistake.

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 9:48 PM, November 07, 2005  

  • Shark is forgetting that the Cuesta Report, if memory serves, noted that their best estimate of the cost pegged it at $78 million, NOT the $35 million touted by the Solutions Group. The SG HAD to have known that $78 million price BEFORE the election, yet I never heard a peep about it. Since the County Plan was pegged at $85 million, IF the voters had been informed that what the CSD election was really about was getting an innovative,untried, possibly unworkable sewer system for $78 million or a regular system for $85 million, I suspect the CSD vote would have failed, the county would have built the project. But that didn't happen. The Solutions Group/ CSD Slate never, to my knowledge, mentioned the words, "seventy-eight million" Instead, all we voters heard was "thirty-five million."
    THAT wasn't optimistic or hopeful or oversign. That was deception, pure and simple, and why I write that this Tar Baby mess came from that one lie.

    And it's a lie that was passed on and over by The System, a System (Board of Sups, Coastal Commission, State Water Board, etc.)that didn't really care. Even now, The System is bring to bear its full might and power in order to FORCE the lie to continue. And poor Los Osos will pay the price.

    By Blogger Churadogs, at 5:51 AM, November 08, 2005  

  • I'll have to look into that, but if the Cuesta study had estimated $78M, it could only have been because they were estimating the need to collect 100% of the homes, not the approximatly 50% the SG said would need to be collected.

    I get it ... you don't want to let the orignal group off the hook for what you believe to be a lie and I believe to be, at the very best, an unwise assumption and hopefulness ...

    So, let me repeat my tiresome question. Why do you think an out-of-town plant at a higher interest rate would be cheaper than the TriW plant? Unless it is, it would seem this new group made a similar unwise assumption based on hopefulness ... and took actions before considering all the ramifications of their actions. They stopped (um ... "temporarily halted") construction and gave the state a reason to shut off the SRF money, likely losing the SRF loan entirely, and gaining a whole mess-o-debt which will keep them from being able to make progress toward any solution, including an out of town plant. Face it, they need money to contine construction and avoid fines. They need money to hire someone to study and design an out of town plant. They need money and their actions gave the state an excuse to shut them down.

    Note: This question is even getting tiresome to ask, but I feel the need to to continue to ask it because no one supporting the "move the sewer" mission has answered this question yet.

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 6:28 AM, November 08, 2005  

  • I have followed this blog and Ann's blog for the last few weeks but was confused by the various assertions being made. Blame the old board seemed to be the norm. Ok, so be it. But today's post seems to clear up the matter for me: some individual's feelings were so hurt that they were not agreed with in the past that nothing less than public humiliation by "the old board, the solution group, and certain individuals" will satisfy them.

    Shark keeps asking the same question about cost but no answers. I for one would rather concentrate on the current financial mess than playing the blame game. Face it, nobody is likely to come forward to meet the condition the two of you want, a public flogging of sorts! I wonder if either of you would submit to this, even if you deliberately lied.

    I have seen no evidence presented that demonstrates that there was purposeful disception by the old board. Short of a smoking gun presented, this case is just "he said she said" as to intent.

    Swallow the past slights you two perceive and offer some constructive alternatives.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:01 AM, November 08, 2005  

  • Shark's "tired" question is this:

    "Why do you think an out-of-town plant at a higher interest rate would be cheaper than the TriW plant?"

    I've answered that "tired question" many times, but none more completely than here.

    I don't think "an out-of-town plant at a higher interest rate would be cheaper." CSD engineers have shown, using their own numbers, that "an out-of-town plant at a higher interest rate would be cheaper than the TriW plant." That's why the Blakslee summit showed that the facility could be moved, and still save money. Sometimes I think all they did at that summit was read my story, and then based their entire proposal on it. That proposal was the exact same thing that I wrote three months ago -- take all the frivolous "drop dead gorgeous" elements out of the project, and everything need to accommodate them, and multi-millions of dollars could be saved by moving the facility out of town.

    By the way, Anonymous said:

    "... some individual's feelings were so hurt that they were not agreed with in the past that nothing less than public humiliation by "the old board, the solution group, and certain individuals" will satisfy them."

    Is that supposed to be aimed at me? "Not agreed with?" The Questa Study was a slam dunk, backed up by an army of wastewater engineer's, water quality professionals and other studies. There really wasn't much wiggle room on whether you could "agree" with it or not. Studies show smoking causes cancer. Are my "feelings" going to be hurt because someone doesn't "agree" with me on that? Not so much.

    "Public Humiliation?" They don't have to worry about me publicly humiliating them, they are very, very adept at doing that themselves.

    This might be the worst take I've ever read on the subject:
    "Swallow the past slights you two perceive and offer some constructive alternatives."

    It's from, of course, someone named "Anonymous."

    Hey Anonymous, I thought you said you read my blog:

    "Past slights?" Please read this.

    "Perceive?" Please read this.

    "Constructive alternatives?" Please read this, this, and this.

    Of course, any constructive alternative will be achieved quicker with Solution Group accountability.

    I don't get it? Gary Karner said:


    They just haven't apologized for it. What am I missing?

    By Blogger Ron, at 12:02 PM, November 08, 2005  

  • Ron,

    I believe you may have mis-remembered the It does not anywhere talk about the financing costs associated with each site, it just totals up the the costs before financing.

    Once you start talking about a project that is $100M total each 1% increase in the interest rate adds about $11.50 to the monthly bill. Thus, moving from 2.3% to, say, 5.3% would cost about $35 per month extra. The additional savings (possibly $6M), once financing is taken into account would still say that the bills would be about $25/month higher, just from the interest change. Even if you drop another $6M for "drop dead gorgeous" it is still $15/month more.

    On the other hand, perhaps you meant to cite a different document and I am mistaken.

    Let me know if you find a comparison between the two sites that you can cite that allows for different interest rates.

    The CSD document seems to downplay the likelihood of lawsuits, success of EIR and likelihood that the County, CCC and SWRCB would allow an out of town plant at these particular sites.

    Again, I am not saying that I love TriW or the previous board (as some may think), just that the plan they had in place is likely far cheaper than the barely-penciled-in plan of the new board. I sort of imagine a crossword puzzle the way my father does them ... the pencil marks, after found to be wrong, are written over in pen and often the actual solution differes quite a bit from the initial "best" guess.

    Maybe it is based entirely on watching my dad's dismal performance at crossword puzzles talking, but I would rather not bet my future bills on the proposition that we might save some $6M (and save a few bucks even if we keep the SRF loan) when you consider that if this bet doesn't pay off, we might increase our actual costs considerably. Running the numbers with reasonable scenarios would suggest that $300/month bills may not be unlikely if things don't work out exactly how the CSD hopes.

    Let me offer one more time to anyone supporting the current CSD ... you can buy my support in your battle to move the sewer if you promise to pay my increased costs over the current plan. If the bills actually go down for some reason, I'll even give you difference between $205/month and what the actual costs are ... you could make out like a bandit if you really think that the costs will drop. It's a win-win situation. I get to fix my costs and you get to move the plant. It might even be a win-win-win situation and you'll make a bit of cash as well!

    If the CSD is so sure that moving the plant will lower costs, why don't they buy me (and people like me) off and fix our bills at $205/month for the next 20 years? They could easily do so. I would sign up in a flash!

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 1:41 PM, November 08, 2005  

  • Ron, like I said, where is your alternative solution for the situation at this moment in time (Nov 8, 2005)? Apparently, as of 11 something today there is a breaking story out of the Tribune (sorry that it is main stream media) about the increase of cost to as much as $300 month due to the expected loss of the state loan.

    You reference something like four of your own blog pieces plus a 61 one page coastal commission report dated 1998 as proof of something. Your blog pieces in turn point back and forth to themselves, and keep referring back in time (6-8 years ago.) I don't see the relevance to this historical data to solving the current problem? I read thru the gist of them but nowhere saw documents that could be construed as evidence admissable in court for some criminal charge. You say that the solutions group admitted they were wrong. Why not savor this as a win? What is your point?

    As far as anonymous, is it not more important what is said than who is saying it?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:59 PM, November 08, 2005  

  • We have yet to read that "$300/month" story where they actually claim the costs could increase by as much as $70/month. I'll be interested to see which analysis they used to get those numbers. Certainly not hard to get a $70/month increase with fines plus the need to repay contractors for work already done and a 6.5% interest rate.

    I can also hardly wait for the howls that the Tribune is "biased" and is only printing these stories to "pressure Los Osos into giving up democracy" or some such tripe. Any fair-minded person with excel could run the numbers and get the same figure. There is no bias in the equation that calculates monthly payments based on prinicpal and interest. The only possible bias would be if one person would assume that fines would occur while another would assume they wouldn't. Claiming either could be a bias. Along those lines, supporters of the current CSD who claim to be able to build an out of town plant cheaper than the TriW site ... especially those who can't even pencil out how this could be done ... are clearly at least as biased as the Tribune which at least has to justify their numbers.

    As to the "anonymous" issue ... why not choose a name, even an "other" name like "Bobs Your Uncle" or "Judy Garland" or something. It would help keep the various participants in this conversation straight... When there is more than one "anonymous" it is difficult to tell which one is which one and what one is who.

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 3:27 PM, November 08, 2005  

  • I want to clarify something, in my last post, I thought Shark was talking about the costs associated with inflation due to the delay of relocating the plant (because I hear that argument all the time, and I've never really liked it... kinda weak). The Tri-W vs. Andre document (if I'm reading it right) has the inflation figure built into it.

    It says on the last page:
    "The escalation rate was applied to the total estimated construction cost."

    That's a bit bureaucratic-eeze-y for my taste. But, I'm pretty sure what it is saying is that the inflation cost is included in the final figures.

    As for the interest costs, which I believe Shark was actually referring to, I have no idea. What do I look like? An accountant? But it looks like we'll get an idea tomorrow from the Trib.

    But I do want to bring up an interesting point before that story hits:
    At what price does Los Osos choose to build a sewer plant in the middle of your beautiful town for absolutely no reason whatsoever?

    I know the rationale for the Tri-W siting. Does anyone else?

    The, "Sure, there's no reason to build it there, but, since we're knee deep in this already, let's just put it there," argument doesn't do much for me.

    Coupla responses to Anonymous:
    "Where is your alternative solution for the situation at this moment in time (Nov 8, 2005)."

    Since when it is the reporter's job to come up with alternative solutions? When Woodward and Bernstein brought down Nixon, no one turned to them and said, "O.K. now get us out of Viet Nam." My alternative solution? I have no idea. I'm not a wastewater engineer. Although I can guarantee you that if I were, I would never develop a "project objective" for "centrally located community amenities."

    Anonymous said:
    "I don't see the relevance to this historical data to solving the current problem?"

    Two things need to happen in Los Osos. 1) You need to solve your wastewater problem. 2) There needs to be some serious accountability for the mess your town is in today. There has been zero. My historical data will do little for #1. It could do a lot for #2.

    Anonymous said:
    "You say that the solutions group admitted they were wrong. Why not savor this as a win? What is your point?"

    You're right, they did admit they were wrong. Why not savior that point? If your neighbor were to drive through your fence, would you be o.k. with him saying, "Yep, I drove through your fence," or would you prefer, "I'm sorry I drove through your fence. What can I do now?"

    "Yep, I drove through your fence." = bad neighbor.

    "I'm sorry I drove through your fence. What can I do now?" = good neighbor.

    That's my point.

    By Blogger Ron, at 5:32 PM, November 08, 2005  

  • New anonymous person. Right on Ron. You are the man! (Well, not THE MAN) Thank you so much for giving us some alternative journalism. If I have engineering questions I will ask Rob Miller.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:31 PM, November 08, 2005  

  • Good answers, Ron.

    I would suggest that whatever the Trib prints tomorrow will be based on quite a few assumptions about what will happen. Some will say that their assumptions aren't all ironclad fact and so will ignore the article entirely. This would be a great mistake. One thing I've been trying to do for the last week or two is to actually "run the numbers" every so often according to various reasonable sounding or at least plausible numbers. One thing that I've always hit on is that the numbers don't add up that moving the plant makes things cheaper. It is nearly entirely based on the change in interst rate. This is one of the two reasons I was so enthusiastic about the negotiated deal ... it would allow us to save millions in interest payments. (The other reason was that the CSD agreed to build at TriW if things didn't pan out elsewhere soon, thus limiting our worst-case scenario.)

    Ron does have some very good points ... that it would be truly healing to our community if the former board members were to say "we screwed up, we're sorry." In that same sense, if this new board doesn't have some good luck soon, will they apologize to us for raising our bills by maybe $70/month, just to move the plant out of town?

    I've been arguing that sometimes the best solution to some problems is to learn to live with an incovenience. If the cost of moving the plant is too high (say $500/month), nearly no one would argue to move it. Ron, the reason now to keep the plant in town is that moving it will likely raise our costs so high that even more people will need to move out. Some might think this is not a big deal, but I do ... I think that even the $200/month is too high.

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 9:37 PM, November 08, 2005  

  • I don't get to claim an "I told you so" like Ron gets to when he predicts the future, but the Trib article pretty much confirmed my tiresome question is dead-on accurate and that unless the CSD gets measure B clarified by the courts soon (i.e. struck down) they have pretty much hosed this community again.

    I found it interesting that Lisa's comment was something along the lines of "the 2.3% rate is huge", essentially, even if we save a bit of money elsewhere, the costs will skyrocket if we have to borrow on the open market.

    At this rate (about $270/month) I wouldn't be surprised to find the Monarch Grove HOA pulling out of their agreement with the former CSD to tie into the TriW plant, once built. Simply put, if they can continue with their current plant, why would they want to tie into the new, "more expensive" collection system and plant?

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 5:52 AM, November 09, 2005  

  • Here's an idea ... if the old board could come together with the new board and both could admit their errors so that each group's supporters could then be convinced that the TriW site, while not perfect, would be the best choice now.

    Nah, never gonna happen. Both groups are so stuck in the mud, blaming each other that it would be quite tough to make progress. This new board and their supporters are so focused on what the previous board did wrong that they can't make the right choices themselves. The supporters of the old board are so focused on the errors of the current board that they can't admit that there were errors with the in town "solution".

    Sad, really.

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 11:23 AM, November 09, 2005  

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