Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Back in the Crosshairs -- Trib Bashing! Oh Boy!

First, in case you haven't already seen it, stop by Ann Calhoun's great blog and read this amazing and gut wrenching letter from Los Osos resident, Beverley A. De Witt-Moylan. She takes the Tribune out behind the ol' woodshed for a good, old-fashioned beat-down, and just absolutely destroys them.

And, as readers of this blog know, demolishing the Trib's coverage of Los Osos over the last seven years is a favorite past-time here in SewerWatch.

Sadly, and inexplicably, the Trib just doesn't get it, as De Witt-Moylan's letter clearly shows. They have no idea what makes the Los Osos story so very interesting, and, yes, tragic -- the human toll, the colossal mistakes by state agencies, the mind boggling amount of aggregate people hours consumed by the despicable actions of the Solution Group and the early CSD Boards, since 1997. It's easily, easily the best, most important story in the county (if not top-5 in the State!), and the Trib, for whatever reason, just can't grasp it.

Now, it appears, the Trib is at a stage where they can't report on how Los Osos got to where it is today, because, if they did, everyone -- throughout the county, throughout the State, and all the way to the halls of Congress -- would be screaming in unison, "Where in the hell were you on all of this?!"

Think about this for a second -- the "better, cheaper, faster" sewer project that got Los Osos voters to bite on establishing a CSD in the first place, in 1998, failed miserably in August, 2000, and the Trib didn't write a single story on it. That just blows my mind, but what makes it splatter all over the place is that, as I've mentioned many times, I wrote a New Times cover story in July, 2000, that showed the "better, cheaper, faster" plan that got the the LOCSD established in the first place, and three Solution Group members elected -- including number one vote-getter and Solution Group marketing director, Pandora Nash-Karner -- was on the verge of failing, dramatically.

I couldn't have made the red flags any redder in that story. For God's sake, the cover image for that issue -- created by the long-time, and talented lead graphic designer at New Times, Alex Zuniga -- showed the words "better, cheaper, faster" going down a toilet! Brilliant, clever and perfect.

The caption on the cover read: "Delays and Increased Costs Plaque Los Osos' Sewer Plan"

About a month after that story was published, I learned at a CSD meeting (you had to strain to hear it, and if you blinked you missed it), that the plan that got them elected and the CSD formed, was officially gone-zo.

You should have seen my end zone celebration when I heard that. What an awesome scoop. I was fake-River Dancing in the aisles, pulling a Sharpee out of my sock, then signing my notebook and handing it to someone in the crowd. I was pumped, because I knew I had scooped the Trib, badly, on a great and important and extremely newsworthy story, and now they were going to have to follow-up on my scoop, and the inevitable, massive scandal that was sure to ensue was going to rock Los Osos to the core.

The Trib did not write one word of follow-up, ever, to this day. Zero.

Unfortunately for Los Osos, that did two huge things. 1) It didn't expose the Solution Group's plan as the pure campaign material that it was (and if it had, they would have been run out of office in 2000, the Tri-W fiasco would have never happened, Los Osos would've had an out-of-town sewer plant years ago, and this blog would not exist today), and 2) It gave the impression that everything was fine at the Los Osos Community Services District, so the community -- along with the Trib -- just kind of went to sleep. Why not? "Hey, 'better, cheaper, faster,' baby. Right on. Make it happen." However, in reality, the CSD was in complete disarray in August, 2000, as they scrambled to figure out how they could quickly and quietly produce a viable second sewer project, at the same location, after wasting almost two years chasing their unviable-from-the-start first project.

In my last post, I said that I had a phrase to describe the Trib's coverage of Los Osos over the last seven years: "Worse than nothing." And I mean that... it would have been far better for Los Osos if the Trib had not written a single word on this subject from 2000 - 2005. Their uninformed reporting was terrible.

Real quick... I want to confess something. To tell you the truth -- I really don't have much of a problem with the Solution Group using their "better, cheaper, faster" project solely as campaign material to get themselves elected and the CSD formed in 1998. (C'mon, let's face it, the road to successful elections in America is littered with less than scrupulous marketing tactics, just ask John McCain. So, I'll give them a tiny bit of room on that one... throw together some nice graphics, toss in some attractive, made-up numbers, package it all professionally, mix in a lot of "behavior-based marketing," and, presto, you have some very effective campaign material, obviously. If the goal was to wrangle local control away from the county, no matter how unscrupulously, then, fine, mission accomplished.) But, for the love of god, as the newly elected CSD, feign a chase of your non-plan for two or three months, and then simply say something like, "Hey, we've come across some new data that shows our plan isn't going to work in Los Osos. What should we do now?"

What f-d everything up, is that they chased it for almost two years, and the local Water Quality Board staff, led by Roger Briggs at the time, allowed them to chase it, even though Briggs and Co. were fully aware, from day one (January 1, 1999), that that so-called "project" wasn't going to work in Los Osos. Amazing. That blows me away.

I don't know about you, but when I'm in a nice restaurant, and there's a screaming four-year-old sitting behind me, I don't get mad at the kid, I get mad at the parents for allowing the kid to scream. (Dude, take the kid outside until he calms down, please!) However, the problem today, as I see it, is that the parents that allowed the kid to scream in the restaurant for two years, are now telling 45 fellow diners, all of whom have a massive headache because of that screaming, to pick up their dinner tab.

The RWQCB never paid a penny of consequences for that disastrous two year delay, that they allowed. Nope, instead Briggs and Co. gave that check to 45 devastated Los Ososans. That is utterly wrong, and very newsworthy, which means, of course, the Trib will not cover any of it, for whatever reason. I don't know.

###

13 Comments:

  • Ron...

    You missed at least half the story ... the most recent and most tragic half.

    Since the start of the recall campaign (or perhaps since the election of Julie and Lisa or perhaps even a bit earlier), we've been consistently misled by the anti-Solutions Group folks. They've told us stuff which, in retrospect, appears to have been completely false and so much so that they must have known their claims to have been lies when they made them. (Either that or they are pretty unwise about evaluating the various claims that they passed on to us as truth.)

    Let me ask you a question Ron.

    Suppose that the current board spends all their money and the CSD is put into receivership before the end of the year. Suppose furthermore that it becomes pretty clear that Blesky pulled some fast ones and that the Board essentially approved of his misdeeds. Suppose even further that the "best" solution available to us at the end of the year is a $350/month sewer bill (whether in town or out of town, this figure isn't unrealistic due to the various legal and financing issues). Supposing all these things ... wouldn't you consider the deeds (or misdeeds, as it were) of the current board part of the story of what went wrong ... or would you consider it still all Pandora's fault? Would you be willing to admit that Julie and her pals essentially made a bad situation worse? Would you be willing to admit that you and Ann cheered her on in the process?

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 7:30 PM, May 03, 2006  

  • Ron,

    Just get off your mind-set and rants about the "misdeeds" by the Solution Group. It is soooo damn boring! {not to mention that your opinions of what happened are fantasy.)

    Why not focus on current events? Now there is a reall story!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:20 PM, May 03, 2006  

  • Good questions, Shark.

    "wouldn't you consider the deeds (or misdeeds, as it were) of the current board part of the story of what went wrong?"

    My answer? No. It all stops at the decision not to go back to the community and say, "What should we do now?," after the Solution Group plan flamed out in 2000. After that, everything was forced. Blaming the current Board for the train wreck would be like blaming the next president for the mess in Iraq. Remember, "Teflon?" But please, keep in mind, I think there's certainly room for criticism on the new Board's side, just not on the "train wreck clean-up" side.

    "or would you consider it still all Pandora's fault?"

    My answer? No. Not all her fault. The blame game hierarchy goes like this:

    #1: The RWQCB/Roger Briggs for allowing Pandora to waste two years chasing her silly plan, when Roger and Sorrel knew it wasn't going to work from day one. Remember my whole "screaming four-year-old" scenario. I don't get mad at the kid, I get mad at the parents. (That's why it kills me to see the CDOs from the Water Board. To me, Briggs and Co. are the number one reason why they had to be issued (unbelievable... "utterly wrong" is how I put it).

    #2: The Trib for not reporting on the intensely newsworthy demise of the Solution Group's project that formed the CSD in the first place. If they had, like I said in the main post, their massive failures would have been exposed in 2000, and the Tri-W fiasco would have never happened, and you would have an out-of-town sewer plant today... at multi-tens-of-millions of dollars cheaper.

    What's interesting about #2, is that they play such a role in the train wreck, that they, like I said in my main post, can't report on the history of the project, which is the current story.

    #3: Pandora... 'nuff said.

    By Blogger Ron, at 10:25 AM, May 04, 2006  

  • Ron,

    Gee, why don't you take your story back to 1983 when Los Osos rejected Federal (free) money to build a sewer;
    .....or gee, take it back to 1989 when the County (via Bud Laurent) killed yet another waster project.

    To point is, your story is OLD and not germane to today's reality.

    By the way, the RWQCB did not "give" the CSD 2 years. The RWQCB made it very clear that they saw problems with the Solution Group plan. The RWQCB could not force the CSD to do any particular plan or action; patently waited for the CSD to figure out that the plan was flawed. That learning curve for the early CSD Board took 20 months. BIG WHOOP ! GET OVER IT !

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:07 PM, May 04, 2006  

  • Ron,

    I find your answers troubling.

    An analogy. Two guys are walking down the street. One has the initials SG and the other the initials LO. All of a sudden, SG attacks LO and does considerable damage. Seeing the problem, a third guy, NB, rushes over to "protect" LO. He drives SG away. However, instead of helping LO, NB takes over the role of attacker. Furthermore, his attacks are far more painful and result in more serious injuries.

    Your answer would have us believe that only SG should be blamed for the injuries to LO and that NB bears no responsibility for the injuries he inflicted.

    However, who am I to insist that you adopt my sense of right and wrong? I will, however, note with interest that you believe the new board bears no responsibility at all for the results of their actions.

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 1:23 PM, May 04, 2006  

  • Ron,

    Apologies for my earlier response (1:23pm, May 04, 2006).

    I just realized there could be another possible explanation for your terse answer of "No." You may have a reading comprehension problem. Maybe you simply didn't read my question carefully. If you would like to re-read the question and change your answer you may.

    Until you do, we'll just presume the plaque on your desk reads "the buck stops there" and shows an arrow pointing to a 2001 LOCSD board photo.

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 3:02 PM, May 04, 2006  

  • Ron,

    Your blog is as true as it gets. It all boils down to dollars. And the Trib has probably been bought off. Lots of bucks out there and the State doesn't want to admit they are wrong. Keep up the good work and the pack of jackals will continue to hound you. How much have been paid? And what have they done for the town? How can these creeps stand by and see fellow citizens (CDO recipients) be put through living hell. It means that there must be a line of sadism mixed with the blood money. Do you think that these hecklers already know that they are at the bottom of the CDO list?
    Perhaps.

    Just keep up the good work, Ron.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:31 PM, May 04, 2006  

  • I just listened to three hours of the Smack Off (those guys are great), and I feel like running some quality smack.

    "It is soooo damn boring!"

    Yet, you read it. Hmmm...

    "By the way, the RWQCB did not "give" the CSD 2 years. The RWQCB made it very clear that they saw problems with the Solution Group plan. The RWQCB could not force the CSD to do any particular plan or action; patently waited for the CSD to figure out that the plan was flawed."

    Um, the school of Bad Reasoning called, they want their arguments back.

    Patiently waited 20 months for the "highly misleading" guys, as Briggs so perfectly called them, and then about 20 minutes for the "reality-based" guys, as SewerWatch calls them.

    "That learning curve for the early CSD Board took 20 months."

    And culminated with this graduation speech: "Ooooops!!!"

    "Until you do, we'll just presume the plaque on your desk reads "the buck stops there" and shows an arrow pointing to a 2001 LOCSD board photo."

    The plaque on my desk reads: "When the takes get bad, the good get beer." (Crack... glug... glug... gluuuggg.)

    Out

    By Blogger Ron, at 12:16 PM, May 05, 2006  

  • Ron, you ignorant sot!

    Go and drink yourself into obivion. Your more sane dead drunk than when writing your silly blogs.

    Waste your life penning meaningless blogs about events you really do not understand. No one cares. I don't. In fact, I will no longer bother you again by disturbing your insanity as you pursue phantom evil-doers round and round your one-tract minddset.

    Phew! That was a blog-full !

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:28 PM, May 05, 2006  

  • "You're more sane dead drunk than when writing your silly blogs."

    What makes you think I don't write my silly blogs dead drunk?

    Ann and I certainly can't be decried for preaching to the choir. Our critics out-comment our non-critics by about a 4-1 clip. As Martha would say, "That's a good thing."

    It reminds me of that great scene in Howard Stern's excellent movie, "Private Parts," where the radio executives are trying to find a way to get rid of Stern, so they look into his ratings and discover that the people that hate him listen to him longer and more often than the people that love him.

    Great!

    By Blogger Ron, at 9:54 AM, May 08, 2006  

  • Huh?

    Did you say something?

    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 10:15 AM, May 08, 2006  

  • Uh, did everyone forget that the Sun-Bulletin covered the heck out of the sewer? The Sun is the T-T's edition in Los Osos/Morro Bay. So the people in South Bay got the story. They're the ones that needed the info, not some gunslinger in Paso who doesn't give a fart about the sewer. The Sun covered it, so get over it. Don't act like this was some big secret. The story got out there to the people, who what do you care who tells it? Isn't that why there are so many different papers out there?

    By Anonymous Carl Whitfield, at 12:47 AM, May 10, 2006  

  • Shouts to Ron. You easily have more fans that read you vs. the fartbag fanatics that ridicule you.
    Keep raising those losers' BP.

    By Anonymous Dogpatch Refugee, at 10:14 AM, May 10, 2006  

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