Friday, May 16, 2008

Paso Robles is Paying $57,400 for Marketing Services? What a Bargain!

Call me "hyper-sensitive" to the subject of government agencies using taxpayer money to produce marketing material aimed at swaying those taxpayers' opinion, but...

Over on the excellent blog,, reporter, Dan Blackburn, has posted a story on how Paso Robles officials have recently approved a $57,400 contract for public relations services with a Los Osos based marketing firm, 2PointMedia.

The contract calls for the firm to "educate" Paso Robles residents on the $202 million Nacimiento Pipeline project over the next year.

According to Blackburn, the marketing campaign, "will take the rest of this year to make Paso Robles residents feel good about absorbing a three-fold water rate increase; underwriting a big, new, chronically expensive water conveyance project; and subsidizing a dependable future water supply allowing huge winery operations, now dramatically over-drafting the area’s water supply, to prosper."


But here's what I REALLY find funny about 2PointMedia's contract: It's only for $57,400!... for a whole year's worth of "education."

Either 2PointMedia is getting ripped off, or the 2003 Los Osos CSD was ROBBED BLIND when they spent over $500,000 for just a few "Spiffy quarterly publications called Bear Pride on heavy stock paper filled with graphics and color," according to a 2003, Tribune editorial.

About a year ago, I wrote a blog piece here where I show how everything "Los Osos" is the result of marketing professional, Pandora Nash-Karner's "behavior based marketing" techniques in that town over the past 17 years, since 1991.

In that epic story, I list all of the marketing "strategies" that Nash-Karner has unleashed on the citizens of Los Osos for nearly two decades, now.

Here's where it gets very interesting in connection with Blackburn's piece.

One-of-the-many Nash-Karner "strategies" that I report on in that story involves using public funds to develop marketing material aimed at influencing opinion involving a highly controversial public works project -- the mid-town, Tri-W "sewer-park," that Nash-Karner, as a county Parks Commissioner, developed when she was an elected CSD Director. (In case you don't already know -- Nash-Karner's marketing efforts formed the LOCSD in 1998 and made her the #1 vote-getter on the initial board.)

I've copied-and-pasted the following from, She is Los Osos, Part II... so interesting:

- - -

  • A strategy in 2002 to keep her (Nash-Karner's) fingers on the strings of Los Osos voters, using their money, by placing a $700,000 bid for public relations services to the LOCSD shortly after leaving office, serving just one term as a CSD Director, during which time she burned through three sewer projects (the county's viable project, her non-viable Community Plan, and her second Tri-W project, that was also never going to work, by the way.) Although her bid was accepted by the District, she did not get the contract.

    However, her strategy may still have worked there, because, apparently, that's not where the expensive public relations contract story ends.

    I recently did a little research on that contract because it deals specifically with the subject at hand -- Pandora Nash-Karner, and the marketing of the Los Osos sewer project -- and, well wha-da-ya know? Something stinks about that contract.

    That fat contract was eventually awarded to someone named Maria Singleton, to the tune of almost $520,000.

    According to a Tribune report at the time, "the contract also calls for her writers and other assistants to be paid at separate rates ranging from $30 an hour to $80 an hour."

    Here's the problem I'm having, I can't seem to track down Maria Singleton to ask her if Pandora Nash-Karner was ever one of those "writers" and/or "other assistants."

    Call it a journalistic hunch, but I've got $100 bucks that says she was.

    I looked Singleton up in the phone book, and although there's a Maria Singleton listed, when I called the number, I got a message machine, and the name left on that machine is not Maria Singleton's. Furthermore, according to the Trib, her company's name is Singleton & Associates, out of San Luis Obispo. Not only is there no listing for that company in the phone book's Yellow Pages (that I could find) or business section, but even a Google search for -- "Singleton & Associates" obispo -- doesn't return any information on her company at all, other than the same link I supply above -- that great link.

    Poof. Gone. Three short years ago she was pulling in over a half of a million dollars from the Los Osos Community Services District for popping out a few "spiffy quarterly publications," and all of a sudden both Singleton and her company seem to be awfully hard to find.

    From a December, 2003, Tribune opinion piece:

    "What kind of bang for its buck has the community been getting from the district's public relations firm? Spiffy quarterly publications called Bear Pride on heavy stock paper filled with graphics and color. Unfortunately, all the whistles and bells haven't served their desired purpose: A growing segment of the community seems to have ever more questions about the changing nature of the sewer. The question arises: Have relations between the district and public been served? Apparently not."

    Apparently not! Because those "ever more questions" about the "changing nature of the sewer" were never, and I mean EVER, answered with that half million bucks.

    Instead, Los Osos got this...

    From a December, 2003, Tribune report regarding the Singleton contract:

    "An effort to clear up confusion and misinformation surrounding the Los Osos sewer project may have backfired. Some Los Osos residents and business people are upset by a contract approved in November by the district Board of Directors to pay $318,595 for seven months of public relations work." (Note: The contract was an extension of a 13-month, $200,000 contract that was previously secured by Singleton.)

    Tribune reporter, David Sneed, got that wrong.

    That was never, "An effort to clear up confusion and misinformation surrounding the Los Osos sewer..."

    Oh, no, no, no.

    Let's be crystal clear on what that "effort" was: That was an effort to create "confusion and misinformation surrounding the Los Osos sewer," and it was paid for by the same people it was targeted at. (Give me a sec... I'll be right back... I need go to take some nausea "medicine.")

    THAT's why none of those "ever more questions" were answered. They were never intended to be answered, just obfuscated.

    The Tribune finishes off their opinion piece with this great blast:

    "Perhaps the first whittling from the Singleton contract could be the $6,000 budgeted for "media relations." Why? When Singleton was contacted about her contract by The Tribune, she said she couldn't comment and referred questions about it to district officials.

    Now that's bang for your buck."

    That is quality smack. (Why don't they write more editorials like that?)

    Sooooooo.......... ummmmmm.......... that seemed like $518,000 well spent, huh? It ensured that voters in Los Osos would stay completely confused on why they originally voted for a $38.75/month ponding system in 1998, but were now getting a $much-much-much-more-than-that/month industrial sewer plant in the middle of their town. Plus, there was the added bonus of the Tribune getting stonewalled by Singleton (and, by the way, major props to the Trib, at least they were able to track her down... that's more than I can say) even though she pocketed $6,000 to talk to them, and these days, just three years later, Singleton & Associates seems to be nowhere in sight... gonzo, with over a half million dollars of Los Osos taxpayer money for less than two years worth of "work" -- "work" that would prove to be nothing more than a publicly financed, behavior based marketing mindfuck, just like Nash-Karner's public opinion study two years earlier.

- - -

Toldjaso... killer stuff.

Blackburn's piece touched a nerve with me.

After covering, extensively, Los Osos over the past 17 years, I can't overstate how uncomfortable I am with government agencies using public funds for marketing aimed at influencing opinion on a controversial public project.

That practice needs to be banned immediately.


[NOTE: A fun, little side-bar here: A few months back, Dan Blackburn phoned me about an unrelated subject, and we got to-a-talkin' about that Singleton contract -- this is SO good -- turns out, when Blackburn was with New Times, he reported on that contract, so he's familiar with it.

I was telling him about Nash-Karner's two decades worth of "behavior based marketing" in Los Osos, and that's when I asked him this question, "Has anyone ever seen Pandora Nash-Karner and Maria Singleton in the same room, at the same time?"

To me, that's a half-funny/half-outstanding question.

Blackburn told me that he has -- when he went out to the LOCSD offices in 2004 to interview Singleton about the contract, and take one guess at who else just happened to be at that meeting?

Blackburn said, "Yea, Pandora was there. She had cookies and tea all laid out for me."

That's where I immediately interrupted him, and asked, "Dan, did that 'cookies and tea' just happen to be there, or was it there specifically for you?"

He said, "Oh, it was there specifically for me."

I told him, "You were 'behavior based marketed' right there, Dan."

He groaned.

After we straightened all that out, he did, indeed, say that he saw Nash-Karner and Singleton in the same room, at the same time.

I then had another question for Blackburn: "Did you ask Singleton for identification?"

He said, "No. I didn't think I'd have to."

I said, "I don't blame you one bit. But, if that had been me, knowing what I know, I would have said something like: "Maria, I realize this is kind of an unusual question, but I have to verify it for the validity of my story... may I please see some identification?"

By the way, has anyone been able to track down Singleton yet?

I have some questions for her, IF she exists.]



  • Ahhhhh, it just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser don't it? And, for you, closer and closer. You can run but ya can't hide!

    For governmental agencies to spend tax dollars spinning controversial issues and positions at its consituients prior to a vote seems to be the new way of doing government. Not a particularly good thing I think. But it is becoming standard operating procedure. Sadly, the days of government publishing balanced informative broadsheets describing the pluses and minuses of each position seems to be fading into quaint history. The world is more spin than fact any more. Se la vie. I kinda doubt it is something that can be banned.

    > By the way, has anyone been able to track down Singleton yet?

    Ron. I'm disappointed in you. What kind of internet journalist are you? I did a Google quickie and found this in about 30 seconds.

    > Maria Singleton, Graphic Designer. This website describes a Maria Singleton who does the kind of graphic design used in spiffy publications like Bear Pride typically printed on heavy stock paper filled with graphics and color. And her resume provides an email address, a cell phone number, and a citation indicating she won a New Times Cover Design contest. Uh, ya think maybe she might be the same Maria Singleton?

    By Blogger *PG-13, at 9:34 AM, May 19, 2008  

  • Ahhhh... PG-13*san, we are back to square one!

    You're not going to be believe this...

    I had to delete my previous comment from about an hour ago.

    In it, I wrote:

    "Just sent this e-mail to her at

    Hello Maria,

    I'm an independent journalist in SLO County and I'm researching a story involving the Los Osos CSD.

    I recently read that in your contract to provide marketing services for the District in 2003 and 2004 that you were able to hire "writers and other assistants" for $30 to $80 per hour.

    Did you hire Pandora Nash-Karner as one of your "writers and/or other assistants"?

    Also, did you know Nash-Karner prior to you landing that contract?


    IF she gets back to me, I'll be sure to report it."

    Well, guess what? She got back to me, alright, well, more precisely, her husband got back to me by phone, and said his wife was "a little freaked out" by my e-mail.

    Can't say I blame her.

    Turns out, that's not THE Maria Singleton... that practices graphic design and marketing... in SLO County... with ties to New Times.


    I apologized profusely for the confusion, and told him I would immediately delete my previous comment and write this correction/apology.

    For what it's worth, he told me, "I wish we would have gotten that contract."

    Good sport. (And if anyone's looking for a skilled graphics/communications person, I recommend clicking on Maria's resume above.)

    Bottom line -- where's THE Maria Singleton? I still have some questions for her.

    By Blogger Ron, at 11:29 AM, May 20, 2008  

  • Wow, this is certainly getting weird.
    Two Maria Singeltons?
    I can see (and know) multiple Mike Greens, but that coincidence is just over the top.
    Ron, have you queried Pandora herself? what was her response?
    I know, ask Richard LeGross.
    He sometimes says things that are quite revealing (sometimes on accident)
    The Thick Plottens!

    By Blogger Mike Green, at 12:45 PM, May 20, 2008  


    Who's your wookie now baby !

    Just had to laugh!

    By Blogger Mike Green, at 4:48 PM, May 20, 2008  

  • Oh CRAP not Wookie.... Ewok!
    My apologies to all Star War folks.

    By Blogger Mike Green, at 5:33 PM, May 20, 2008  

  • Hey,

    I just did a google search for Ron Crawford and it seems that ther about 19k pages with a "ron crawford" reference.

    The first 10 were about 9 different individuals and all nine of these are not the same guy as our favorite sewer wonk.


    I'll even bet that if you called Ron Crawford, the seminary president, and asked him questions about the Los Osos sewer situation and his role in prolonging the pain our community is feeling I bet he would be a bit freaked out and call Ron Crawford the FPI agent to investigate. Maybe it could even be made into a made for TV movie staring Ron Crawford who had a set of head shots by Ron Crawford the photographer. Then Ron Crawford the troubador could serande the rest of them while they are out with Ron Crawford the bass fisher on a bass fishing trip in the Ozarks.

    You know who is to blame here?


    By Blogger Shark Inlet, at 12:47 PM, May 22, 2008  

  • Hey, Minnow Inlet,

    You forgot Ron Crawford, the local defense attorney.

    Minnow, have you ever Googled "Shark Inlet"? (And this is something that's always bugged me about you guys) Do you see that little red circle in that link I just supplied? That's highlighting a geographic feature at the back of Morro Bay called "Shark Inlet."

    Now, do you see how the right side of that red circle barely clips the white portion of the map that indicates a residential area, right on the bay? Pandora Nash-Karner and Gary Karner live directly under the right side of that red circle, right on the bay, right next door to Shark Inlet.

    I'm just sayin'...

    And, the only thing I "blame' Pandora for, is for creating one of the most interesting stories I've ever read... let alone wrote.

    Mike wrote:

    " Two Maria Singeltons?"

    Yep... two Maria Singletons that are professional graphic designers and marketing experts, with ties to SLO County, and whose names come up in association with New Times.

    What a coincidence.

    A little like having the name of a local geographic feature be the same as the name of an anonymous comment-type, and also having the central person involved with the sewer story living right next door to said geographic feature.


    By Blogger Ron, at 10:54 AM, May 23, 2008  

  • Yep... two Maria Singletons that are professional graphic designers and marketing experts, with ties to SLO County, and whose names come up in association with New Times.

    For what it's worth, he told me, "I wish we would have gotten that contract."

    When Singleton was contacted about her contract by The Tribune, she said she couldn't comment and referred questions about it to district officials.

    So what we have is a Los Osos Marketing firm that no one has heard of before, 2pointmedia, a Marie or Maria Singleton who got a half million dollar contract that no one can find to speak to, a young Maria Singleton who did not get the half million dollar contract that no one can contact because her husband intercepted for her and, finally, the marketing person we do know and can contact Pandora and Company.

    Now what if I wanted to hire Marie Singleton? What would I do? Call her up even though there is no website or yellow page ad, but let's say for argument, I get her number, I would say “I’d like to hire you for a half million dollar project”. I guess she’d say ok. Then a month later I would call her back but would accidentally call the other-Marie-Singleton-who did not get the half million dollar Los Osos project and say, “So, how is my half million dollar project coming along?" I imagine she would say, “oh, you have me mistaken for the–other-Marie Singleton who gets the half million dollar projects, I only wish I could get those.”

    It seems to me that a Marie Singleton existed, either as a stand in for Pandora and Company or employee because the article indicates that there was a contract and she would not discuss it, re:
    When Singleton was contacted about her contract by The Tribune, she said she couldn't comment and referred questions about it to district officials.

    The Marie Singleton website that PG-13 provides reveals that this M.S. is young, has only been in business for 7 years, and won a cover design contest for a New Times newspaper. How many New Times newspapers are there all over the U.S.? There doesn’t appear to be any piece of information on her site that has ties to San Luis Obispo. And who said that the first M.S. is a graphic designer?

    I would suggest requesting the contract to see all the details of the first Marie/a Singleton, her address, who endorsed the check, whom she paid. Inquiring minds would like to ask to see her Tax Return for that year. Would a business need a business license in order to secure a half million dollar contract? Maybe the IRS needs to conduct an adit of the ever elusive Maria Singleton.

    By Blogger Commentary, at 9:31 PM, May 26, 2008  

  • Hey,
    I just returned from the Chamber luncheon here in LO and guess who the guest speaker was? The owner of 2PointMedia! Her name is Starr Hall....I think that's the last name but will check and get back to you. She is an incredibly dynamic individual who has written books and works internationally and has been here for years.

    It was funny I had happened by to see what Ron's panties may be bunched up by and lo and behold the universes crossed and there was 2PointMedia!

    She still has an office on LOVR - but again, if you are truly interested, I'll have to get back to you.

    Enjoy the day,
    Maria M. Kelly

    By Blogger Maria M. Kelly, at 1:37 PM, May 27, 2008  

  • Quick update on the "elusive" Maria Singleton: I e-mailed Maria Singleton's former partner, Karen Tacket. She left a phone message saying that their partnership dissolved before that contract, and she couldn't tell me if Nash-Karner received any of the $500,000.

    Commentary wrote:

    "The Marie Singleton website that PG-13 provides reveals that this M.S. is young, has only been in business for 7 years, and won a cover design contest for a New Times newspaper. How many New Times newspapers are there all over the U.S.? There doesn’t appear to be any piece of information on her site that has ties to San Luis Obispo. And who said that the first M.S. is a graphic designer?

    Fair enough, but, what I think that shows, is my level of frustration trying to track down Singleton just to ask her a couple of presumably harmless questions. So, nowadays, if I see anything that contains the name "Maria Singleton" along with words like "New Times" and "graphics," that person is going to get an e-mail from me. Besides, it was just a quick little mention in my comments section. It's not like it ended up on the front page of the Washington Post, or anything.

    Mike asked:

    "Ron, have you queried Pandora herself?"

    Long ago (before my first New Times cover story on this subject), I stopped using her as a source. Obviously, to anyone that's read this blog, she simply can not be trusted.

    It'd be a little like going to George Bush, and asking him, "Did you know there weren't any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before you invaded, and then occupied, that country?"

    And then believing him when he tells you, "No."

    Maria wrote:

    "It was funny I had happened by to see what Ron's panties may be bunched up by and lo and behold the universes crossed and there was 2PointMedia!"

    Lo and behold, it's really starting to look like Los Osos taxpayers paid the 2003 - 04 LOCSD $518,000 to lie to them over a critical, two-year span regarding a $200 million public works project.

    And, please realize, Maria, that I have nothing against 2Point. The only reason I bring them up is because their contract now allows me to contrast their $57,000 contract with Singleton's shaky $500,000 contract.

    In fact, I've been meaning to contact 2Point to get their reaction to Singleton's contract, and now I know who to contact. Thanks for the information. (And, since, you brought up the "panties bunched up" blast, I thought you should know that I... uh, how should I put this?... roll al natural.)

    By the way, Maria, I hear your picture ended up on the front page the Bay News, standing next to Pandora Nash-Karner, and Bruce Gibson. Is that true?

    Are you part of "Celebrate Los Osos"?

    If so, did Nash-Karner come up with that slogan? What about "One project at a time?" Is that also a Nash-Karnerism?

    How does "Celebrate Los Osos" get its funding for things like banners and supplies?

    How did the Bay News know about the photo opportunity? Is Nash-Karner also doing her own PR work again for "Celebrate Los Osos"? Did she coordinate the photo shoot?

    In past comments, just a few months ago, you told me that you wouldn't know Nash-Karner if you bumped into her on the sidewalk.

    Do you know her now? If so, what changed? How do you know her now?

    Thanks in advance for your prompt answers.

    By Blogger Ron, at 10:06 AM, May 28, 2008  

  • frustration trying to track down Singleton just to ask her a couple of presumably harmless questions.

    Yes, I too was trying to show that a person who secures a half million dollar contract should be well known and easy to find. I'm convinced that there is impropriety involved with the contract and players.

    It would be worth it for you to call Pandora just to see if she slimes you or not. For example, will she tell you where Marie Singleton is? Or be evasive? Your story would then read: after many attempts to contact Pandora, she never responded. It's still part of the story for the epic.

    As for this Maria Kelly, one can only feel sympathy for a person who is so easily jedi-mind-tricked by marketing women with names like Starr or Pandora.

    By Blogger Commentary, at 2:32 PM, May 28, 2008  

  • Ron, Pandora is getting needed stuff done for the community. How have you contributed lately? Rehashing old news? Well whoop-dee-do, gee, I'm impressed!

    Maybe you are just envious of/angry at successful women who can get things done?

    Why don't you just ASK Pandora your questions? I thought you claimed to be a reporter.

    The al natural part? A little more than I wanted to know. And it is spelled "au naturel" in case you want to gross us out again.

    P.S. Anyone who wants to volunteer to help on these projects, can.

    By Blogger Sewertoons, at 11:06 PM, May 30, 2008  

  • 'toons wrote:

    "How have you contributed lately?"

    'toons... do me a quick favor. Run down to the Tri-W site and let me know if you see a "bait and switchy," $200 million park-project-that-included-a-sewer-system on Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area there.

    THAT'S how I've contributed lately.

    "Why don't you just ASK Pandora your questions?"

    'toons, close your eyes and picture this exchange:

    - - -

    ME: Hello Pandora. Did you make money from the Singleton contract? If so, how much?

    PANDORA: No.

    ME: O.K.... that's good enough for me. Thank you. I'll stop pursuing that question now.

    - - -

    'toons, do you see how me contacting her and asking her questions like that is a complete waste of BOTH of our time?

    "The al natural part? A little more than I wanted to know."

    Hey, Maria brought it up ; - )

    By Blogger Ron, at 10:04 AM, May 31, 2008  

  • Ron,

    Panties in a bunch is a colloquialism as you should know. You could have responded in kind.

    What I see at Tri-W is a whole lotta debt which will fall on those of us in the PZ, another project I get to pay for (I'm still paying on the first assessment on my property taxes), and a divided town created no - NOT by THAT sewer - but created by people who didn't want ANY sewer and came up with reasons to hate THAT sewer and delay one coming at all.

    Where were Lisa and Julie in 2001 when things could have been changed? I didn't even live here then, but they did.

    It wasn't going to be $200 million, and I'd be flushing and forgetting right now instead of blathering on here about a public works project.

    Sorry. I prefer gravity and I don't care if it is in town or out of town. Bet the out-of-town folks don't think quite that way though. I'm not too sure I want to see acres and acres of little oval ponds on my drive into town surrounded by chain-link and I wonder if there will be a risk for West Nile virus-bearing mosquitos? Oh well. All I have is one advisory vote. I support the County process 1000% however. Let's hope Tri-W doesn't wind up a strip mall. I'd rather see 11 acres of Tri-W as a WWTF AND a park than 80 acres of Broderson be chopped up for ranchettes. Oh, and if Tri-W isn't used at all? Guess I'll be paying to restore it to ESHA. Great, just great…

    By Blogger Sewertoons, at 9:46 PM, May 31, 2008  

  • PPS

    If you want to see if Maria Singleton actually existed, ask the CSD (or AGP Video) for archived tapes of old CSD meetings - she did presentations at about 20 of them.


    Real 1

    By Blogger Realistic1, at 3:48 PM, June 04, 2008  

  • New posting rules:

    If you're going to insult me, or anyone else for that matter in my comments section, you're free to do so, but you have to use your real name.

    Any comment from an anonymous person that hurls insults at a REAL person, will be deleted, just like I did with one of R1's comments.

    By Blogger Ron, at 10:35 AM, June 08, 2008  

  • Unbelievable.

    Commenting on your obsession with Pandora is an insult?

    I obviously pushed a button...but how many other posts did you delete that referred to the same thing?

    By Blogger Realistic1, at 4:29 PM, June 11, 2008  

  • "Commenting on your obsession with Pandora is an insult?"

    Oh, give me a break. That doesn't bother me at all. Like I've said a thousand times, what you call "obsession," I call reporting on one of the best stories I've ever seen. Her story is great. I call it, "the cheesecake" of stories. It SO rich.

    No, you said something else stupid, and if you think I'm going to keep track of what insults you anonymous losers toss around, you should probably think again.

    "how many other posts did you delete"

    Good news, R1, just you. (Oh, and Shark in a recent comment section. But, THAT's it ; - )

    By Blogger Ron, at 7:01 PM, June 11, 2008  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Realistic1, at 7:29 PM, June 11, 2008  

  • See how easy that is R1?

    All you have to do is use your real name, and everything you post would stay.

    If Richard LeGros were to come in here and post that crap, it would remain on my blog, because he's man enough to use his real name.

    So, that's the deal. Say anything you want about anyone (including me), that's fine around here. As long as you're not a despicable person that runs around anonymously saying nasty things about REAL people.

    You guys turn my stomach. It's so gross. Every time I see an anonymous person insulting a real person on a blog, I feel, again, like I need a shower.

    It's such an ugly, ugly side of human nature, and I'm not going to leave it on MY blog as a daily reminder of just how disgusting the human nature can be.

    So, it's up to you. If you're going to continue to attack anonymously, that's fine. But you're going to have to keep REAL people out of it.

    If you want to insult me, again, that's fine, I have no problem with that. You're just going to have to use your real name when you do it.

    Sounds fair enough to me, and that's all that really matters around here.

    By Blogger Ron, at 8:07 AM, June 12, 2008  

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