Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dave Congalton Needs to Add One More Segment to His Excellent Pre-Election Coverage

TO: Dave Congalton, local radio talk show host
DATE: 5/13/10

Hello Dave,

Howya been?

Just a quick note to say "great job" on your recent coverage of the upcoming June 8 election. Your interviews with the (many) candidates are a great service for voters.

Excellent job!

On that subject, I have a suggestion for a topic on your show that I think would really help the voters of District 2 with their decision on the County Supervisor race between Marshall Ochylski, and incumbent, Bruce Gibson.

The topic is the proposed expansion of the SLO Botanical Garden, just off Highway 1, halfway between Morro Bay and SLO.

That "expansion" is a major project that is currently making its way through the process, and is expected to attract "more than 1 million" visitors annually (some reports indicate up to "4.4 million" visitors annually).

According to a Botanical Garden spokesperson, the expansion is to include an amphitheater with "a maximum of 5,000" seats, a "cable railway," a "Garden Tram," a "10,000 sq. ft. restaurant," "four Cafés," a "Gift Shop," a "Dormitory," and much more.

All of this is planned halfway between Morro Bay and SLO, directly across Highway 1 from Cuesta College.

Here's the HUGE problem: So far as I know, few SLO County residents (especially those living in the 2nd District), are even aware of the proposed project, let alone a majority that supports it.

That project seems to be flying waaaaay below the radar.

And here's why it is vitally important that all of this is discussed on your show... well before the June 8 election:

The person spearheading that project is Pandora Nash-Karner. And, as I first reported on my blog, Nash-Karner sits on the Board of Directors of the SLO Botanical Garden, and she is also Supervisor Gibson's appointment to the SLO County Parks Commission.

And, as I also first reported on my blog, the one proposal that the SLO Botanical Garden -- a facility that sits on county-owned land, and is "leased" to the Garden by the county -- received to build the "$20 million" project, was from a landscaping firm -- the SWA Group -- where Nash-Karner's husband, Gary Karner, "was in private practice with The SWA Group, Planners and Landscape Architects, with an international practice and eight offices nationally, as a Managing Principal and Senior Project Manager of the firm. He specialized in project management and risk management with SWA for 27 years and is currently retained by SWA to consult on risk management," according to his bio.

(Incidentally, about two months ago I filed a complaint with the SLO County District Attorney's office involving the Nash-Karner/Parks Commission/Botanical Garden/SWA Group arrangement. At the time, a spokesperson for the DA's office told me they were "looking into it," and they also said that they would "notify me in writing" on how they were going to handle my complaint. That was two months ago, and I haven't seen any "writing" yet, so, I'm assuming, they're still "looking into it.")

To further stress the importance of discussing this matter before the election, Ochylski recently informed me that, if elected, Nash-Karner will not be his appointment to the Parks Commission.

So, look at the situation that all of this presents -- it's amazing:

A vote for Supervisor Gibson, is also a vote for Commissioner Nash-Karner, and her (and her husband's landscaping firm's) "theme park"... on Highway 1.

A vote for Marshall Ochylski, and that project takes a serious hit.

So, today, the over-the-top important question is: Do the voters of SLO County's 2nd District approve of that project... check that... Are the voters of District 2 even AWARE of that project?

If not, they REEEEEELY need to be, well before June 8.

And that's where you and your excellent pre-election coverage comes in.

If you're interested in finding someone to discuss the Botanical Garden expansion, I recommend Richard Schmidt. He authored an opinion piece in New Times last year, where he criticized the expansion. (It's important to note that, in his piece, Schmidt was unaware of the Nash-Karner/Parks Commission/Botanical Garden/SWA Group arrangement. I exposed that later.)

Last week, after the Santa Lucia Chapter of the Sierra Club officially endorsed Supervisor Gibson in the upcoming election, I asked Andrew Christie, the director of the local Sierra Club, if his organization is in favor of the SLO Botanical Garden's proposed "theme park."

He never replied, of course. (Hey, I just thought of something: Considering Christie's organization is endorsing Gibson, maybe he can argue the pro-"theme park" side on your show.)

So, please include a segment on the expansion of the SLO Botanical Garden as part of your pre-election coverage.

The sooner, the better.


P.S. I notice that when you have Karen Velie, the reporter for, on your show to discuss stories published on, you never disclose that you're listed as a "contributing editor" on the site. The weird and awkward thing about that is, when callers phone in to criticize a story on, you often defend the story, without ever disclosing that you're part of And, further on that point, in your bio on, it doesn't mention that you are also the host of a local radio talk show on KVEC that frequently includes the reporter for as a guest. As a BIG fan of full disclosure, I'm just sayin'... all that gets a tad awkward, doncha think?

P.P.S. I've published this e-mail on my blog:


[19 weeks down... 33 to go.]


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