html xmlns="" xml:lang="en" lang="en"> From the archives: The death threats aren't helping.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The death threats aren't helping.

Earlier in the year, the Regional Water Quality Control Board told the people of Los Osos that they would require every citizen of Los Osos to pump their septic tanks every two months until a sewer was built (at an annual cost of about $1200). Enforcement would be phased in, 50 randomly selected residents at a time. Local activists got the Regional Air Quality Control Board involved, who asked the Regional Water Quality Control Board to consider the air quality effects of having all those pumper trucks driving around all the time. Amazingly, this seems to have worked. The RWQCB has backed off the 'everyone must pump their septic tanks every two months' plan. They have a new plan now. Now, every resident of Los Osos must demonstrate that their septic tanks have been pumped within the past three years and are not in need of repair. Like last time, enforcement will be phased in, fifty people at a time. The fine for not being able to show that your septic tank is in good repair and recently pumped? Are you ready? Five thousand dollars per day. $5000 per day that your septic tank isn’t in compliance. I’ve said it before, but the RWQCB is PISSED.

The RWQCB should be pissed. I’ve heard through back channels that the woman at the Regional Board who is responsible for all Los Osos matters gets death threats at her home. Death threats, people. Community activists opposed to the septic tank fines are trying to say that other sources are polluting local groundwater and Morro Bay estuary; the RWQCB has studies going back to 1969 showing the pollution comes from septic tanks. From 1969! This has been going on for two generations! I know some of you don’t understand my fascination with Los Osos, but I am deeply curious how such a banal infrastructure decision, an infrastructure decision that hundreds of cities have made without ever once arousing anyone’s interest, has gone so desperately wrong here.

The conflict may be resolved in the foreseeable future. Blakeslee’s bill, transferring authority over sewers from the Los Osos Community Services District to the County of San Luis Obispo, passed the state Assembly and Senate unanimously. My friend Anthony, who has lobbied the Legislature for years, wrote me that “I don't think I have read more adamant descriptions of why a bill is necessary... .”. The bill awaits the governor’s signature. I’ll let you know if it becomes law.


Blogger Tom said...

I'm a little unclear on exactly what a community services district is. The area is unincorporated, so it isn't a town or city. It isn't supervised by the county...

I don't get it! What is the instrument of the LOCSD's power?

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's just some snippets summarizing comments from the legislative analysis from the Senate Local Government Committee:

"It's unprecedented, but after decades of delay, there's no
other way to get the job done."

"The bill is an unprecedented state and county intrusion
into local control over local facilities and local funding.
Maybe the District is headed for bankruptcy or
dissolution, but legislators and county officials should
stay away from these local decisions."

"What if the District never wants to resume its
responsibility for running a sewer system? The County
government may be saddled with a sewer plant that no one
else wants. County officials should be careful of asking
legislators to give them what they want. What if Sartre
was right and there is no exit?"

OK, so I normally work on other issues, but I bet that's the first time that the analyst from the SENATE LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE quoted Sartre!

Here's the full Senate analysis, arguments in favor:

"According to the author's office,
the Los Osos CSD is on the verge of bankruptcy, they face
dissolution by LAFCO, they are mired in numerous breaches
of contract lawsuits, they face enforcement actions by the
Regional Water Quality Control Board, and have now lost all
financial capability to build a sewer to eliminate their
discharge violations. The only viable solution for
cleaning the water at Los Osos is AB2701. The State Water
Board, the Regional Water Quality Board, and the County
have worked to develop the framework of the bill which
speedily extricate the community from the current quagmire
and bring the community into compliance with state law.

For over 20 years this [affordability] argument has been used to defeat a
variety of proposed sewers in Los Osos. With each defeat
the cost of building a sewer has increased. No piece of
legislation can force a sewer to be cheap. The affordability argument could be used by virtually every
business, individual, or municipality to simply refuse to
comply with the law."

I would put the argument in opposition, but why bother?


6:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I ask this question with all due respect: who threatens death? It seems to me to be the first thing that happens in a controversy.

A few questions:

1. Who ARE the Death-Threateners?
2. Why do they do it?
3. What do they think will happen?
4. How are they not caught? (phone records, etc.)
5. How often have DTs resulted in death?
5. Do the threatened change their behavior?

To me, it's such a ridiculously abstract thing to threaten. "Do this, and I'll kill you": uh, okay. Maybe I'm just insensitive. -K.

7:29 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

Every county has a Local Agency Formation Commission, which was granted power by the state legislature to determine the boundaries and authority of special districts. The California Association of LAFCo's describes their mission and authority.

The San Luis Obispo LAFCo could dissolve the Los Osos CSD under their own authority, but hasn't yet done so. The second link on their page has a link to the issues involved in dissolving a special district. Did you know there are all kinds of special districts, like mosquito abatement districts and resource conservation districts and library districts and stuff? I bet you live in half a dozen different districts and had no idea.

7:55 PM  
Blogger Tom said...

Wow- not a lot of use of the SLO webpage FAQ on dissolution (the page counter at the bottom was very... sad).

So this is interesting, and I had no earthly idea that there were so many proto-government/special purpose government entities floating around!

8:37 PM  
Anonymous Doug said...

This phrase -- "an infrastructure decision that hundreds of cities have made without ever once" -- made me wonder if it's not just the outlier on a probability curve.

1:54 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

But why? What sent this one wide? What combination of coincidences made this one the fluke?

9:25 AM  

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