Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Los Osos Sewer Hook-Up Percentage Question

TO: John Waddell, SLO County Public Works Dept., Project Manager, Los Osos sewer project

- - -

Hello John,

I'm researching a story, and I'm just curious on what the sewer hook-up rate is in Los Osos?

For example, on the county's web site, at this link:


... it reads:

"Phase 1 of the sewer lateral connections of individual properties began on March 28, 2016..."

The site also reads, "... connections are required to be done within 180 days."

So, now that it's been almost "180 days" since "March 28," this is my question: As of August 30, 2016, what percentage of properties in "Phase 1" have hooked up to the sewer?

80-percent? 90-percent? 50-percent? Less?

The total number of properties in "Phase 1" would also be useful in my reporting.

Finally (and again), what happens to the property owners that do not hook-up "within 180 days?"

As always, much thanks,
Ron

P.S: This email posted to my blog, SewerWatch, at this link:


Thanks again.

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sewerwatch.blogspot.com

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

An Open Letter to the Local Media on Why They Should Foot the Bill for a $150 Report, and NOT Me

[Note: The following is an email I sent today to editors and reporters at three local media outlets: Tribune, New Times, and Cal Coast News]

Hello Tribune, New Times, and Cal Coast News folks,

I am contacting all of you kind, generous, local media people to, well, ask you for a quick, fun, interesting, and, yes, kinda hilarious favor.

I'm hoping that one of you will buy a $150 report.

Here's the dealio:

As I've shown you over the past few weeks, by cc'ing all of you on a couple of my recent emails, that I also published on my blog, first at this link:


... and then a follow-up at this link:


... the bond rating agency, S&P Global Ratings, was recently forced to "suspend" its "BBB-" rating that they placed on the "Los Osos Community Services District Wastewater Assessment District... 2002 limited obligation improvement bonds," due to "lack of information."

That story is mind-blowingly newsworthy, on many levels, but here's the catch: If you go to the source, at this link:


...  that I used in my recent emails to expose that great local story, you'll see that the only thing S&P Global Ratings provides to announce their action on those bonds, is just a quick, one paragraph press release. However, the full 3-page report that (hopefully) explains exactly why S&P was forced to "suspended" its "BBB-" rating on the Los Osos CSD's bonds -- with all the juicy details (I'm assuming) -- costs $150-bucks to purchase.

And that's the point of this email: Me asking one of you fine, local media outlets to, please, fit the bill for a copy of that 3-page report, and then do a story on it, and, if you legally can, post the report on your web site (there might be some sort of "Fair Use" argument there that would allow you to post it), and then that, in turn, would allow me to continue my on-going reporting on this super-important story ('cause, I really don't want to shell out the $150-bucks, and I'm very curious to see what that report says).

Like I say, that report is, almost certainly, extremely newsworthy for not only the people of Los Osos, but also to the people of SLO County, and California, and, frankly, all of the United States, and that's why I think it should be a local media business that foots the bill for that report (as opposed to, you know, little ol' me. I mean, do I look like a have New Times-type money? ; -)

[By the way, speaking of businesses and money: Are we all in the wrong business, or what? I mean, $150 bucks for a copy of a three page report? Good lord. If I were to sell copies of my reports at $50-bucks/page, I'd be a thousandaire by now.

And, as long as we're having some fun here, I also want to quickly point out an interesting, and funny, fact: Notice how the "suspended" rating is... uh, was?... "BBB-".

For municipal bonds -- that were issued by a local municipality -- I find that rating hilarious.

Notice how they are not "AAA" rated bonds.

Nope.

Not even "BBB."

Nope.

But, "BBB"-friggin-"minus"... the absolute lowest "investment grade" bond rating S&P offers.

And, to continue the hilarity, if you want to get a fun sense of what a "B" bond rating means, especially when it comes to things like over-the-top shady Los Osos CSD, I highly recommend (re)watching the excellent movie, The Big Short, and pay close attention to what "Margot Robbie in a bubble bath" has to say about B-rated bonds. HIGHlarious.]

So, yeah, a detailed report -- that, hopefully, shows exactly why S&P was recently forced to suspend their "BBB-" rating for the nearly $18 million worth of bonds sold by the Los Osos CSD in 2002 to partially fund their now-failed "mid town" sewer-"park" disaster -- a disastrous non-"project," that will never exist, yet "more than 4,000" Los Osos property owners are now stuck funding on their property taxes until the year 2033/34, as I first exposed at this link:


... really sounds like it could be worth the $150 investment for the local media.

The story is spectacular.

Again, just a quick favor: If one (or all) of you, would please purchase a copy of that report, and post it on your web site(s), I would really appreciate it, and, I'm sure that the people that invested in the bonds would also VERY much appreciate it.

If you have any questions, please just ask.

Thank you,
Ron

Oh, and P.S: As usual, this email posted to my blog, SewerWatch, at this link:


Thanks again.

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sewerwatch.blogspot.com

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Los Osos CSD bonds information IS hard to get

TO: Kaiti Wang, S&P Global Ratings credit analyst

Hello Kaiti,

I'm a blogger in San Luis Obispo County, and I'm researching a story on the Los Osos Community Services District, and I recently read a press release from S&P Global Ratings, at this link:


... where it reads:

"Los Osos Community Services District Wastewater Assessment District No. 1, CA Rating Suspended On Lack Of Information
SAN FRANCISCO (S&P Global Ratings) June 21, 2016--S&P Global Ratings has suspended its 'BBB-' underlying rating (SPUR) on Los Osos Community Services District Wastewater Assessment District No. 1, Calif.'s series 2002 limited obligation improvement bonds. At the same time, S&P Global Ratings has removed the rating from CreditWatch with negative implications. 'This action follows repeated attempts by S&P Global Ratings to obtain timely information of satisfactory quality to maintain our rating on the securities in accordance with our applicable criteria and policies,' said S&P Global Ratings credit analyst Kaiti Wang."

Now, I'm sorry to have to bother you with this inquiry, but, in your press release, you are SO right when you write, "This action follows repeated attempts by S&P Global Ratings to obtain timely information of satisfactory quality," because, about two weeks ago, I emailed the LOCSD's General Manager, Peter Kampa, asking him about what's happening with the bonds, and why S&P Global Ratings is having so much trouble getting "timely information of satisfactory quality" regarding those extremely important bonds, but, of course, Mr. Kampa never replied (to me, as well), so, yes, I can now understand why your company was forced to "suspended its 'BBB-' underlying rating... on Los Osos Community Services District Wastewater Assessment District No. 1, Calif.'s series 2002 limited obligation improvement bonds," because, apparently, prying any information out of the LOCSD regarding those over-the-top important bonds is seemingly impossible.

You can read my full email to the LOCSD GM -- including information on what makes those bonds intensely newsworthy today (and until the year 2033/34) -- on my blog, at this link:


So, that's why I now have to apologize to you, for bothering you on information regarding the LOCSD's secretive bonds, but that agency just simply won't reply, despite the fact that they write on their web site:

"District Transparency
As a local goverment [sic] agency, this Los Osos Community Services District has a responsibility to remain transparent to the public. We are held accountable by our community."

Uh, not so much.

So, now, considering that LOCSD officials refuse to answer my questions, despite their highly hypocritical (and spell-check challenged ; -) statements on their web site, I'm hoping that you could answer just a couple of quick questions I have involving the state of the "Los Osos Community Services District Wastewater Assessment District No. 1, Calif.'s series 2002 limited obligation improvement bonds."

For example, I'm not exactly an expert on municipal bonds, so, when you write, "S&P Global Ratings has suspended its 'BBB-' underlying rating (SPUR) on Los Osos Community Services District Wastewater Assessment District No. 1, Calif.'s series 2002 limited obligation improvement bonds," I'm not quite clear on what that means.

For example, I'm not clear on how suspending the "BBB- underlying rating" impacts the bonds. Can the bonds still be sold/purchased/etc. on the "secondary market" (I believe it's called) when the bonds' "underlying rating" is "suspended?"

Any information you could supply me with on the impact "suspending the "BBB- underlying rating" has on those bonds, I would very much appreciate.

Also, your press release is dated June 21, 2016, and it's now July 28, 2016. In the time since your press release was released, have you been able to "obtain timely information of satisfactory quality to maintain our rating on the securities," or is that still a problem?

Again, I apologize for having to bother you with my questions, but, as we both know now, it is very difficult to "obtain timely information of satisfactory quality" from the LOCSD, despite what their highly hypocritical and less-than-truthful web site states.

If you have any questions, please just ask (and, unlike the Los Osos CSD, I will reply in a "timely" fashion : -)

Thank you,
Ron

P.S: This email posted to my blog, SewerWatch, at this link:


Thanks again.

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sewerwatch.blogspot.com

Friday, July 15, 2016

LOCSD's wastewater bond rating "suspended" by S&P Global Ratings

TO: Peter Kampa, Interim General Manager, Los Osos CSD

Hello Mr. Kampa,

I'm researching a story, and I just have couple of quick questions involving the municipal bonds that the LOCSD issued back in 2002/03 for the LOCSD's now-failed, "mid-town" wastewater "project," and that are being paid off by "4,203" Los Osos property owners (on their property tax bills) until the year 2033, as I first exposed in 2013, at this link:


Well, I recently read, at this link:


"SAN FRANCISCO (Standard&Poor's) March 13, 2015--Standard&Poor's Ratings Services affirmed its 'BBB-' underlying rating (SPUR) on Los Osos Community Services District Wastewater Assessment District No. 1, Calif.'s limited-obligation improvement bonds outstanding and removed the rating from CreditWatch with negative implications. The outlook is stable. 'The rating had been placed on CreditWatch with negative implications on Dec. 15, 2014, due to the lack of timely information, a situation that the district has since resolved,' said Standard&Poor's credit analyst Misty Newland."

However, that report was published on "March 13, 2015," and, in a more recent report, dated, "June 21, 2016," at this link:


... it reads:

"Los Osos Community Services District Wastewater Assessment District No. 1, CA Rating Suspended On Lack Of Information

SAN FRANCISCO (S&P Global Ratings) June 21, 2016--S&P Global Ratings has suspended its 'BBB-' underlying rating (SPUR) on Los Osos Community Services District Wastewater Assessment District No. 1, Calif.'s series 2002 limited obligation improvement bonds. At the same time, S&P Global Ratings has removed the rating from CreditWatch with negative implications. "This action follows repeated attempts by S&P Global Ratings to obtain timely information of satisfactory quality to maintain our rating on the securities in accordance with our applicable criteria and policies," said S&P Global Ratings credit analyst Kaiti Wang."

Here's my question: What happened there? Why is S&P Global Ratings having so much trouble "obtaining timely information of satisfactory quality" from the Los Osos CSD for something so important as the more than $17 million in bonds that the LOCSD issued back in 2003 for their now-failed "mid-town" sewer disaster, and that more than 4,000 Los Osos property owners are stuck paying for until the year 2033?

Is there all of a sudden a problem with securing the bonds? For example, are more and more Los Osos property owners finally waking up to what I first exposed at this link:


... that those property owners are stuck funding a fraud for the next 18 years, and, therefore, understandably, they now refuse to pay that fraudulent assessment -- a fraudulent assessment, for a now-failed sewer disaster, and a fraqudulent assessment that is the ONLY thing that is securing those bonds -- and, perhaps, have contacted their attorneys, and THAT's why this: "Los Osos Community Services District Wastewater Assessment District No. 1, CA Rating Suspended On Lack Of Information?"

Is it that, or is it something else? I mean, what's the deal there?

This whole mess smells really fishy.

I'm very curious to know the answer, because, on the District's web site, at this link:


... it reads:

"District Transparency

As a local goverment [sic] agency, this Los Osos Community Services District has a responsibility to remain transparent to the public. We are held accountable by our community."

Well, this:

"This action follows repeated attempts by S&P Global Ratings to obtain timely information (from the LOCSD) of satisfactory quality to maintain our rating on the securities..."

... doesn't sound much like this:

"... a responsibility to remain transparent to the public. We are held accountable by our community."

Any information you could supply me with on why, just a few weeks ago, "S&P Global Ratings has suspended its 'BBB-' underlying rating (SPUR) on Los Osos Community Services District Wastewater Assessment District No. 1, Calif.'s series 2002 limited obligation improvement bonds," would be much appreciated.

Thanks,
Ron

P.S: This email posted to my blog, SewerWatch, at this link:


Thanks again.

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sewerwatch.blogspot.com

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Angry Los Ososans? A Public Records Act request for SLO County Public Works Dept.

TO: John Waddell, SLO County Public Works Dept., Project Manager, Los Osos sewer project

Hello John,

Howya been?

I'm working on a story, and it requires that I do a Public Records Act request with your department, but first, I want to apologize to you and your staff because my request is likely going to involve thousands of pages, and I feel bad about putting your staff through this massive effort, but it's extremely important for my story that I see these public documents.

Additionally, before I get to the details of my PRA request, I want to explain why I am doing this.

It has to do with this photograph of the new wastewater treatment plant that the county recently constructed outside of Los Osos:


Beautiful facility (congratulations), however, here's the HUGE problem that I'm seeing with that photograph: I'm not seeing a "picnic area" and a "tot lot" in the picture.

Allow me to explain.

As I first exposed in my 2004 New Times cover story, archived at this link:


... the 1999 - 2005 Los Osos CSD Board of Directors, when they were developing their now-failed "mid-town" project, wrote in their 2001 project report, "The size and location of the other (potential sewer plant) sites did not provide an opportunity to create a community amenity. The sites on the outskirts of town could not deliver a community use area that was readily accessible to the majority of residents in the manner that a central location such as (the mid-town site) could."

Additionally, in the 2004 development permit issued by the California Coastal Commission for the LOCSD's now-failed "mid-town" project, CCC staff writes:

"Other (out of town sewer plant site) alternatives (to the mid-town site) were rejected (by the 2000 LOCSD Board of Directors) on the basis that they did not accomplish project objectives for centrally located community amenities."

So, to be clear, according to numerous official documents, the sole reason the 2000 LOCSD Board of Directors was building their sewer plant in the middle of Los Osos, was so the town's residents could "readily access" the "centrally located community amenities" that the 2000 LOCSD Board of Directors designed into their project.

Now, I realize that sounds crazy, but it's true. Here's the actual drawing of the mid-town site from the cover of the District's 2001 report:


See? "Picnic area," "tot lot," "amphitheater," and a lot more "community amenities" were part of the LOCSD's mid-town sewer plant, and that was why it was being built in the middle of town -- so the "community amenities" in the sewer plant would be "readily accessible to the majority of residents" -- as I first exposed in my 2004 cover story.

Again: "Other (out of town) alternatives (to the mid-town site) were rejected (by the 1999-2000 LOCSD Board of Directors) on the basis that they did not accomplish project objectives for centrally located community amenities."

Now, as I also exposed in my 2004 cover story, the reason the 1999-2000 LOCSD Board of Directors designed things like a "picnic area" and a "tot lot" in their sewer plant is because, according to the Board, there is a "strongly held community value" in Los Osos that "any" -- repeat: "any" -- sewer plant proposed for Los Osos must also double as a "recreational asset to the community."

Here's the quote from the LOCSD's 2001 report:
  
"It is essential that any proposed wastewater project within the community of Los Osos reflect (the) strongly held community value (of) creating a wastewater treatment facility that is a visual and recreational asset to the community."

So, that was the main thrust of my 2004 story, that the LOCSD was building their sewer plant in the middle of town, because, according to the LOCSD Board of Directors, the overwhelming majority of Los Ososans demanded that they not only be able to "picnic" and play with their "tots" in the town's sewer plant, but that it also be "centrally located" so they could more easily access the "picnic area/tot lot" in the sewer plant. (I mean, what good is a "picnic area" in a sewer plant if you have to drive three minutes out of town to get to it, right?)

And all of that back-story gets me back to the photo of the county's recently completed sewer plant for Los Osos. I don't see a "picnic area" in the photo.

And that fact -- the fact that the new sewer plant is NOT a "recreational asset to the community"  -- an "essential" element for "any proposed wastewater project within the community of Los Osos," according to the 1999-2005 LOCSD Board of Directors -- must really anger the overwhelming majority of Los Ososans that have the "strongly held community value" to "picnic" in "any proposed wastewater project within the community of Los Osos" -- a "strongly held community value" so powerful that the 1999-2005 LOCSD Board of Directors "rejected" ALL "other (out of town) alternatives (to the mid-town site)... on the basis that (the out of town sites) did not accomplish project objectives for centrally located community amenities."

And that gets straight to my Public Records Act request: Please consider this email an official Public Records Act request for all correspondence from Los Osos residents to the County of SLO involving Los Osos residents' anger/outrage/etc. over the fact that the county did not include amenities like a "picnic area," "tot lot" and "amphitheater" in their recently constructed sewer plant outside of Los Osos.

Again, I sincerely apologize for the massive scope of my PRA request. I mean, there are about 15,000 people living in Los Osos, and a "strongly held community value" has got to be... what?... at least 75-percent of that 15,000, right? So, we're looking at what must be about 10,000 extremely angry Los Ososans that are furious with the county over the fact that their "strongly held community value" to "picnic" in their sewer plant wasn't fulfilled, let alone the fact that the county didn't build its plant in the middle of town, which means that, even IF the county had included a "picnic area" in its sewer plant for Los Osos, those 10,000 extremely angry Los Ososans would still have to drive about three minutes out of town to picnic in their sewer plant, and according to the 1999 - 2005 LOCSD Board of Directors, that is completely unacceptable -- so unacceptable, in fact, that the 1999 - 2005 LOCSD Board of Directors spent millions upon millions upon millions of public dollars over the span of some seven years (at "approximately 1 million gallons" of water pollution "per day," by the way), and even went so far as to "override" the entire environmental review process -- a massive process that pointed to out-of-town sites, of course -- all in an attempt to meet the "essential" "strongly held community value" in Los Osos of "picnicking" in a "centrally located," "readily accessible" sewer plant, while the SLO County Public Works Dept. just completely disregarded that "essential" "project objective," and, at the end of your sewer development process, in 2009 -- a process that included the LOCSD'S "mid-town" "sewer-park" as a potential alternative -- never even came close to building it.

[However, it is very important to note here that the SLO County Planning Commission AND the SLO County Board of Supervisors both approved the LOCSD's now-failed, mid-town sewer plant/"picnic area"/"tot lot" in 2003... 13 years ago... at "approximately 1 million gallons" of water pollution "per day" in a sewer-less Los Osos.]

So, again, that "strongly held community value" in Los Osos must be extremely powerful, which likely means that your office received thousands of pages of correspondence from angry Los Ososans furious over the fact that they now will never be able to picnic with their kids in their sewer plant, let alone a "centrally located" sewer plant, which must really anger the community of Los Osos.

So, those are the documents I'd like to read for possible inclusion in my story.

Normally, for a PRA request, I ask that the documents simply be compiled into a pdf file, and then have that pdf file emailed to me, but, for this request, considering that it's almost certainly going to involve thousands and thousands of pages, if you could just have your talented staff collect the documents, and let me know when they're available for viewing, I will come into the SLO County Public Works Dept. office and sort through them.

Again, I apologize for the massive scope of this PRA request, but it is extremely important for my on-going reporting on the Los Osos sewer story that I read those documents, that are sure to number in the thousands... I mean, of course it's thousands, right?

If you have any questions involving this request, or, if you need more clarification on which documents I'm requesting, please just ask.

As always, much thanks,
Ron

P.S: This email posted to my blog, SewerWatch, at this link:


Thanks again.
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sewerwatch.blogspot.com