Cayucos and Morro Bay balk on hiring lobbyist long-term

February 17, 2011

By JACK MCCURDY of the SLO Coast Journal

The Morro Bay City Council and Cayucos Sanitary District board have been brimming with confidence over the past year or so that its proposed new wastewater treatment plant, scheduled to cost untold millions and certain to saddle ratepayers with significant increases in fees, would win necessary approval of the California Coastal Commission in order to be constructed starting next year and finished in 2014.

This despite two letters from the Coastal Commission staff clearly stating it is fatally deficient, rejection by the Morro Bay Planning Commission and numerous criticisms from residents, including several retired engineers, that it is sure to be turned down and sent back for total revision.

The Council and District board, which own, operate and will build a new plant under their Joint Powers Agreement (JPA), as well as the staffs of the two agencies ignored all this, even scoffing at the opposition at times.

Then, at a JPA meeting last week on Feb. 10, the Council and board seemed to wake up to reality, buckle under the weight of evidence against their project or simply get cold feet–no one knows which for sure. But instead of awarding a $130,000, 10-month contract to hire a lobbyist to sell the project to members of the Commission–to “educate” them, as Cayucos board attorney Tim Carmel put it–the JPA members agreed to hire the lobbyist for only $12,000 over the next 30 days just to see what their chances are of winning Commission approval.

The first of four options presented to the members in a staff report–staff recommendations almost always carry the day with the Council and Cayucos board–was to hire the lobbyist for an extended period. But instead, after listening to more public comment calling the hiring of a lobbyist to persuade the Commission a waste of time and money, alternative ideas started to emerge from the JPA members.

Cayucos board member Mike Foster strongly objected, noting that the hiring of a lobbyist didn’t even come from the elected Council and Cayucos board members but from the staff. He called it a lack of “accountability.”

“This is not advocacy but bribery,” he said. “It offends my sensibility.”

Former Council member Betty Winholtz, who lost her bid for mayor last November, said, “I can’t believe you think this is justified when the Commission staff sent you two letters saying what is required.”

Resident Richard Margetson asked how the JPA is going to be able to “get a lobbyist up to speed on all the technical points” involved in the project in a short time. “It is absolutely ridiculous.”

After saying “I am on board” for hiring a lobbyist to sell the project to the Commission, Morro Bay mayor Bill Yates suddenly backed off and said, “The lobbyist could give us advice on whether we are barking up the wrong tree.” Cayucos board chair Robert Enns mentioned hiring the lobbyist only as an “initial step.”

Dennis Delzeit, the contract project manager, responded, “If you want a preliminary analysis , then (the lobbyist) could determine what to do.”

Enns, widely considered the most influence Cayucos board member, suggested asking the lobbyist to “go through the (project) materials and give us advice on where we need to go. How do we proceed? I support that.”

Other JPA members chimed in, and the motion to approve the contract with Susan McCabe of McCabe and Co., Inc., a former Coastal Commissioner, as the lobbyist was approved 4-1 by the City Council and 4-1 by the Cayucos board.

Voting against the contract was Council member Noah Smukler and Foster, who both oppose the project and are convinced that the Commission will require that a variety of alternative sites for the new plant be explored. The project calls for the new plant to be almost adjacent the the old, present one next to Estero Bay off Atascadero Road and near Morro Bay High School.

Just within recent days, questions have been raised about McCabe as the lobbyist, resulting from her comments in an email about “spoon feeling” a member of the Coastal Commission she was lobbying last year. The chair of the Board of Port Commissioners she was working for was quoted as saying he was “appalled” by what she said.

The staffs and members of the City Council and Cayucos board reportedly were looking into the matter. The contract apparently has not yet been awarded to McCabe.


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16 Comments

  1. mbactivist1 says:

    Nobody listens to Jack? The special interest groups and their cronies so fervently wish that were true, but it is clearly not, which is why they are so afraid of him. That is why they come up with such silliness and nonsense as they have been posting here, in the desperate hope that someone will be gullible enough to believe them.

    Oh, and by the way, regarding some earlier nonsense from one of those special interests cronies – the claim that the Coastal Commissioners don’t agree with their staff regarding the huge problems with the WWTP permit. Gee, I guess that’s why two of them (yes, I mean two Coastal Commissioners) appealed that permit… I suppose now the cronies will claim that Jack not only wrote the CCC report on all the project problems, but wrote the Commissioners’ appeal too.

    Then there’s the nonsense the cronies keep coming up with regarding the power plant, which has to be shut down due to new Federal regulations forbidding once-through cooling. I distinctly remember at least two of the cronies claiming it was being shut down because of Jack. Oh my gosh!!! Can Jack be writing Federal law now too?

    (-5) 7 Total Votes - 1 up - 6 down
    • Sombic says:

      Jack is his own worst enemy. The vast majority of Morro Bay citizens can tell the difference between fact and fiction. Jack’s stories are so spun out they generally can be classified as fiction. True comic book material. It is sad to see him attempt to demonize the people who are actually working toward a positive solution in an effort to give the community an affordable project.
      I find it sad that mbactivist1 is in the same camp, making wild claims of “special interest” etc…
      You both need a reality check. You both seem to aspire to be obstructionists. Try actually doing something productive with your lives. Get a job.

      (4) 10 Total Votes - 7 up - 3 down
      • brook says:

        If the “vast majority of Morro Bay citizens” could tell the difference between fact and fiction they wouldn’t have had the long string of incompetent leadership they’ve had.

        The only real attribute Morro Bay has is the setting Mother Nature gave it – and the
        “leaders” have been hacking away at that with their poor decisions for years.

        (-3) 5 Total Votes - 1 up - 4 down
      • mbactivist says:

        Attacking people like Jack does not alter the facts that they have made public. It only makes the attackers look scared and desperate – as well they should be, given the current situation.

        The CCC is NOT going to approve the badly-flawed project currently proposed, because it violates all kinds of Local Coastal Plan and State Coastal Act policies – something that both the CCC and residents have been telling Morro Bay and Cayucos officials and staff for a long time.

        In 2008, the CCC told them, in a letter (yes, I have a copy), several critical things that had to be in the EIR. The staff ignored them and left out all of the CCC-required material. Now, project officials want to pay a lobbyist, with OUR money, to try to convince the CCC to let them get away with their bad behavior. Dream on.

        (-2) 8 Total Votes - 3 up - 5 down
  2. Paperboys says:

    McCurdy is a crusader. He finds an issue, jumps on one side of the debate and then will do or say literally anything to win the fight.
    Here’s an example. During the Energy Commission hearings on the MB Power plant replacement project, McCurdy was called as an “expert witness” by the opponents of the project (CAPE). He claimed that Duke Energy would not be able to use Camp San Luis as a lay-down and storage area after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
    Asked by Duke’s lawyer if he’d spoken to the Camp commander about this, McCurdy said “No.”
    Asked if he’d spoken to anyone from Duke Energy, McCurdy said “No.”
    Asked where he got his information, McCurdy testified, under oath mind you, that while driving by on Hwy 1 he’d noticed that they were checking IDs at the front gate.
    That was his “expert” testimony as to why Duke would not be able to use the camp property to store equipment. Duke’s lawyer just shook his head and dismissed him.
    It wasn’t perjury per se, nor was it even really lying, stretching the facts a little but not lying. It was an attempt at misinformation and manipulation of the Energy Commissioners, you know, baffling them with B.S.
    He is a manipulator and puppet master who loves a good crusade, in fact obsesses over it. But he is not a leader, and would never put his name on a ballot or offer to take a leadership role in his community. But he’s had an invisible hand in every election in Morro Bay since he came here in the 1980s.
    Don’t believe anything that comes out of his mouth or that he puts down on paper. Indeed, the only people in town who even listen to him are the ones who are on the same crusade. Some of whom have posted here.
    I live in Morro Bay and frankly, I would have to demand that the city NOT move the sewer treatment plant site. Right now the only ones who are affected by the smell are tourists who come here for a couple of days and then go home. And seing as to how the RV park next door does a fantastic business, the tourists don’t seem to mind too much.
    If the plant gets moved, it might be full time residents who have to endure that stench year-round. Let the tourists suffer the smells.
    I find it funny that the opponents of the WWTP project use the argument that the property has a better and higher use as recreation or visitor serving, but they are also the same people who try to block the city from giving money for promotions to try and increase tourism. They are the ones who have fought every project that’s come down the pike since the mid-1980s.
    If the JPA did move the plant and then proposed any type of project on the old site, people like McCurdy would come out of the wood work and fight that too. In fact in about 2004, word around town was that these no-growth people planned to appeal and fight against literally, every single development project that gets proposed.
    And they did too. Brought Morro Bay’s growth to a complete halt from which it has yet to recover. In 2009 our growth rate was .05% — that’s five-100ths of one percent. The growth limit, which McCurdy and his friends pushed through, is 2% a year.
    They are the ones who have been out of power since about 1995, yet they lust for it and would do anything to achieve it, including selling this town town the river and forcing it into bankruptcy if need be.
    In order for those in power to be overthrown, those out of power must create havoc, make the people in power seem evil, incompetent or untrustworthy, so residents — most of whom just want to be left the hell alone — will vote for the challengers.

    (4) 10 Total Votes - 7 up - 3 down
  3. mbactivist says:

    SloRider and Taxpayer’s fear of Jack McCurdy is obvious and well founded. Jack speaks the truth – something very dangerous to certain special interests and their cronies in Morro Bay city government.

    The project supported by the Council majority is a disaster in the making, which is why the entire Morro Bay Planning Commission voted to kill the DEIR. The project as currently proposed would place a huge and totally unnecessary financial burden on Morro Bay taxpayers and cause a host of other serious and totally-avoidable problems. The special interests would be the only ones to benefit.

    Being disliked and attacked by the special interests and their cronies in government is something to be proud of. Way to go, Jack!

    (-8) 12 Total Votes - 2 up - 10 down
    • Sombic says:

      I am very interested in the special interests you discuss in your entry.

      (5) 5 Total Votes - 5 up - 0 down
  4. SLORider says:

    This is outright spin. McCurdy is ANYTHING but a neutral reporter. He has been highly involved in this issue–it is perhaps his #1 issue. He writes about it in his SLO Coast Journal and in the Sierra Club newsletter for which he is an editor.

    EXAMPLE:
    The Coastal Commission letter is one that Jack McCurdy wrote himself!! He submitted a letter through Sarah Christie (sister of the local Sierra Club’s director for which McCurdy writes as an editor–HELLO!!!!). Christie then forwarded it to a Coastal Commission staffer who reworked the letter and sent it back to the city as a staff opinion. HOWEVER, this letter from a staffer does not reflect the opinion of the Commission (though McCurdy certainly has influence).

    McCurdy has enough friends to influence the process, then after manufacturing the letter, he now reports it as damning news.

    McCurdy is really stinky on this. Not just for influencing the process, but for writing about it and not disclosing his intimate interest and involvement. This article is a tool of war for him–it is NOT journalism.

    (2) 22 Total Votes - 12 up - 10 down
    • SLORider says:

      For those that don’t know, Sarah Christie is a Legislative Analyst for the Coastal Commission. She works directly for the Director of the Coastal Commission, and is well-known to have been dating him. The reason she got the axe from our county Planning Commission is for these same conflicts.

      (-1) 21 Total Votes - 10 up - 11 down
    • brook says:

      “The Coastal Commission letter is one that Jack McCurdy wrote himself!! He submitted a letter through Sarah Christie (sister of the local Sierra Club’s director for which McCurdy writes as an editor–HELLO!!!!). Christie then forwarded it to a Coastal Commission staffer who reworked the letter and sent it back to the city as a staff opinion. ”

      That’s a serious allegation. I take it you are in some sort of ‘insider’ position to present irrefutable proof?

      “McCurdy is really stinky on this. Not just for influencing the process, but for writing about it and not disclosing his intimate interest and involvement. This article is a tool of war for him–it is NOT journalism.”

      Good journalism is investigative journalism and the reporting of facts found. Rare these days. Mr. McCurdy does his homework. If he weren’t doing something right, there would be no reason for you to be so tightly wound on the subject.

      (-5) 21 Total Votes - 8 up - 13 down
  5. taxpayer says:

    As usual, Jack McCurdy spins his anti Morro Bay rhetoric and tries to call it news. Apparently, not happy with being a driving force in stopping the power plant remodel which cost the City untold millions of dollars, he’s on a new mission to turn Morro Bay into Los Osos. Sorry, Jack, the citizens of Morro Bay are smarter than that.

    (2) 24 Total Votes - 13 up - 11 down
    • brook says:

      taxpayer: If the citizens of Morro Bay were “smarter than that”, the JPA wouldn’t be
      dumping their money into the pockets of entities who apparently haven’t the ability or foresight to offer an acceptable design. The question is: Cui bono? Certainly not the
      citizens.

      (-1) 21 Total Votes - 10 up - 11 down
    • gstan says:

      McCurdy isn’t “anti-Morro Bay” just because he questions the wisdom of this project. That’s like saying someone was “unpatriotic” because they questioned the wisdom of the war of choice in Iraq, and you have seen where that got us (haven’t you?). The basic issue here is that we do not have a full set of facts about the options, and Chorro is not a realistic option to begin with (might as well be Pasadena for all the relevance it has to a joint MB-Cayucos project). This kind of fear-mongering (see the comparison to Los Osos, wrong on the face of it, but intended to make you shut up and go along) drives out honest research and discussion. I don’t know what taxpayer gets out of this, but it sure isn’t the welfare of MB citizens.

      (3) 13 Total Votes - 8 up - 5 down
  6. racket says:

    This piece, while full of facts, is also full of McCurdy’s anti-plant fervor, and therefore belongs under the Opinion section of this site.

    (3) 25 Total Votes - 14 up - 11 down
    • brook says:

      racket: I’ll take an opinion based on facts over opinions based on the “good fella” club any day. Jack deals with facts – not ‘flavors of the month’.

      (-1) 27 Total Votes - 13 up - 14 down
      • racket says:

        brook: So will I. But it ought to appear in the editorial/opinion section of this site, because that’s what it is.

        (3) 19 Total Votes - 11 up - 8 down

Comments are closed.