I realize, Shredder, you are an opinion writer rather than news reporter and therefore you make no claim to objectivity. However, although facts can be a problem for someone with a subjective and personalized viewpoint, a few may be in order about the Morro Bay Waste Water Plant project, the Coastal Commission, and Mayor Jamie Irons as regards your column “Fight” in the Oct. 24 New Times.
1) The Morro Bay City Council asked that the project be denied.
2) The Cayucos Sanitary District asked that the application be withdrawn.
3) The plant is operated under a joint power agreement between the city and the district.
Per a story published Jan. 17 in New Times (your publication), the board of the California Coastal Commission, in writing, requested the Morro Bay City Council withdraw the petition for the waste water plant rather than deny the petition. As New Times writers Matt Fountain and Nick Powell noted, it was a small but important difference: “If the commission considered the permit and denied it, that would mean they’ve issued a definitive ‘no’ on the project and that the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent designing and lobbying for a doomed project were wasted. But if the application were withdrawn, the two agencies would have more time to make adjustments and possibly come to a consensus on a version of the original plan that could appease the mighty coastal authority.”
According to the Tribune’s Jan. 10 issue (“Coastal Commission turns down plan to rebuild Morro Bay sewer plant”), Mayor Jamie Irons said the denial was needed to kill the project and force Morro Bay and Cayucos to work together. “It is not your job to mend relations between Morro Bay and Cayucos; it’s my job,” Irons said. “Your job is to give us a condition of certainty.” Cayucos Sanitary District President Robert Ens asked that the application be withdrawn in order to give the two communities time to agree on how to move forward.
Ultimately the commissioners did vote to deny the permit. However, chair of the commission Mary Shallenberger chastised city officials for their sudden change of direction: “You’re saying, ‘Please, save us from ourselves. Deny our own project and take the blame for denying something we asked you to approve,’” she said. “I am annoyed that you made us go through this exercise.”
Shredder, you also state that you remember Irons running on a campaign platform opposing the project. To be accurate, Irons claimed, in the June 12, 2012, issue of the Tribune, to be open to the consideration of other sites for the plant, but if the Coastal Commission permitted a new plant at the current location, he would support it. The attitude of openness regarding the project Irons projected during the election campaign was merely a façade however, and his actions in denying the project actively killed all chances of achieving a compromise.
Under California elections laws, petitions must be reviewed and approved before they can be circulated. The Morro Bay Recall petition followed all the proper procedures as outlined by the election code and was approved prior to circulation.
-- R. Cathleen Bell - Morro Bay