Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rattina smells a rat ... SEWER rat, that is ....

Hmmm ... County Supervisor Mike Reilly unsuccessfully attempts to pressure RRROC into recommending funds for the Monte Rio Sewer again. This time by trying to tie it in with Sweet Water's proposal for desperately-needed water system upgrades. And LO AND BEHOLD ... the Board of Supervisors is suddenly grumbling about budget shortfalls & needing to put redevelopment funds back into the County's General Fund. (cue in ominous music & evil laugh MWAHAHAHA!)

Coincidence? I think not. River Rattina definitely knows a rat when she smells one ... especially when it's a Sewer Rat.

We definitely need to do something about Monte Rio's septic problems, for environmental, public health & quality-of-life reasons. The once-lovely & thriving downtown (which still has considerable charm & a handful of viable & locally beloved businesses) has dilapidated buildings which cannot be legally rebuilt because they are too close to the river for septic systems to be installed. On top of that, there are septic tanks on residential properties which need to be upgraded or replaced & the owners may lack the cash for doing so.

On the surface, it seems as though a new sewer system would benefit the community in various ways: It could increase retail space for the downtown, reduce pollution, enable construction of affordable housing, etc. Alas, the proposed new sewer system would also create some MAJOR problems, which SERIOUSLY need to be fully & publicly addressed:
  • Costs per household: The sewer would serve only 400 households & could cost up to $1500 per year per home. Honestly, I don't know many folks who can afford to pay that much! Here in Guerneville & Rio Nido, we pay an $800-per-year property tax assessment for our sewer. This is already too expensive for many people, but we manage because costs are spread out amongst a larger population, & because (overall) we have have higher incomes, due to easier access to jobs in the Bay Area. If the Board of Supervisors want a sewer so badly, they should figure out a way to share the costs so they don't cause hardship for residents who are already struggling financially.
  • Potential for over-development: Many of us would love to see a bustling, prosperous downtown Monte Rio with some new affordable housing, a nice playground, spiffy new public restrooms, cleaner water at the beach, etc. Higher tax revenues could also fund more programs at Monte Rio Elementary -- a wonderful little school which always seems strapped for cash. But can we handle all of this? New construction of homes & retail spaces would be required to increase tax revenues to offset sewer costs & things would snowball from there. Monte Rio is a small town which is environmentally delicate & somewhat geographically isolated. Could it handle the demands which would inevitably result from expansion? I'm sure it could, but Monte Rio residents would need to strongly support any development which takes place & right now, they don't even want the gosh-danged sewer.
  • Traffic & Congestion: Last year, it took 20 minutes to go back & forth between Guerneville & Monte Rio during the off-season due to road construction. Which caused considerable inconvenience & even hardship for local residents. There is only ONE way to get from Monte Rio to Guerneville, & that's along Route 116/River Road. When that access is blocked by traffic, construction, flooding, fallen redwood branches, etc., those of us who need to go back & forth are totally screwed. Unless we can persuade the Bohemian Club to sell us some of their land so we can extend Neeley Road from Guerneville to Monte Rio along the other side of the River (snort, like THAT's ever going to happen), I don't see how we can possibly engage in any major new construction projects in Monte Rio. Personally, I would love to see the County harass the Bohemian Club with an eminent domain claim for road access due to the undesirable, drunken riff-raff they host at their yearly gathering (George Bush, Dick Cheney, Henry Kissinger, etc.). But it's NOT going to happen, & even Mike Reilly is no match for the Bohemian Club's Masters of the Universe. Heh heh, he may not even be a match for the River Rats & Rattinas of Monte Rio.
  • Public hearings need to be held: People in Monte Rio have repeatedly requested public hearings & meetings in regards to the proposed sewer projects & have been repeatedly rebuffed. If we are EVER going to have a sewer, the Board of Supervisors need to work with Monte Rio residents & business owners to address public concerns & work on solutions. Without public support, the sewer has little chance of EVER happening.
I actually like Mike Reilly simply due to his role in reopening Charles Schultz Airport with Horizon Airlines. This was quite a coup. I believe that he sincerely wants our little corner of Sonoma County to be more prosperous. But I find his handling of the Monte Rio Sewer project to be ham-fisted, amateurish & unworthy of a professional politician. A politician is supposed to be skilled in the art of persuasion & when dealing with a community that is acting as stubborn as a mule (& which has good reasons for doing so), he needs to know when to dangle the carrot & when to brandish the stick. If he wants the sewer so danged badly, he should figure out a way to make the carrot more tempting (lightly stir-fried with a tangy ginger glaze, perhaps?).

Right now, Mr. Reilly's all stick & no carrot, & that's no way to further one's agenda around here. We River Rats & Rattinas may be hicks, but we sure ain't stupid.

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