Oceano is hoping for a brand new 2024. 

The little town in southern San Luis Obispo County is hoping that its Community Services District will finally pull itself together, that the governing board will do more than bicker, and that its new leaders will move forward into a more civil era of policymaking. 

I wouldn’t bet money on it, though. 

In the last three to four months, the CSD’s board meetings have erupted into shouting, name-calling, and accusations both from the dais and the public; the district general manager and legal counsel both quit; and south SLO County 4th District Supervisor Jimmy Paulding wrote the board a letter asking it to pull itself together. 

Paulding noted that several residents had reached out to him with their concerns.

“Having watched these meetings, I too have concerns about board incivility and dysfunction,” he wrote. 

The board will still have the same people sitting on it, so the “dysfunction” likely won’t change.

There is small hope that the experienced new/old interim general manager will help the CSD get its house in order. Paavo Ogren has been around these parts before (he was the general manager a few years ago) and he’s helped a handful of other CSDs attempt to reorder themselves. 

But with a new president at the board’s helm, I’m not so sure things will make an about-face in a more positive direction. Charles Varni is either Oceano’s favorite elected official to rag on or he’s part of the problem, not the solution. Depends on who you ask. 

Varni’s going to lay down the law, so Oceano residents better watch out! He’s planning to kick folks out who he deems disruptive, and law enforcement will be present at future meetings! Wow. Oceano is so extreme! 

You know what else is extreme? The lengths some companies will go to combat bad public relations. 

Grimmway Farms and Bolthouse Farms got hammered for the adjudication lawsuit they started over the Cuyama Valley Groundwater Basin. The David vs. Goliath story was picked up by the LA Times and beyond. Big Carrot was picking on little family farmers without the money to defend themselves over a water basin that the corporations were sucking a ton of water out of. 

They pulled out of the lawsuit late last year, according to the companies, because relationships with Cuyama residents were more important than water. Funny thing is, though, the lawsuit in question is still moving forward and more than 500 landowners will still need to defend themselves against it. 

A handful of landowning companies that rent Cuyama dirt to Grimmway and Bolthouse for carrot-growing purposes are still listed as plaintiffs. So the growers will benefit no matter what. 

Grimmway and Bolthouse swear up and down that the companies left in the lawsuit are “unaffiliated,” but looking at California secretary of state filings leads me to believe otherwise. 

Can Bolthouse Properties and Bolthouse Farms really be so separate that one hand doesn’t feed the other? Can a landowning company managed by Grimm family members, at least one of whom might still work for Grimmway Enterprises even though the family sold it in 2020, really be completely separate from Grimmway Farms? 

Seems suspicious.

The Canary is sniffing out suspect behavior. Send word to [email protected].

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