Random thought of the day
I don’t know about you guys, but I can’t think of anything more exciting than magnificent pictures of water treatment infrastructure – especially motors and pumps. Can I get an AMEN!!!??? It’s clear the General Manager embraces the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” but I’m not sure we need the pictures and the thousand words! No wonder the meetings run so long!
Many words have passed among the community during the run-up to the November 8th election. In addition to the fate of the free world being decided, there was also a Presidential selection that needed to be made. Our fine candidates for the CCSD Board did their best to get their messages out to the voters, making themselves available for discussion. The Farmer’s market was a popular spot to get face time with all of them. It was kind of interesting to see them standing a few feet away from each other – close enough to ask each other a question or have a quick discussion as a group, with constituents right there to participate in an informal, open air way. That could have been an opportunity to build a dialog that would continue beyond Election Day, regardless of the outcome. Sigh; a boy can dream…
I did a quick spin through the market looking for the purveyor of the magic beans that yielded the millions of colorful campaign signs that sprang up everywhere around the town. That must have been some feat of seed engineering to have them all grow with different colors and names.
Speaking of hybrids, the October CCSD Board meeting was held at 4:00 pm. Not the traditional 12:30 pm nor the requested 6:00 pm, but a compromise time that seemed to make neither a major or minor difference in attendance. By my count, there were 16 attendees, excluding board, staff and speakers. Of the 16, 4 were non-incumbent candidates. One of those guys was there to speak on a different subject. So 25% of the audience had to be there. We were missing some of the regulars, but were joined for a while by an interesting fellow who shared some of his thoughts during public comment. Although his political views and personal belief systems were certainly different, he was given a free and equal opportunity to speak. He may have been humming “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” because he was met by 3 members of the police.
The meeting was fairly low-key, with a very good presentation on the new town park that is being designed and implemented in what seems to be sensible and well thought out phases. Good job!
The Town Engineer then shared some very interesting information on an issue that had risen (floated?) to the top. Sharp-eyed and focused community members had noticed significant differences in the amount of water pumped versus the amount of water that was accounted for – either through meter counts, known allotments for special contracts, and/or testing. The initial numbers that raised the alarm were significant, and demanded investigation and explanation. The Engineer came prepared with updated data and explanations for the numbers. Coincidentally, he was in the process of going through training on the required methods of auditing and reporting on water usage. He was freshly armed with tools and processes that would help get a handle on the issue. His initial findings told us that the numbers used in the preliminary report were unaudited and inaccurate. After putting things in the right framework, the data revealed a much more manageable loss. It is not where it needs to be, but the corrected numbers and better processes will be used to set a strategy of continuous improvement. My takeaway is that it will be several months until the process is refined to a point where everyone can at least agree on the data and the technical teams can implement plans to attack water loss on multiple fronts.
By the end of the meeting we were down to 2 attendees – me and Dewayne Lee. It took a few minutes to get the circulation back into our legs, but dammit, we survived!
Election day, and the winners are…
Voter turnout was beyond impressive with over 79.5% of registered voters casting ballots. That, my friends is an engaged electorate, and underscores the level of passion in our community.
With such a large turnout in Cambria as well as the rest of San Luis Obispo County, ballot counting has taken longer than anyone expected. As of today two of the incumbents – Amanda Rice and Greg Sanders – have comfortable margins and, barring a major change, should be returned to the board. The third seat is unsettled, with incumbent Board President Gail Robinette enjoying a slender 14 vote lead over surprise challenger Harry Farmer. That order quickly changed as the next round of ballot counting put Harry in the lead. As of last count his lead stands at 23 votes. With around 386 ballots left to be counted, this one might be finalized by the weekend. I can’t imagine how stressful this is for the candidates and their supporters. Regardless of who wins the final seat, I hope all the passionate supporters maintain their sense of propriety. I don’t want to see any rowdy protests in the West Village; no angry chants of “Not My Board President.”
Obligatory Food Reference
In the days following the election I managed to finally sit down and break bread (actually, pancakes) with Andy Pickar. I got to know Andy a bit over social media, and later in person. We have similar outlooks on some things, and our business experiences were not dissimilar. We met at the Creekside Café and talked about a range of things, with the discussion coming around to the great community we live in. Andy has an interest in finding a way to contribute to the community and share his good thinking and analytical skills in ways that make things even a little better for all of us. We talked about the CCSD and the CHD – The Cambria Health District. Both organizations have passionate supporters with different visions of how their futures should be sculpted to best service the Cambria community. I really enjoyed the discussion, and believe wherever Andy engages his contributions will make things better. If I were on the CHD Board I’d give him a call – unless you have a rule about shorts and sandals!
The business of governance continued with the November CCSD Board meeting. This session was held at the traditional time of 12:30 pm, and citizen attendance was really light. I guess everyone was spent from all that voting. If I didn’t include myself, I could count the attendees on one hand. Literally. The room was crowded with members of the Water and Wastewater teams, who were recognized for their contributions to the community. It was nice to put faces to names, and to see them receive recognition from the community. (They all wore blue shirts – but nobody told them they had to leave!)
There was another speaker (also wearing a blue shirt) who gave an update on upcoming events that support the SLO County homeless population. The General Manager’s report (including pumps and motors pix) was followed by an interesting discussion around a request to extend a Franchise Agreement with Mission Country Disposal for Solid Waste Disposal Management. The request was for an extension of 20 years (and possibly more) and is linked to the build and management of a state of the art plant that would process materials not suitable for landfills. I will leave the real explanation to the experts – including our local reporter Kathe Tanner, who pays way more attention to the details than I do.
Finally, a discussion around a compensation increase for the Finance Manager sparked good discussion among the board. They are challenged with balancing the realities of hiring and retaining qualified employees with sensible financial oversight. After a healthy discussion, the motion to approve the compensation was passed by a 4-1 vote, with Director Rice the dissenting vote. Her objection was based on fiscal concerns; she was very clear about her appreciation for the employee and his value to the community.
During the public comment periods, a returning regular exercised her right to freely complain about actions and inactions taken and not taken by the board, and treated each member with equal disrespect, eschewing the more respectful title of Director, or even Mr. or Ms. And used their first names as she went over her allotted time. I guess when you’re a real activist the rules of time don’t apply, and the simple courtesies are only to be expected from the board members who are attacked. I am a pretty mellow guy, and I can’t remember the last time I came close to losing my temper in public. I came really close today, but decided that I would let magnanimity carry the day.