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Remote Thoughts – Home Viewing Version

(or, How I Spent Mike Lyons’ Birthday)

The tradition of Cambria’s Saturday morning community forums continued September 7 with a session focused on the town’s water supply systems, and particularly the “EmergencySustainableAdvancedWaterFacilityMachineSystem” ™ patent and permit pending.

Cambria Community Services District Board President Dave Pierson, resplendent in navy blazer and open-collared, pinstriped button-down shirt, facilitated the forum. Attendees and viewers received a well-crafted and smoothly delivered fact-and data-filled presentation. Those at the Vet’s Hall enjoyed a tantalizing and delicious (I imagine) array of freshly baked cookies created by the delightful and community-minded Karen Dean.

The session was thoughtfully constructed and delivered by the team of former acting General Manager and current district consultant Paavo Ogren, data and administration analyst Melissa Bland, and water systems leader Jim Green. Each of the presenters stood as examples of skilled, experienced, and capable personnel that staff critical roles in the Services District.


Mr. Ogren demonstrated his grasp of the complexity of the issues and brought an interesting outsider/insider perspective from his previous work in county planning through his tenure with the CCSD organization and administration.

Ms. Bland took us back to what seems like a reasonable point in time – 1990. She did an excellent job, walking through a series of statistics, requirements, and point-in-time events that led to the current state of Cambria’s water situation.

Mr. Green then took the mouse and did a great job of again mixing data, regulations, and requirements, and actions are taken to maintain and expand the systems that deliver Cambria’s precious water supply.

All three presenters addressed many of the questions, opinions, and assumptions that have clouded the critical discussions around Cambria’s water facilities.

Complex Questions, Honest Answers

After the presentations were complete, President Pierson read questions submitted by the public. The questions were thoughtful and detailed. Many were based on technical, environmental, and regulatory factors; some were both complex and carefully worded. Mr. Ogren skillfully answered one such question by pointing out that based on the wording, the answer was “no,” but he then dug down into what he saw as the intent behind the question. His subsequent answer was much more helpful.

Some of the questions made me wonder, “what is this all about?” and “what is the goal of asking that?” To the credit of the panelists, each question was answered thoughtfully, and explanations were put into the broader context of the issues being discussed. I really appreciated that approach and found that my field of vision was widened as I saw how the panelists listened and responded. Mr. Ogren’s description of “adaptive management planning” was a “duh” moment for me!

President Pierson also had a strong moment, stopping some guesswork responses with a firm statement: (paraphrasing) “This is about facts and not guesses.”


It is clear that the CCSD has talented, thorough, and involved employees and leaders who are serious about what they do for the community. These folks know their stuff. They are clear communicators, experts in their areas, and understand how to connect the dots across what is often a confusing landscape of issues and solutions.

The issue of cost will continue to be painfully present in all discussions. It was encouraging to hear future-focused, practical and pragmatic positions from some of the board, alongside the constant drumbeat of negativity and solution-less posturing from less visionary members. To me, the contrast between investing and building for tomorrow or destroying progress to save yesterday was stark. And needed.

It comes back to the eternal question of what we expect from an elected representative. Some favor a person who will act as an amplifier of a particular position. Others favor someone who will use their best judgment and act based on what they believe is best for all.

I admire the courage and conviction it takes to stand on principle, regardless of which perspective one favors. It is easy to be a dilettante. It is noble to raise the hand and say, “I’ll do it.”

Why made this session valuable? Hyperbole was muted, opinion replaced with fact. The table was properly set with a beginning, middle and ending. Complex things became much simpler to understand and assess.

The event was broadcast and recorded and will be available for viewing over the coming days at the SLO-SPAN website. It is worth watching, even without the cookies.