In the NewsJanuary 2012
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True to Form: The Cambria CSD Fills its Seat!

(Was: All in the Family)

by Stephen Figler, Ph.D.

The Cambria Community Services District (CCSD) board was true to form (12/20/11) when it appointed one of their own to fill the seat vacated by Frank DeMicco.  The board selected Gail Robinette, who had served for several years on the volunteer Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Commission (PROS) to fill the fifth seat. PROS reports directly to the CCSD board, which selects its members.

Among the few reasons given for choosing Ms. Robinette over the four other applicants — Dr. Valerie Bentz, Mike McLaughlin, Amanda Rice, and Tom Gray — was that she was a "team player," as mentioned by at least two of the four voting board members, and that it was their belief that her goals most closely aligned with the departed (to New York) former member Mr. DeMicco.

Statements by and questioning of the five candidates was done in this open meeting just prior to the vote.  Board members sat behind their stately oak dais facing the audience of twenty-five or more Cambrians, while the candidates sat hunched over a long table with their backs to the audience.  They were given one microphone, which the candidates had to pass among themselves.

Ms. Robinette was selected first to detail her qualifications to fill the open board seat.  She spoke of her work on the PROS Commission (again, selected by the board) and her work on "paving" some of Cambria's walking trails and wanting to pave more of them, also mentioning that she agreed with the board's attempts to get a desalination facility for the town, which has been and apparently continues to be the board's primary goal (as stated in its 2011 list of goals).  This despite the California Coastal Commission's recent rejection of drilling test wells on Shamel Park beach, which is a necessary precursor to desalination.  (The California department of parks has also resisted such a project.)  Ms. Robinette did not mention alternatives to desalination for obtaining emergency water, nor did she mention attending to infrastructure problems or the high salaries, relative to other communities on the Central Coast, enjoyed by CCSD staff, all of which were significant concerns voiced by Mr. DeMicco.

Among the other candidates were Amanda Rice, former North Coast Advisory Committee chair, and a community activist through her web-site, "About Cambria."  Among Ms. Rice's concerns are the days that have passed since Cambria's building moratorium was begun, which she recounts at every meeting she attends.  Mike McLaughin is a public sector union attorney who has supported maintaining public employee compensation packages, and who is a coach and part-time teacher at Coast Union High School.  Another candidate, Tom Gray, who has resided in Cambria less than three years, is a public relations writer/journalist/teacher, who has published in the area of making money and public finance.

None of those four candidates has run for a seat on the CCSD board, as did Valerie Bentz in 2010.  She fell only 38 votes short of obtaining the seat now held by Jim Bahringer.  Dr. Bentz related that she has done public service in Santa Barbara (Mission Canyon), Milwaukee, WI, and Mizoram, India, where the goal was to bring that new and isolated state wedged between Bangladesh and Myanmar (Burma) into the mainstream of the 21st century.  Dr. Bentz has been active in Cambria calling for more attention to the town's failing infrastructure (two recent sewage spills), bringing salaries and working hours of the CCSD staff into line (19 are compensated over $100,000/year, while their office is open only 3-1/2 days a week for about 5 hours/day).  She has also spoken to the board, at local forums, and the newspaper about seeking alternative water sources, such as side-stream storage, a reservoir (at one time offered by a local farmer), gray-water usage, and a needed CCSD emphasis on better water conservation  These subjects were mostly, if not entirely, over-looked by the other four candidates.

Apparently Dr. Bentz's research on alternatives to desalination and efforts to bring this to public awareness caused the board to see her as "not a team player."  Further, her career was seen as a liability, evidenced by one board member's comment that "accomplishments are more important than a Ph. D.," thus ignoring Dr. Bentz's accomplishments (see below).

It is difficult to see how any of the other applicants for the board opening came close to matching Dr. Bentz's combination of knowledge of local CCSD-related problems, having run for and nearly won a seat on the board, and longevity as a resident of Cambria (bought property in 1998, lived there since 2000).  Yet the four board members wanted and chose a "team player," leaving unrepresented a significant portion of Cambrians who care about more than getting a desalination facility so that the moratorium can be lifted, thus allowing owners of undeveloped lots to build.  Maybe.

[Disclosure:  I served on the PROS Commission with Ms. Robinette and am the spouse of Dr. Bentz.]

My Vision for Cambria

by Valerie Bentz, Ph.D.

My vision for Cambria is based on the principle of Good Housekeeping.  Cambria should be a safe, healthy and prosperous community.  First and foremost, the economy depends upon Cambria's unique position in one of three remaining Monterrey pine forests in the U.S.  Property values depend upon the beautiful forest and pristine ocean preserve, rich with fish, mammals and wild life.  Our tourist economy is based on this. Cambria should become a model for a sustainable community.

Here are my goals for Cambria:

  • Develop storage in reservoirs and tanks to provide water for Cambria for at least two years in case of drought. 
  • Complete our water recycling process, by which we could save 50% of our water which is used on lawns and gardens.
  • Take leadership in water and energy conservation.  Provide incentives for homes and businesses to upgrade to low-flow toilets and low water use washing machines. This should be part of our new water master plan (due in 2010, still in process.)
  • Allow up to ten intent to serve notices to go out per year and use these funds to pay for system upgrading. Investigate doing this without lifting the building moratorium.
  • Upgrade the sewer system to use less water.
  • When the current bond is paid off develop a balanced budget locally.
  • Support the establishment of a Cambria forest management district.
  • Consolidate fire and emergency services.
  • Evaluate compensation for staff to continue to bring down costs for taxpayers.
  •  Install a state of the art computer based system to monitor sites in the sewer and water system.
  • Ocean desalination is not appropriate in this environment either economically or ecologically.  Perhaps down the road reverse osmosis may be used to treat sewage as a water saving measure.


Regarding Valerie: She ran for the Cambria CSD board in 2010 garnering 1472 votes and only 38 short of obtaining a seat.  She has several decades experience as a professor of sociology and social psychology, including human and organization development.

Valerie was director of research for the united fund in Milwaukee, director of a fire prevention project with Hancock College in Mission Canyon, Santa Barbara; Director of an action research project in the poorest state of India, Mizoram, at the request of their Chief MInister. She was associate dean for research at Fielding Graduate University for eight years, responsible for a 24 million dollar budget development.  Thirty doctoral dissertations related to human development and organization improvement were accomplished under Valerie's supervision. She has lived in Cambria for 12 years. She is the author of four scholarly books and numerous articles and she plays the piano and bassoon.

Valerie Malhotra Bentz, Ph.D., C.C.S.
Professor, School of Human and Organization Development
Fielding Graduate University

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