Cambrian: Opinion

12 people wanted to fill this empty seat in Cambria. The board couldn’t agree on any

A dozen applicants for the vacant seat on the Cambria Community Services District Board of Directors turned out to be interviewed by the board on Tuesday, Sept. 19. The four board members failed to reach agreement on any of the 12.
A dozen applicants for the vacant seat on the Cambria Community Services District Board of Directors turned out to be interviewed by the board on Tuesday, Sept. 19. The four board members failed to reach agreement on any of the 12. sprovost@thetribunenews.com

I didn’t catch the middleweight title fight last weekend between Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez, but I’m not sure I really missed anything.

That fight — dubbed by promoters as “Supremacy” — ended in a controversial draw. Nothing was resolved, and the two camps are already in negotiations for a rematch.

Three days later, I attended a meeting of Cambria’s services district board to fill a vacant seat. Nothing was resolved there, either. After seven 2-2 votes on six different applicants culled from the dozen who signed up, the board adjourned without reaching a consensus.

The “rematch,” in this case, is set for noon Oct. 3 at the Veterans Memorial Building, where Cambria Community Services District directors will try again to fill the seat.

During each vote at the meeting, Director Jim Bahringer and Vice President Greg Sanders took one side, while Director Harry Farmer and President Amanda Rice took the other. What’s the holdup in agreeing on a candidate?

It’s not governmental experience. Two of the finalists (Peter Chaldecott and Allan MacKinnon) both had previous board experience, but one side rejected Chaldecott and the other side vetoed MacKinnnon.

It’s not business experience. Dewayne Lee, who was favored by Rice and Farmer, has that. So does Aaron Wharton, who received support from Sanders and Bahringer.

It’s not the district’s infrastructure challenges. All six finalists placed maintaining and improving infrastructure among their top priorities.

It’s not growth. None of the candidates adopted a “zero growth” stance, and their suggestions ranged from allowing construction of five to 25 houses a year.

It’s not even the Sustainable Water Facility, which has been the most divisive issue — both on the board and in the community. None of the candidates favored mothballing the plant, with MacKinnon stating, “The only way you can pay for it is to make it run.”

We don’t gain anything by constantly bickering over facts.”

Mark Herrier, CCSD board applicant

Given the divisions the community has seen over the past few years, the level of apparent agreement among the candidates was encouraging. Some even mentioned an express desire to heal and move beyond those divisions.

“We don’t gain anything by constantly bickering over facts,” Mark Herrier said in his presentation to the board, adding that he would “try to find the common ground where we talk about solving a problem rather than arguing about whether it really exists.”

Wharton spoke of “listening first, then formulating an argument.”

MacKinnon talked about “conflict resolution” and the need to tackle budget problems “as a team.”

The divisions, however, remained all too apparent on the board itself. At times during the meeting, board members appeared to have more interest in arguing among themselves about growth and financial management than they did in assessing the applicant. (Rice, who chaired the meeting, had to steer it back on track twice.)

And when the board did focus on selecting an applicant, those divisions produced deadlock after deadlock.

At one point, a clearly frustrated Bahringer said, “I would like someone to explain to me how Peter Chaldecott is unfit.”

Yet, the divisions on display at Tuesday’s meeting had nothing to do with the applicants’ fitness to serve. If they did, the directors might have an excuse for failing to fill that vacant seat. But more than one director noted the overall strength of the applicant pool.

The cure for these divisions — as the applicants noted — is communication, teamwork and problem-solving. It’s encouraging that the applicants highlighted those qualities during Tuesday’s meeting. That’s a sign of leadership. Unless those who already sit on the board employ those qualities to reach a consensus, they may find themselves leaving the decision in the hands of the Board of Supervisors … which wouldn’t be leadership at all.

Stephen H. Provost: 805-927-8896

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