SLO County Clerk-Recorder shows what it’s like to count thousands of ballots
Cambria and North Coast voters appear to have followed the national trend of seeking new leaders: With one incumbent running in each of the two local races, voters have instead apparently chosen a full roster of challengers.
But things could change. As of midday Monday, Nov. 12, more than 27,500 ballots had yet to be counted countywide, and in one local instance, the vote counts are close enough that a changed result is technically feasible, if not probable.
In the three local races, more than 60 percent of eligible voters cast ballots.
On Monday afternoon, there were 527 vote-by-mail ballots, 109 provisional ballots and four regular ballots that hadn’t been processed on election night or since.
Even with the votes on the total of 640 ballots as yet uncounted then, it appeared that challengers Cindy Steidel and Donn Howell had been elected with 1,565 (nearly 32 percent) and 1,299 (more than 26 percent) of the ballots cast.
But only 99 votes separated Howell’s total from that of incumbent Aaron Wharton, who had accumulated 1,200 votes (nearly 25 percent).
Challenger Dennis Perry received 871 votes, or about 17.5 percent of the ballots tallied so far. There were 25 write-in votes.
Both of the apparent winners have said they support seeking a final permit for the town’s Sustainable Water Facility. Steidel worked in business, finance and project management and serves on the CSD finance subcommittee. She is vice chair of the North Coast Advisory Council, and told The Cambrian earlier this year that, if elected to the CCSD board, she wanted to continue on NCAC as well. Howell, who worked in the information technology and real estate fields, said his goal is to promote accountability, communication and transparency.
Steidel said in a Nov. 13 phone interview that, if her lead holds and she’s elected, she plans to “maintain the positions that I put out when I ran,” such as “being a proponent for permitting and operation of the Sustainable Water Facility,” working toward “slow-measured growth” for Cambria, “at the discretion and choice of CCSD, we can grow at a slower rate than what the county establishes … a slow rate, take a little bit at a time and see how it affects the community.”
Among the other issues she plans to address as one of five directors, she said, would be increasing the district’s fiscal health, such as applying for grants and programs in which federal or state agencies would help fund the work, and investigating the opportunities for more low-cost housing.
“There is a lot of new interest and desire” from the state and county “to make affordable housing an important part of life” on the Central Coast.
She sees “many opportunities to create some viable, vibrant things for the community.”
On Monday afternoon, there were 574 vote-by-mail ballots, 119 provisional ballots and four regular ballots, for a total of 697 that hadn’t been processed on election night or since.
With three seats open, challengers Laurie Mileur, Bill Rice and Iggy Fedoroff likely will join the Board of Trustees, having garnered slightly more than 31, 27 and 23 percent of the 3,192, respectively, of the votes that had been counted through midday Monday. The totals were 2,137, 1,845 and 1,550, respectively.
The three incoming trustees campaigned on a platform of cutting district costs, recruiting more medical services to the area and maintaining a locally controlled ambulance service.
Incumbent Bob Putney received 1,206 votes, or nearly 18 percent; incumbent Mary Anne Meyer chose to not run again.
Federoff said in a phone interview that what the trio wants to accomplish first is “right the ship.” Two or all three of them would be briefed by administrative staff to learn more about “the policies and procedures that govern their day-to-day work, then reach some conclusions as to what to do next. We want to basically accomplish a mini management audit, bringing in an outside expert to share best practices from other healthcare districts in the state.”
“First and foremost,” he said, “we want to make sure ambulance coverage is the optimum for our district.”
Federoff added that, “if the vote hold true, we’ll have a harmonious, cooperative board of the healthcare district. I think we can get a lot done and I think the ratepayers will be very pleased with the results.”
▪ A healthcare district special-tax ballot measure appears to have failed to get the two-thirds majority vote it needed to pass, meaning the property owners won’t pay an additional $35.04 per parcel for six years, with funds going toward ambulance and capital expenses (not salaries or benefits).
More than 58 percent of voters who cast ballots approved the measure, while 42 percent voted no.
Federoff said there’s “lots we can do” to cut costs, such as installing software that could slash the average cost per invoice, and perhaps performing administrative functions with fewer employees.
After the retirement of former administrator Bob Sayers, “clearly, we’re not of a mind to just carte blanche replace Bob with another Bob,” Federoff said. “But there’s all kinds of things that can be done that won’t hurt the district operations. Job one is always ‘don’t hurt district operations and try to improve them.’”
Then, he added, “once we’ve reviewed everything and cut everything that can be cut, if we still find we need to levy a parcel tax, there’s always two years from now. But I can’t imagine that it would be 35 bucks” a parcel.
▪ No elections were held for seats on the San Simeon Community Services District or Coast Unified School district boards. Candidates will be appointed because there were just enough of them to fill the seats.