The Wacky World of CSDs – or you want what in Big Sur?

In an amazing synchronistic dance, the SLO New Times ran as their cover story an exposé of the wacky world of Community Service Districts within the county of San Luis Obispo County a week ago – that which a handful of people is proposing for Big Sur, without the specificity of what services such a district would be providing.

It is a fascinating look at just how wrong things can go when a small quasi-governmental agency is created in an unincorporated area of a county. It sometimes becomes a fiefdom.

Here I provide some excerpts from the article, with a link to the full article at the end of this post.

“A world all their own
Local Community Service Districts are wild, unwatched, and completely wacky

” … CSDs represent small communities that aren’t big enough to be towns. There are 11 such districts in SLO County, and they encompass most of the unincorporated communities. CSDs are a lot like towns, except they do a lot less. They usually take care of water and sewer services, though some districts do more and some don’t do even that much….

“State law requires CSDs to audit their books once a year and send the results to the county assessor and California State Controller. A 2007 study conducted by the county found that most of the districts didn’t send audit reports to either.

“Gere Sibbach, the county auditor-controller, said two CSDs—Oceano and San Simeon—haven’t turned in audits in two years. Seven other CSDs were more than a year late in turning over their audits for the last fiscal year. He said he finds this disturbing, but there isn’t much he can do.

“’All we can do is write them letters,” Sibbach said. ‘There is no enforcement mechanism to make them comply with the statute.’

“State law once gave counties the authority to make CSDs keep their finances in order, but that was rescinded years ago, he said.

“The county does have a role in the district finances; it collects property taxes and sends a portion of that back to the districts, Sibbach said….”

A number of the CSDs are discussed in the article, many with fiscal irregularities ranging from monies that cannot be accounted for to criminal embezzlement. Most appear to have woefully inadequate accounting practices. Others, like Cambria’s Special District, have exceedingly high-paid administrators, that must be bought out when fired.

“Perhaps no recent tale highlights the sheer wackiness a CSD is capable of than what went down in Cambria over the last few months. If ever there was an example of a small community raising the torches and pitchforks against its own CSD chief administrator, Cambria may be it. In fact, it could become a textbook case study of how not to manage a services district.

Tammy Rudock, the wildly unpopular former general manager for Cambria’s CSD, was fired from her top spot April 29 due to long-smoldering resentment of her astronomical pay and cushy benefits, dissatisfaction with the district’s customer service, and her reputation as an über micromanager.


“Then there was the issue of pay. For administering one of the smallest communities in the county, Rudock had the largest salary of any CSD manager—and even gave SLO City Manager Katie Litchig a run for her money, when comparing per capita pay.

“Since her contract was renewed in July 2007, she was reeling in a whopping $166,538—actually $231,000 including health and other benefits—per year. Rudock also enjoyed such perks as phone compensation, gas allowances, and a housing allowance to live in Cambria—all to manage the services of a town of roughly 6,500 residents.


Residents also frequently complained about Rudock’s salary and perks, especially given the fact that district office hours are limited to 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and calls to Rudock regarding service were allegedly met with rudeness or sometimes ignored completely.”

If you think a CSD is a good idea for Big Sur, read this article first, and see if that changes your mind. Maybe it will change the very few proponents’s minds. If not, ask them what specific services this CSD will provide us that the county is not already providing or which we are not already providing for ourselves? Are they services we need and that we are willing to pay higher taxes for? Or are they services a CSD is even capable of addressing? Or is it just an amoeba that will change shape and color with the whim of its proponents?

From what I have gathered in discussions with others, this is an idea that only a handful of very vocal people are interested in pursuing. Frankly, I think it was dead upon conception, but has been hanging around waiting for a proper burial. Let’s bury this puppy and put our creative juices into the many more worthwhile projects already in existence. If you have time and/or money on your hands, donate either to the Health Center, the BSVFB, the Library, HML, the local schools – Captain Cooper and Pacific Valley, Coast Property Owners Association, the South Coast Community Land Trust, the Historical Society, the Grange, the Round-up, or submit an article to be published here. Become active and participate in the Big Sur Multi-Agency Advisory Council, your local LUAC, or other agency of choice. It is not like there aren’t plenty of resources already needing your money and time. Find one that suits you and jump in.

Read the entire article here: A World of their own


6:45 pm – well, it started here! I love the smell of the rain. So, it has been 24 days since that Saturday downpour of almost 4 and 1/2 inches, thus this is quite welcome. I am just praying there is no lightning with this storm. Keep us all posted if you experience any lightning where you are!

4 pm – the Nexrad Radar has been down since 1 pm for maintenance, but NOAA says this in its weather report: “Tonight: A 50 percent chance of showers, mainly before 11pm. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 54. Calm wind becoming south around 5 mph.” Really? Rain?

A reader from Santa Cruz said it has been heavily raining since 2 pm, and Debbie from Big Sur Valley said the drizzles just started there. I am certainly watching more and more clouds move in!

As my friends Debbie Reed and Firefighter Mike point out – WTH? This is June 28th for pete’s sake! It is supposed to only get as far south as Santa Cruz, but snow is expected in the Sierras. Anyone who doesn’t believe our climate is changing – whether global warming or a very long cyclical pattern – is not paying attention.

This is TODAY:

A friend north of San Francisco said it started raining about 5 am, and has been pouring ever since.

Living in Paradise – responsibility

Living here, in the paradise of Big Sur carries responsibilities. I have my share – and that does not include my full time job. We live here for many reasons, and we give back to the community, mostly, without either renumeration nor recognition, and that is as it should be. We live here because we are nurtured and because we are drawn to this place, and this place is drawn to us.

I’ve lived here a long time, and one thing I’ve noticed … everyone is willing to pitch in and help start, set up, get things rolling. When it is all done? Who is here to help clean up? For some people, that is their life’s work, but for others, that is the last thing on their mind.

Soon, we will become too busy to reflect on what it means to live here. The summer tourist season is upon us, the traffic causes us to pause, but even more importantly, the fire season is about to arrive. We all need to be aware, alive, and awake.

Please, pay attention, report what needs to be reported on the campfire realm, and watch out for one another. It is the time of awareness once again. Another fire was reported today on the other side of the Santa Lucias. It is just beginning, and we need to keep an eye out on our place in this world.

Highway Fire – SLO Co.

6:15 pm – It is up to 150 acres and Highway 41 between Shandon and Creston has been shut down, due to the fire.

5:30 pm – This is on Highway 41 near Shandon. One engine reports the fire has hit the highway, another reports one structure threatened and access problems. Cal-Fire has thrown a lot of resources on this fire this afternoon, including a nice little airshow. There was another near San Marcos Rd. and Nacimiento Lake, but resources sent there have been diverted to the Highway Fire. I probably won’t provide continuous coverage unless it gets away from them, which is not sound like it is going to do, although another report I have is that there is some wind on this one.

For those who like the details, here are some: At scene AA 340, T74, T75, T76, 3461, 3465, 3468, 3477, 3482, E31, WT43, D3441, H527. En route 3469, 3470, ATA 7574 and 1 addtl tanker

This is on CDF Command 1, Tac 8

BTW, AA is air attack; T is tanker; E is engine; WT is water tender; H is Helicopter, and ATA I do not know. Those without letters are presumably engines. 😉

Big Sur Special District

Self-Governance is a lofty idea, and one which has deep roots in our heritage as a country. Here, there is a movement to create what many have called “another layer of government.”

Wikipedia notes that self-governance: “… can be used to describe a people or group being able to exercise all of the necessary functions of power without intervention from any authority which they cannot themselves alter. Self rule is associated then in contexts where there is the end of colonial rule, absolute government or monarchy, as well as demands for autonomy by religious, ethnic or geographic regions which perceive themselves as being unrepresented or underrepresented in a national government. It is therefore a fundamental tenet of republican government and democracy as well as nationalism. Gandhi’s term “swaraj” (see also “satygraha”) is a branch of this self rule ideology. Another major proponent of self-rule when a government’s actions are immoral is Thoreau.”

Hmmm … I am not sure that definition truly describes what is being sought for Big Sur, so maybe “self-governance” is not what the “special district” is about.

Wikipedia defines Special District as: “Special-purpose districts or special district governments in the United States are independent governmental units that exist separately from, and with substantial administrative and fiscal independence from, general purpose local governments such as county, municipal, and township governments.[1] As defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, the term special district governments excludes school districts.[1]

Special district governments provide specific services that are typically not provided by general-purpose governments.[1] The services they provide range from basic needs such as hospitals, sewerage, and fire protection to smaller necessities such as mosquito abatement and upkeep of cemeteries.[1] Most special districts provide only a single service.[1] In 2007, the U.S. had more than 37,000 special district governments.[2]”

Okay, so what special services are being proposed? I know one idea behind this special district is to create a community center and to create work-force housing to sustain a sense of community.

Jack Ellwanger, of Pelican Network, is the person pushing the hardest to see this happen, and has formed a committee to work on the concept of a Special District for Big Sur, a quasi-governmental agency that will have the power to levy taxes. I am unsure exactly who is on this committee, as Mr. Ellwanger has unilaterally removed my name from his notification lists – all of them, apparently because I have disagreed with him on various points, including the concept of creating a special district. However, I am not the only one who does not feel a special district is needed or wanted here in Big Sur.

One leader in the community so succinctly wrote this: “The first and most obvious point surrounding this subject is why? If it ain’t broke, what are we trying to fix by adding yet another layer of government into the mix.
If it is to support existing critical community institutions like the Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade or the Big Sur Health Center, I would check in with them before assuming that they are automatically supportive.

Taxation to support this new governmental entity will most likely tap the Big Sur Business Community or the Property Owners or both. Something tells me that neither will be clamoring to be the first in line to sign that petition. Nothing like a devastating forest fire and a near collapse of the US economy to spank the generosity out the potential funders of this initiative.

Finally, the Big Sur Community enjoys a very unique and greatly under-used
deliberative body in the form of the Big Sur Multi Agency Advisory Council.
Recently, that forum played a large part in the retraction of the Andrew Molera State Wilderness bill. Without that ability to convene and rationally discuss community concerns, our Assemblyman would not have really known how important the issue was to us.

BSMAAC has the potential to be a more powerful institution, but it lacks the kind of local participation necessary to elevate the quarterly proceedings to something approaching the ideals I see reflected in the governance committee’s notes. Something tells me that if folks are not showing up at BSMAAC, unless there is a volatile, direct threat to the community, they will be even less inclined to show up to the arcane proceedings of a quasi planning commission, hamstrung by the land use laws enacted by the Coastal Commission and enforced by Monterey County Planning and Building. Or maybe I’m missing something.”

The “Governance Committee” as Mr. Ellwanger has dubbed it, planned to meet sometime before the July 15th BSMAAC meeting among themselves, and then to have a luncheon meeting with our State Assemblyman, Bill Monning, to follow the BSMAAC meeting. I have already given my input to Mr. Monning, joining others who feel that the creation of a Special District with unknown goals and an unknown tax base is ill-conceived at this point. As this concept does not have the backing of many of the most influential community members, and as it seems to be rather exclusive rather than inclusive thus far, I do not see it getting any traction at this point. Despite that, some of you may be interested in providing your input to Mr. Ellwanger or to give your thoughts to Bill Monning, whose link is to the right, under representatives.

Phoenix, from the ashes & Community

Yesterday was the summer solstice and the 3d anniversary of the start of the Basin Fire, called the Gallery fire back then. It is a time to be grateful for the spirit of Big Sur and the community that supports her. Nowhere is that more evident than at the Don Case homestead.

Joyce Duffy, of the Don Case homestead, wishes to share this with all of us – near and far.

“It is the anniversary if the lightning strike that ignited the Fire that incinerated Don’s house and then went on to consume hundreds of thousands of acres of Big Sur…The whole community suffered shock and loss.
But right now I am watching in awe the miracle of this Houseraising…the joyful energy and teamwork renders me speechless…families and businesses are sending food and coffee and ice for the carpenter volunteers who work ceaselessly in the hot sun…supportive wishes are coming from all directions. This is just a hint of what the power of Community can do, and maybe it is a chance for healing and rebirthing for all of us. On behalf of the Case family, thank you all”


Budda Bowl by Joyce Duffy

And now:

Phoenix Fireplace by Joyce Duffy

Don at building by Joyce Duffy

Going up, by Joyce Duffy

We live in a very special place, much as I imagine small towns always have been. There is nothing like a sense of place to ground one.

Photo entries #2

I have had a very busy few days, with lots to share, and this week is also beyond me, so will do what I can. In the mean time, some more reader’s photos. I am having a devil of a time uploading today, so will probably only get three up today, if that.

Nacimiento Road, by Rechs Ann Pedersen - Præstø, Denmark

Point Sur Lighthouse by dpalefsky

The Source as seen from Gorda Mtn. by Jamie Lieder

I have no clue as to why these last two never showed up, but here they are now. Busy dealing with life – sorry, but will try to do better!

CPOA & Sam Farr open meeting on Saturday

From CPOA:

“Dear Friends and Residents of Big Sur,

Notice of a Critical Public Meeting!

Who: Congressman Sam Farr and CPOA
What: Big Sur Management Unit Act of 2011
When: Saturday, June 18th from 10 AM to Noon
Where: Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Conference Center
(please park in the lower parking lot)
Why: Understand the issues and participate in the Democratic process.

Coast Property Owners Association (Coastal Community Stewards) and United States 17th Congressional District Representative Sam Farr are conducting an open discussion on Congressman Farrs pending legislation affecting Big Sur, known as the Big Sur Management Unit Act (BSMUA). This legislation has the potential to have a profound impact on the future viability of Big Sur, as a community.

Please make time to attend what will probably be your only chance to weigh in on policy that, if enacted, will change the way the Monterey District of the Los Padres National Forest is funded and managed. To more fully understand the issues arising from this new legislation, please visit for a copy of the latest version of the Bill and visit for a copy of CPOA’s open letter to Congressman Farr.

Thank You,
Butch Kronlund, President
Coast Property Owners Association”

If you would like some background reading material about this issue, particularly as it relates to the issues regarding wildland firefighting in our area should the bill pass, please visit the comprehensive website on the issue: Farr’s bill
This is the only website bigsurkate was able to find that addresses the issue from the perspective of those that live in and around the area that would be affected by the proposed bill. All the others are either news agencies, or groups that fight for the conservation and protection of wild lands in Big Sur and other areas. Some of those are listed below. I suggest if you are interested, you become informed, and attend the meeting, if possible.

And there are some additional sites from wilderness conservation groups in support of the bill: leave it


or: ventana chapter, Sierra Club

Other Photo Entries

And here, as promised, are a few of the other wonderful entries that did not make the 10 finalists, some only because they would not survive the ultimate crop required. I’ll be posting a few on and off, as time allows.

Big Sur Wild by Brett Pallastrini, Long Ridge

I will add a couple more during the day today.

Big Sur Cabin Interior by Barbara Sparhawk

Big Creek by Seth Melchert of Oakland

House Raising and Meeting with Congressman Farr

Two announcements from the Coast Property Owners Association, who are quite busy this week. First, an announcement regarding the call for volunteers to help raise Don Case’s house back up!

Don Case House Raising
Call for Volunteers – June 17 – 30, 2011

Many of you know that Don Case lost his home during the Basin Complex Fire in 2008. With assistance from a number of generous individuals from the Big Sur community and the Coast Property Owners Association, Don is ready to raise his new home.

The foundation is in and building materials are on the way. We will start with “framing the shell and installing doors and windows”. Work will begin on June 17, 2011, and we are looking for 5 to 15 carpenters, carpenter-helpers and maybe some folks to help make sandwiches or shuttle people up to the house site as there is limited parking.

If you are not able to provide labor, but wish to donate to cover the cost of materials, donations are welcomed and appreciated.

Please RSVP to for details or call Joyce at 831-601-6160. Please help spread the word.

Thank you in advance. We look forward to some good times for a good cause.

Budda Bowl by Joyce Duffy

17th Congressional District of California

Media Advisory

June 13, 2011
CONTACT: David Beltran
Congressman Farr, CPOA to host public information meeting on big sur
management unit act
Washington, DC – Congressman Sam Farr (D-Carmel) in collaboration with the Coast Property Owners Association (CPOA) of Big Sur will host a Public Information Meeting on the Big Sur Management Unit Act. Congressman Farr and the CPOA are inviting the Big Sur Community to participate in the meeting to take place on Saturday, June 18, 2011 from 10:00 AM to noon at the Pfieffer Big Sur Lodge Conference Center, Pfieffer Big Sur Stat Park.

Introduced in the Last Session of Congress as H.R. 4040, and Awaiting Reintroduction in the Current Session, the Big Sur Management Unit Act would:

Reorganize the Monterey Ranger District of the LPNF into the Big Sur Management Unit;

Modify the existing LPNF boundary to exclude private land within the current 1907 boundary and include federal property outside the current boundary.

Provide statutory backing for the USFS Firescape process

Make various subtractions and additions to existing wilderness

Add various river and stream segments on federal property to the wild and scenic river system.

The latest draft of the bill is available at:

For more information contact Alec Arago in the office of Rep. Farr at 831-424-2229,

Also, if you would REALLY like to be informed about this proposal, read the well-thought out website created for this purpose here: Farr’s Bill, HB 4040