Recent debates over off-roading at the Oceano Dunes, racial issues, and law enforcement have led to a divide in Oceano that's playing out largely on social media. But a number of community members say there's one person to blame for the controversy: Oceano Community Services District (CSD) board member Cynthia Replogle.
Replogle, a longtime conservationist and opposer of off-roading at the dunes, is facing intense scrutiny—and harassment—in response to comments she made regarding the off-roading community at a recent California Coastal Commission meeting and a Facebook post in which called the "thin blue line" flag "a symbol of white supremacy."
Since then, Replogle's various social media accounts have been flooded with comments and messages criticizing her views and methods of sharing them. Community members in Facebook groups like "Protect Five Cities" are calling for Replogle's resignation, and at a recent Oceano CSD meeting on June 24, a few public commenters did the same.
But Replogle has a message for her critics:
"I'm not resigning," she said at the June 24 Oceano CSD meeting, "and I'm not going to back down on these issues."
While speaking out against off-roading at a Coastal Commission meeting on June 12, Replogle said that residents in Oceano, which she called a "disadvantaged community" that is half "Latinx," aren't benefiting from off-roading activities at the dunes and the cheap day-use and camping fees the park offers.
That and a jab at the Jerk Pirates, an Oceano-based off-roading group, enraged the California off-roading community, many who identify as Latino. A June 14 Facebook post, in which Replogle criticized Oceano CSD President Linda Austin for flying a thin blue line flag in a park she owns, only led to more outrage.
Replogle said the response has been intense, and many comments, including some that threaten violence and doxxing, have gone too far.
"That bitch should have been an abortion," commenter Andrew Drayer said in one thread.
"Drop dead bitch," Elvis Rocky Alvarez said in another.
A Facebook group called "Oceano Against Cynthia" was created on June 23, and as of July 1, it had 475 members.
But Replogle told New Times that she's not quitting, and she plans to run for re-election to the Oceano CSD this year. Though her opposition is loud, Replogle said a number of locals have reached out privately to show their support.
"So I feel like at this point I need to be the voice for the people that they've intimidated into staying home and staying silent," Replogle said.
But to Oceano CSD President Linda Austin, all of this looks like a rerun.
Replogle has a history of playing the victim, Austin said.
While Austin said she finds the violent and threatening comments directed at Replogle "repulsive and disgusting," that doesn't represent the Oceano community. A majority of feedback, Austin said, has been passionate but respectful. And she said people have a right to be angry about Replogle's lack of support for local law enforcement, especially after the shooting in Paso Robles, and her attempts to speak for the Latino community.
"One of our deputies was gravely wounded," Austin wrote in an email to New Times. "I have a thin blue line flag that I fly at times so I thought it would be a good time to fly that flag to show our law enforcement that we support and appreciate their service and our thoughts were with the injured officers."
Despite what Replogle and her supporters might say, Austin said she is not a racist.
Austin is now listed as an administrator of the "Oceano Against Cythia" Facebook group, which was recently renamed "Five Cities Citizens for Better Government." Though Austin said she didn't create the page, she supports its efforts to push out local officials who don't support law enforcement and other first responders.
"Cynthia has a long history of failure to work with others, and conflict and controversy in her dealing with people," Austin wrote to New Times. "She has decided to focus on me for some reason. I have remained quiet but due to her latest attacks and attempts to instigate problems in Oceano I am speaking out. Nobody is going to call me, my family, my friends, and community racist and not hear from us. Period." Δ