Special to the PASO Magazine, by Mayor Steven Martin
Economic development, affordable housing and unfunded retirement liabilities top the list of things we are talking about this month.
But, before we get into that… congratulations to everyone involved staging the Paso Pops event in July. This patriotic mixture of food, music and fireworks was an explosion of spirit!
Speaking of the 4th of July, it was fun to ride in the annual parade in neighboring Templeton. I shared a 1971 Chevelle with Congressman Salud Carbajal. The turnout was amazing and the display of hometown patriotism was a glory of red, white and blue!
And now, on to business…
Sustaining existing businesses and enticing new ones to the community to provide more and better jobs for our citizens is a high priority for the City Council. Recently we engaged the Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce to be the City’s lead agency for economic development. The Chamber is working to bring new resources online. On the tourism front, local hoteliers and other destination-related businesses are forming a new, stand-alone Destination Marketing Organization. The City will be able to contract with this organization to improve marketing efforts.
It has been a year and a half since we got serious about addressing the affordable housing issue. During that time, the City has worked with contractors, developers and a wide cross-section of our community to deal with problems that hinder housing development. We have reduced process times significantly. We have also formed the Housing Constraints and Opportunities Committee. This group is reviewing impact fees, zoning and other issues. So far, the results are promising. The Council has approved recommendations to lower fees on certain types of residential development. The committee has also recommended changes to our Capital Improvements List. The list contains transportation, service and public safety projects that require improvement as our community grows. The committee is diligently seeking ways to modify that list to reduce impact fees while protecting our quality of life. If all goes as planned, we anticipate the construction of 200-300 new homes per year. That will mean increased employment for construction workers and an expansion of the number of homes on the market.
One of the most serious problems facing cities throughout the State is the matter of unfunded retirement liability for employees. Paso Robles has taken the lead to address this problem. We have paid down our liability by using $2.5-million from reserves and we have placed another $2.5-million into a special trust account where interest earnings will help us accelerate the pay-off effort. The ultimate solution, however, must come from the State level. I have met with other Mayors in our county to discuss the situation. I advocate joining with our employees and local business communities to petition our State leaders for legislation to change the current rules governing the funding of retirement benefits. This is not an “us-or-them” situation. It is one of those rare opportunities when our interests coincide.
Multiple public workshops focusing on improvements to Creston Road were very successful. The great majority of people who participated indicted a preference for something a little more intense than just a simple re-paving, but less intensive than a five-lane reconstruction. They emphasized the need for better sidewalks and traffic control at impacted intersections. The draft plan for this project should come before the Council before the end of the year. Final decisions will come early next year. Thanks to all who contributed their thoughts and ideas.
Major congratulations to fellow Council member Fred Strong. The National Association of Regional Council has recognized him for his work on goals and policies and with the League of California Cities, the National League of Cities, SLOCOG, CALCOG and the Pacific Surfliner Board of Directors. This award is usual reserved for national leaders such as Congress members, Presidential Cabinet members and such. We are proud of him and appreciative of the thousands of hours he spends seeking “upstream” solutions for local problems.
Now that we have rounded the corner on the center of the year, we look forward to Back-to-School, Pioneer Day and the holiday season. They say time flies when you are having fun. We must be having a lot of it in Paso Robles!