Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Camp Roberts won’t be used to house unaccompanied migrant children

Posted By on Wed, Jun 2, 2021 at 4:49 PM

Camp Roberts is no longer being considered as a location to temporarily house unaccompanied migrant children.
NOT HOUSED The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has decided that Camp Roberts will not be used to temporarily house unaccompanied migrant children. - PHOTO COURTESY OF CAL GUARD MILITARY DEPARTMENT
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF CAL GUARD MILITARY DEPARTMENT
  • NOT HOUSED The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has decided that Camp Roberts will not be used to temporarily house unaccompanied migrant children.

A spokesperson from the U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal’s office (D-Santa Barbara) said the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) informed the office that it doesn’t plan to use Camp Roberts due to a decrease in the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the U.S. border.

The spokesperson told New Times that there are significantly fewer unaccompanied minors being apprehended and placed in HHS custody, so there is less need for additional facilities to house them.

According to the HHS daily report, as of June 2, 439 unaccompanied children were in U.S. Customs and Border Patrol custody. The numbers have dropped from April, when 5,000 unaccompanied minors were in custody.

The #NotCampRoberts Coalition, which recently formed in opposition to using the facility as a temporary housing center, said it is relieved to hear the news that children won’t be housed at Camp Roberts.

“It has always been the Coalition’s intention to advocate in the best interests of the children. We recognize the challenges that the Biden administration faces as they move forward in their efforts to respond to this humanitarian crisis,” the coalition said in a statement. “The Coalition will continue to work toward comprehensive immigration reform that will include providing safe temporary housing for asylum seekers and advocating for children to be united with family or sponsors as soon as possible.” ∆
—Peter Johnson

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Dozens of SLO households given ‘boil water’ notice after main line break

Posted By on Wed, May 26, 2021 at 8:47 AM

About 100 households in San Luis Obispo are under a “boil water” notice until Thursday, May 27, following a main line break that occurred on Bullock Lane on May 25.

TESTING THE WATERS A boil water notice is in effect through May 27 for San Luis Obispo households that lie between the blue and purple boundaries. - MAP COURTESY OF THE CITY OF SLO
  • MAP COURTESY OF THE CITY OF SLO
  • TESTING THE WATERS A boil water notice is in effect through May 27 for San Luis Obispo households that lie between the blue and purple boundaries.
City Utilities Department Director Aaron Floyd said that while crews repaired the break the same day, it ended up entirely depleting the 400,000-gallon water tank that serves that region of the city—leaving some households at higher elevations without any water pressure.

“When that pipe broke, that’s what took the tank down,” Floyd said. “Typically we can backfeed water into the system. What happened is this one drained faster than we could get in front of it.”

As required by state law, SLO issued a boil water notice at 11 a.m. to all households that temporarily lost pressure—concerned that outside water and potential contaminants may have flowed back into pipelines. The city is now doing two separate tests of the water, 24 hours apart.

“We delivered notifications door-to-door, in both English and in Spanish,” Floyd said. “We totally feel for them.”

Affected residents are advised to boil their tap water for drinking and cooking purposes until the water is cleared, likely on Thursday morning. Bottled water will be available at the Sinsheimer Park swimming pool parking lot on May 26, between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Preliminary tests of the water indicated that chlorine was present, which is important for disinfecting, the city said.

“That is a good thing,” Floyd said.

While SLO has an aging water system that is no stranger to main line breaks, Floyd said that this is the first time a boil water notice has hit the city since he arrived in 2003.

“It is super unfortunate that it happened,” Floyd said. “We’re adding redundancy to [that water tank] so this won’t happen in the future.” ∆

—Peter Johnson

Monday, May 24, 2021

Dungeness crab fishing season ends four weeks early

Posted By on Mon, May 24, 2021 at 5:08 PM

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is ending the Dungeness crab fishing season early on June 1 because of an increase in humpback whales in the Pacific Ocean.

END OF SEASON The California Department of Fish and Wildlife called an end to the Dungeness crab fishing season four weeks early to prevent potential whale entanglement. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • END OF SEASON The California Department of Fish and Wildlife called an end to the Dungeness crab fishing season four weeks early to prevent potential whale entanglement.
On May 18, Charlton Bonham, director of the state agency, announced that recent survey data indicated an increase in humpback whales returning from their winter breeding grounds to California fishing grounds.

In a press release, Bonham said that considering the data and recommendations from the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group and other stakeholders, he assessed the entanglement risk under the Risk Assessment Mitigation Program (RAMP) and announced the early closure of the commercial Dungeness crab fishery.

All commercial crab traps must be removed from the fishing grounds by noon on June 1.

“It has been a very difficult year for many in our fishing communities and I recognize that every day of lost fishing further impacts families and small businesses,” Bonham said. “I acknowledge the sacrifices and resilience of California’s fishermen and women and look forward to continuing to work with the fleet and the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group to minimize entanglement risk while maximizing opportunities.”

The closure shortens the fishing season by four weeks in the central management zone and six weeks in the northern management zone of the state.

RAMP regulations were designed by the working group and stakeholders to minimize entanglement risk and provide for a long-term viable commercial fishing industry.

Bonham also authorized the lost and abandoned gear program, which removes traps left in the water, to begin its work on June 7 at 6 a.m.

Geoff Shester—a campaign director and senior scientist for Oceana, a nonprofit ocean conservation organization and member of the Dungeness Crab Fishing Gear Working Group—released a statement on the closure.

“The new system of time and area closures is working; there have been no confirmed whale or sea turtle entanglements in California commercial Dungeness crab gear this season. We commend the Department of Fish and Wildlife for collecting and acting on real-time data showing when and where whales have returned to feed. We hope to see this successful science-based approach continue to allow fishing when the risk of entanglements is low and encourage further development of pop-up gear innovations to allow additional fishing opportunities. Thanks to strong science and collaborative innovation, we’re keeping our coasts safer for whales and sea turtles while still maintaining one of California’s most valuable fisheries,” Shester said. ∆

—Karen Garcia

Friday, May 21, 2021

Citizen-led survey aims to find trends in local catalytic converter thefts

Posted By on Fri, May 21, 2021 at 7:20 PM

Grover Beach resident Angela Henderson heard about the nationwide rise in thefts of catalytic converters last month almost immediately after she bought a Toyota Prius, the most common target of such crimes.

SWIPED Catalytic converter theft is surging due to the part's high-valued precious metals, like palladium and rhodium. The global push to lower vehicle emissions—which catalytic converters help do—is also driving up their value to record levels. - PHOTO FROM SLOPD FACEBOOK PAGE
  • PHOTO FROM SLOPD FACEBOOK PAGE
  • SWIPED Catalytic converter theft is surging due to the part's high-valued precious metals, like palladium and rhodium. The global push to lower vehicle emissions—which catalytic converters help do—is also driving up their value to record levels.
She heard about it on the news, from local police, and then her neighbors started posting about it on Nextdoor constantly, many saying they’d been hit overnight and detailing the thousands of dollars required to replace their stolen parts.

“It’s not a small thing,” Henderson said. “It could total your car.”

Henderson got so freaked out that she eventually paid around $200 to have a protective plate installed over her car’s catalytic converter. Then she launched an online survey aimed at finding trends among the thefts in Five Cities. If there’s a specific time or day when catalytic converter thefts are most common, Henderson hopes she can at least warn her neighbors to be on their guard.

“Well the police just sort of tell us what’s happening after the fact,” she said. “What I’m trying to see is patterns.”

In mid-March, the San Luis Obispo Police Department announced that citizens had reported 73 stolen converters since Jan. 1, or almost one per day. Ten were stolen in a single weekend in late April, all swiped from Priuses.

The problem isn't contained to SLO. Converters disappeared from six school vans in a Paso Robles Joint Unified School District vehicle yard in early March. Morro Bay police issued an alert in February about a local uptick. SLO County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Tony Cipolla said unincorporated communities have also been hit hard in recent months.

According to national news reports, catalytic converter theft is surging due to the part's high-valued precious metals, like palladium and rhodium. The global push to lower vehicle emissions—which catalytic converters help do—is also driving up their value to record levels.

Converters are an easy target for theft due to their exposed location under vehicles, and police say thieves are using hand tools like reciprocating saws to quickly remove the part.

Henderson’s survey can be completed online and includes just five questions. She hasn’t received many responses so far, but she’s hoping to get a clearer picture of the problem as more people find out about the survey.

“South Grover seems to be hit the hardest. But they’re coming into north Grover now too,” she said. “It’s disturbing.” ∆

—Kasey Bubnash

Thursday, May 20, 2021

CommUnify’s Senior Nutrition Program is in peril, organization says

Posted By on Thu, May 20, 2021 at 2:47 PM

CommUnify, formerly known as the Community Action Commission of Santa Barbara County, will be discontinuing its Senior Nutrition Program after nearly 50 years of serving Santa Barbara County—unless the organization can secure more funding.

FOOD FOR SENIORS CommUnify’s longstanding Senior Nutrition Program, which delivers nutritious meals to local seniors, is no longer financially sustainable, unless the organization can find funding. - PHOTO COURTESY OF COMMUNIFY
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF COMMUNIFY
  • FOOD FOR SENIORS CommUnify’s longstanding Senior Nutrition Program, which delivers nutritious meals to local seniors, is no longer financially sustainable, unless the organization can find funding.
During public comment at the May 18 Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors meeting, CommUnify CEO Patricia Keelean said that the program is no longer financially sustainable after a year of record-breaking need.

“During the pandemic, demand for meals has more than doubled,” she said. “In April alone, we provided more than 17,000 meals to over 720 seniors.”

But the financial challenges began long before the pandemic started. Over the past 10 years, the program has operated at a deficit, Keelean said, and the expense of providing services has only increased as the minimum wage, transportation costs, and food prices have all gone up.

“For that reason, CommUnify’s board of directors voted unanimously on May 5 to discontinue the Senior Nutrition Program, effective June 30,” Keelean told the board. “This is a very painful decision after 47 years of dedicated service to the seniors of Santa Barbara County.”

The only way the program could continue to operate in the long term, Keelean said, is with a secure, annual funding source. She made a plea to the Board of Supervisors to consider providing that money from the county level.

“In order to continue providing nutritious meals to seniors today, we must have a commitment for an additional $600,000 to $700,000 in permanent funding on an annual basis,” Keelean said. “Even at this amount, CommUnify will still be committing to fundraise roughly half a million dollars annually to break even.”

The Board of Supervisors allocated $77,000 to CommUnify earlier this year, which Keelean said allowed the organization to serve an additional 114 seniors in February and March. But it’s not enough to sustain the decades-old program much longer.

Keelean told New Times that simply being funded for one additional year would be helpful if an annual line item in the budget isn’t possible for the county.

“I would hope that at a minimum, that there could be some gap funding that would allow us to continue to provide the services through June 30 of next year,” she said. “In between, we could begin a community conversation around the issue of food insecurity for our seniors.”

Keelean said that a solution to the issue requires more than just local support.

“On a national level, the Older Americans Act is not adequately funded to support meal services or other services for our seniors,” she said. “I think there needs to be a multi-level advocacy effort to educate Congress about the growing needs among our senior population.”

Locally, Keelean asks that community members reach out to the Board of Supervisors to advocate for funding allocations for the Senior Nutrition Program. As of May 19, Keelean said she hadn’t heard from any board members about her plea for funding.

“When those funds for additional meals go away, then what’s going to happen is that whoever is the provider for this program, whether it’s us or another organization, are going to have to make very difficult decisions about who’s going to receive meals and who is not,” she said. “It’s imperative that we start to come together as a community and have a conversation about the needs of seniors.” Δ

—Malea Martin

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

SLO wins $1.7 million grant for Anholm neighborhood bikeway

Posted By on Tue, May 18, 2021 at 4:19 PM

San Luis Obispo recently secured a state grant that will help fund the construction of its Anholm Neighborhood Greenway—a hotly-contested bike project that will establish a protected bike lane down Chorro and Broad streets, connecting downtown SLO with Foothill Boulevard.

GOING GREEN SLO city is gearing up to start construction on its controversial Anholm bikeway (rendered) early next year. - FILE IMAGE COURTESY OF THE CITY OF SLO
  • FILE IMAGE COURTESY OF THE CITY OF SLO
  • GOING GREEN SLO city is gearing up to start construction on its controversial Anholm bikeway (rendered) early next year.
The $1.7 million grant covers about 70 percent of the project cost, according to the city. The local bikeway was one of 25 projects selected across the state for a grant last month from the California Natural Resources Agency, as part of its $28 million Urban Greening Program.

“The competition for these state funds is extremely competitive with over 75 projects submitted for grant consideration,” SLO City Manager Derek Johnson said. “We are grateful to receive this grant.”

According to a city press release, the 1.7-mile greenway, which will break ground in early 2022, will involve the construction of protected bikeways, accessible curb ramp upgrades, pedestrian crossing enhancements, new street trees, stormwater management features, as well as safety lighting and public art at the Highway 101 undercrossing on Chorro Street.

The bikeway will run north on Chorro Street (from the direction of downtown) to Mission Street, where it will relocate to Broad Street, and continue on to Foothill Boulevard.

Because of the bikeway, 56 on-street parking spaces will be removed in the neighborhood—a major point of contention among residents and property owners who lobbied against the project until its approval in 2018.

“[The Anholm Neighborhood Greenway] is intended to create a safer connection between neighborhood destinations, schools, parks, open space, and the city's downtown center,” the city press release read. “The project represents one of the highest priorities in the city's recently adopted Active Transportation Plan and will help make progress towards the community’s goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2035.” ∆

—Peter Johnson

Monday, May 10, 2021

Kings County weighs in on Paso police’s removal of ‘Blue Lives Matter’ flag

Posted By on Mon, May 10, 2021 at 5:02 PM

A neighboring county’s sheriff’s association says it’s upset about the removal of a “Blue Lives Matter” flag from the Paso Robles Public Safety Center over the May 1 weekend.
TWO SIDES Paso Robles Police Chief Ty Lewis said he removed a thin blue line flag in an effort to respect the various viewpoints surrounding the flag. - IMAGE COURTESY OF THE PASO ROBLES POLICE DEPARTMENT FACEBOOK PAGE
  • IMAGE COURTESY OF THE PASO ROBLES POLICE DEPARTMENT FACEBOOK PAGE
  • TWO SIDES Paso Robles Police Chief Ty Lewis said he removed a thin blue line flag in an effort to respect the various viewpoints surrounding the flag.

In a Facebook post, the Kings County Deputy Sheriff’s Association said it was disappointed with Paso Robles Police Chief Ty Lewis's explanation for why he took down an “American thin blue line flag” that a resident put up outside the police station.

“The constant caving to the ‘woke’ cancel culture sweeping across America is promoting lawlessness and fueling negativity toward our beloved law enforcement,” the post read. “The Kings County Deputy Sheriff’s Association sends their support and admiration to the brave men and women at the Paso Robles Police Department. Now more than ever before we need our leaders to stand tall and support those of us who risk our lives.”

In the post’s comments, PRotect Paso founder Brandon Stier thanked the association for its post and said it was his event and group that put the flag up. The PRotect Paso Facebook group describes itself as a network of “patriots” with the goal of protecting the city’s businesses, community, and supporting local police.

PRotect Paso attached a “thin blue line” flag to a light post near the corner of 10th and Park Streets in addition to American flags, blue ribbons, and other decorations on gates, light poles, and other public property surrounding the Public Safety Center in support of the police department.

Lewis addressed the decision to remove the flag on the Paso Robles Police Department’s Facebook page.

Shortly after the flag was installed, Lewis said he was forwarded a complaint sent to the city by a concerned citizen. The complaint cited concerns that the flag was controversial and divisive and requested the flag be removed immediately.

“I am aware that the symbolism of thin blue line flags is viewed differently by many. Some view it as a symbol of law enforcement support, while others view it as a racist and divisive symbol. I leave it to each community member to research this controversial topic and form their own opinions. With that said, in an attempt to avoid any controversy and preserve public trust, I ordered the flag be removed from the light pole,” the post stated.

After the flag’s removal, Facebook users began rumors that the flag was stolen. Lewis said that he was responsible for removing the flag and called on community members to cease from the “unproductive and negative conversations on social media.”

Lewis told New Times that public trust is fragile, and as a police officer he’s committed himself to specific ethical standards—the California police officer code of ethics.

By taking the flag down, Lewis said he wants the Paso Robles community to know he respects the differing views out there.

“Various community members have relayed their frustration with police because they often feel their voice isn’t heard or acknowledged. They feel marginalized at best and unsafe at worse. My job is to peaceably solve problems whenever possible and to build trust. I love Paso Robles, there is strong and broad public support for us, but there are those who don’t trust us. They don’t trust me. Ignoring those viewpoints of people with real fears doesn’t help me create a stronger, safer, or more trusted police department and community,” he said.

As a leader in the community, Lewis said he believes his job is to bring people together through respect of differing opinions and providing an opportunity to build trust—which he’s finding out isn’t easy.

Lewis also noted that the Paso Public Safety Center is not a symbol of any political view or agenda; it should be professional, unbiased, and provide a safe place for anyone’s voice to be heard. His decision to remove the flag doesn’t mean he doesn’t support his officers or the law enforcement profession. Lewis said he supports and respects the individuals who fly the thin blue line flag and those who might view the flag as divisive.

Ultimately, Lewis hopes the community understands that the local police department loves their support.

“I hope they learn the importance of civility. I hope they learn that I am committed to transparency, unbiased policing, providing a voice to everyone, that I listen, that I will always strive to make decisions in the public’s best interest. Even when it opens me to criticism,” he said. “Lastly, I hope they understand that policing is an honorable profession and the city of Paso Robles is home to the best officers anywhere.” ∆

—Karen Garcia

Friday, May 7, 2021

Carbajal introduces bill to fund safe parking programs around the country

Posted By on Fri, May 7, 2021 at 3:55 PM

A new bill could help local cities launch and operate safe parking programs for the homeless, programs similar to those that have popped up throughout San Luis Obispo County since the pandemic’s start.

At a press conference in Santa Barbara on May 3, U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) introduced the Naomi Schwartz Safe Parking Program Act, which, if passed, would establish a grant program that cities and counties could utilize for safe parking programs.
SAFE PARKING FOR ALL At a press conference in Santa Barbara on May 3, U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) introduced the Naomi Schwartz Safe Parking Program Act. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MANNAL HADDAD
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF MANNAL HADDAD
  • SAFE PARKING FOR ALL At a press conference in Santa Barbara on May 3, U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) introduced the Naomi Schwartz Safe Parking Program Act.

“I’m proud to bring this successful Central Coast program into the national spotlight and help it expand to places across the country,” Carbajal said at the press conference. “I will be fighting for better resources and legislation that tackle homelessness and create more affordable housing and opportunities so every American has access to a safe place to call home.”

Safe parking programs are gaining popularity throughout the U.S. as a simple and relatively low cost way to provide at least some services to individuals experiencing homelessness. Sleeping in a car is illegal on most city streets, and through these programs, homeless people living out of cars or RVs can park safely in a designated area overnight, allowing them to get sleep without having to worry about visits from law enforcement or complaints from neighbors.

The first ever safe parking program, according to Carbajal, was established in 2004 in Santa Barbara, with the help of former Santa Barbara County Supervisor Naomi Schwartz. Santa Barbara’s parking program is largely considered successful to this day.

Through the Naomi Schwartz Safe Parking Program Act, local governments nationwide would be able to apply for up to $5 million in five-year grants through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to develop or run programs similar to Santa Barbara’s. The grants, according to Carbajal, could be used for establishing and operating parking programs, providing permanent housing assistance to program users, establishing and maintaining restrooms and showers for attendees, entering data into HUD’s Homeless Management Information System, and maintaining the vehicles of program users.

Janna Nichols, executive director of 5Cities Homeless Coalition, said that while Carbajal’s grant program would clearly help address SLO County’s chronic lack of sustainable funding for homeless services, finding somewhere to provide those services is often an even bigger obstacle.

The 5Cities Homeless Coalition, for example, piloted a kind of safe parking program when Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the COVID-19 stay-at-home order last spring. Through the program, a handful of South County residents living in their cars parked at the Coastal Dunes RV Park and Campground, which was temporarily closed to campers and where 5Cities Homeless Coalition provided case management services. In just two months, Nichols said her organization housed seven families through the parking program.

But the program ended shortly after that when Coastal Dunes reopened to campers.

“Once the shelter-at-home order was lifted,” Nichols said, “that site was no longer available to us for the program, and we were unable to identify another location.”

The Community Action Partnership of SLO County (CAPSLO) recently opened a safe parking program in a 20-space lot next to the SLO Railroad Museum. Although the lot is equipped with a porta-potty, hand-washing station, and trash disposal, the program has had little participation since it opened on March 16, a contrast to similar programs operated by SLO County early on in the pandemic that saw consistent and significant turn out.

Tim Waag is a volunteer with Hope’s Village of SLO, an organization that offers various homeless services. Waag said he thinks SLO County’s early safe parking success was the result of lax rules regarding entry to the program. Attendees didn’t have to sign up for case management services or stay on site through the night like in some other safe parking programs.

“I am in favor of this initiative, as I am sure there are many municipalities similar to Santa Barbara’s that will make this proposed safe parking grant program a success,” Waag wrote in an email to New Times. “I’m afraid that if we stay on our current path, we will not be one of them. So sad.” ∆

—Kasey Bubnash

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

New play structure coming to Santa Maria park

Posted By on Wed, May 5, 2021 at 1:47 PM

Santa Maria kids will soon have a new playground to enjoy. The city announced that it will be replacing the outdated play structure at Rodenberger Park with a colorful new one that features slides, a swing set, and a reservable field and fitness course.

“We went around and assessed all the playgrounds, and decided that this was the one that was most in need of replacement,” Recreation and Parks Assistant Director Brett Fulgoni said. “We already had a playground structure allocated for it, so we decided to go ahead and move forward with it.”

OUTDATED The current play structure at Rodenberger Park is outdated and will be replaced in the coming months. - PHOTO COURTESY OF DENNIS SMITHERMAN
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF DENNIS SMITHERMAN
  • OUTDATED The current play structure at Rodenberger Park is outdated and will be replaced in the coming months.
Fulgoni explained that particularly for older structures, there comes a point where the whole structure is better off being replaced rather than repaired.

“The existing structure is original to the park, so it’s late ’80s,” he said. “As designs change, safety gets improved … when you have an old structure like that it’s hard to find parts, hard to do replacements, and it just gets old and harder to work on as the years go by.”

Rodenberger Park is named after Ronald (Rod) Rodenberger, a city statement said, “who faithfully served on numerous volunteer boards and commissions for the betterment of the community.”

Rodenberger was a recreation and parks commissioner for more than 20 years, and a founding member and president of the People for Leisure And Youth, (PLAY) Inc., in addition to serving on other local boards, the statement said.

“Rod was also the 2005 recipient of the prestigious Jeffersonian Award, which is given to those individuals who embody and exemplify the unique and distinct ideals of true citizenship and public service to their community,” according to the statement.

Fulgoni said the replacement at Rodenberger Park will be a fairly standard, modern play structure. The work will begin in mid-May, and the city hopes to wrap up the project by mid-August.

Santa Maria is simultaneously working on more extensive parks renovations, like that of the Veterans Memorial Park.

“That’s part of a $2.1 million project, Proposition 68 grant funded,” Fulgoni said. “That one’s coming down the pike, and there’ll be a complete new playground at that facility as well.”

According to a city statement from last year, the Veterans Memorial Park renovations include “a new event plaza, playground, walking paths, exercise stations, art wall, basketball court, memorial garden, and new landscaping and lighting throughout the park.”

With multiple local park improvements on the horizon, Fulgoni said he looks forward to the community enjoying these spaces, especially as COVID-19 spread continues to be contained.

“I’m excited that people are going to be able to have some semblance of normalcy,” he said. “People are out there playing again.” Δ

—Malea Martin

Friday, April 23, 2021

Economic Recovery Initiative aims to repair local economy after pandemic, power plant closures

Posted By on Fri, Apr 23, 2021 at 4:04 PM

A group of local elected officials recently launched an initiative aimed at patching up the Central Coast’s post-pandemic economy, but the effort doesn’t appear to have much Republican support so far.

The Central Coast Economic Recovery Initiative is a set of policy concepts, program ideas, and proposals aimed at stimulating the local economy and creating jobs through housing, clean energy, and infrastructure investment, according to an April 14 press release announcing the program’s launch.

ROAD TO RECOVERY A group of progressive elected officials recently launched the Central Coast Economic Recovery Initiative, an effort to repair and stimulate the local economy post pandemic. - FILE PHOTO
  • FILE PHOTO
  • ROAD TO RECOVERY A group of progressive elected officials recently launched the Central Coast Economic Recovery Initiative, an effort to repair and stimulate the local economy post pandemic.
“With $85 million in federal relief funds coming to SLO County government agencies—and the potential for millions more earmarked for infrastructure improvements—now is the time to to work together to identify how we can invest in our community in a fiscally responsible way while also ensuring help goes to those who need it most,” Arroyo Grande City Councilmember Jimmy Paulding said in the release.

Paulding helped author the Economic Recovery Initiative and said the goal is to drive immediate decision making and meaningful action that will stimulate the local economy over the next two years. In short, he said it’s a place for local leaders and community members to hash out ways to stay economically stable after the COVID-19 pandemic and closures of both the Diablo Canyon Power Plant and the local Philips 66 refinery.

“How are we going to plan for all these things?” Paulding told New Times. “These are huge economic impacts.”

The group hopes to implement affordable housing strategies and pandemic relief programs, support clean energy investments, and modernize regional transportation, water, and broadband infrastructure. Cal Poly’s Institute for Climate Leadership and Resilience partnered with the Economic Recovery Initiative team to study the feasibility of its “more technical concepts” at low or no cost to local governments. Paulding hopes the initiative will tackle these economic challenges through in-depth research and using the talent, knowledge, and input of community members.

Economic Recovery Initiative authors also include SLO County 3rd District Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg, Central Coast Community Energy Advisory Councilmember Bruce Severance, SLO Climate Coalition Chair Eric Veium, community organizer James Sofranko, and SLO City Councilmember Andy Pease. Like the initiative’s authors, its initial supporters are also local elected officials and leaders who lean left.

But Paulding said the program is still in its earliest stages.

“We’ve tried to structure this in a bipartisan manner,” Paulding said, “and that’s the goal, to get bipartisan support.” ∆

—Kasey Bubnash
Readers Poll

How do you think law enforcement should handle catalytic converter thefts?

  • Fund a countywide installment of catalytic converter shields.
  • Enforce an alternative punishment for these crimes.
  • Advocate for reimbursing people who had their catalytic converters stolen.
  • Not my problem. My catalytic converter never got stolen.

View Results

Spotlight Events

  • Dress a Child Around the World @ United Church of Christ (Congregational) of San Luis Obispo

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