Economic development, affordable housing and unfunded retirement liabilities top the list of things we’re talking about in this edition of the Mayor’s Blog.
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. In addition, the City’s new Airport Commission is moving forward. The Council has adopted new rules and regulations including a new Airport Leasing Policy. This will give the Commission a greater ability to facilitate growth and development. On the tourism front, local hoteliers and other destination-related businesses are forming a new, stand-along Destination Marketing Organization. The City will be able to contract with this organization to improve marketing efforts. The Council will make final decisions regarding this at its June 20 meeting.
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 the time it takes to 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. We have also commissioned a new Water and Sewer Fee Connection Study to evaluate how barriers to new housing can be minimized. 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. The sooner we speak with one voice, the sooner significant change will occur to protect employee retirement and keep our cities financially viable.
What’s going on elsewhere? Lots!
We recently heard from neighbors in the County regarding the proposed Cabernet Links RV Resort in the Jardine area east of the Airport. The Council held a three-hour appeal of the project and explored the issues in depth. We made significant change in water and sewer service as well as ingress/egress points. Kudos to the folks who brought the appeal forward. Their concerns were logically constructed and well presented. As is so often in cases like this, no one gets everything they want. I do believe that appropriate compromises have been made in this plan, which will benefit everyone affected.
The recent 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.
The City continues to work on integrating bicycle traffic on our streets. Some neighborhoods feel this is inappropriate and unsafe. In at least one area, we have directed a traffic-monitoring project to get a better handle on the situation. Meanwhile, we are updating the 2009 Bicycle Master Plan. Many thanks to all participated in the recent workshop. Thanks also to the students of Kermit King Elementary School who participated in a workshop just for them held at City Hall. The draft of that plan should be ready for review in September. Meanwhile, if you thoughts on the subject please send them to me or to City Planner Susan DeCarli (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Paso Robles City Library Summer Reading Program, “Build a Better World,” kicks off this month. There are activities for kids and adults. Find out more by visiting the library at 1000 Spring Street or check out their section of the City website (www.prcity.com).
I had the opportunity recently find out what it’s like to be a real firefighter. The Paso Robles Fire department included me in an exercise near Union Road and Highway 46 recently. Dressed in full turnout gear I got to enter a smoking house carrying a fire hose. It’s not as much fun as it sounds, especially when you get inside and realize you can’t see six inches in front of your own face. After the fire exercise, I got a course in CPR. Hope I never have to use it, but it’s good to know I can.
Congratulations to Clyde Ganes upon his retirement from the Paso Robles Building Department. In addition to all he has done for us he reportedly is the “world’s best barbecue.” Good to know you’ll have something to do in retirement, Clyde. Thanks for everything!
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.
Congratulations to Paso Robles Main Street for the successful Olive Fest. Councilman Strong and I had fun conducting the Mayor’s “Taste of the Olive” competition. Three local restaurants donated appetizers for the public to taste and rank. First place went to F. McClintocks, second to The Odyssey and third to Touch of Paso. Congratulations! (It was delicious.)
Until next we blog, here’s to you Paso Robles!