Greetings, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to all!
With the usual trepidation about presuming to be able to predict the future, I am pleased to share some thoughts about items, issues and (hopefully) answers that may be on the horizon for our community in 2018. No doubt unforeseen challenges will emerge, but these are some of the things we look forward to addressing in the next twelve months.
Our city has been blessed with a health economy including strong retail sales and world-recognized tourism. As we move forward we will focus on building new components of the local economy to produce a wider array of head-of-household jobs. This will create a more balanced economy that is not reliant upon one specific industry. The result of our success in this area will be a stronger, more resilient economic base. We have already begun this process with the formation of our new Airport Commission and more focused roles for our local Chamber of Commerce and Paso Robles Wine Alliance. Just as we declared in the 1990s that we would become the retail hub of the area, we will declare now that we are poised to become the economic development center.
A critical component for economic development and for the continued quality of life for current residents is the development of a wider, more affordable selection of housing. The existing inventory of homes and rentals continues to pushes that affordability out of the picture. To accommodate existing and future needs we need to progress towards our General Plan housing goals. Next year we will see the impacts of changes proposed by our Housing Constraints and Opportunities Committee. These changes will produce a more affordable, streamlined development process while insuring that infrastructure improvements required by development are realized.
Streets and Roads
We are five years into our 12-year program to use General Fund money, sales tax override funding and grants to improve city streets. Our first target consisted of large collectors and arterials. The fruit of those efforts is readily observable. Next, we start focusing on residential streets. To provide the greatest possible input from our citizens we have empowered the Special Sales Tax Oversight Committee to collect that input and make recommendations to the City Council. This committee will continue to be responsible for examining repair expenditures to ensure we are making the appropriate expenditure of the voter-approved sales tax override. Expect to see more great progress.
We will continue to support and enhance our public safety agencies. As one would expect, the hiring, training and equipping of Police officers and firefighters is a very cost-intensive process. Nevertheless, we are committed to incremental improvements that won’t break the bank but will continue to raise the level of public safety in our city. We will pay particular attention to the recent fire safety study which plots the course for that department’s personnel and facility development.
In the latter part of 2017 we have turned the corner on participation with and communications with other levels of government. Specifically, the Mayor’s office has reached out to the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors and other Mayors in our county to enlist support for regional issues such as unfunded retirement liability, cost-effective animal control services, improved mental health services, opioid abuse, regional transportation issues and affordable housing strategies. We have also been active participants in efforts by the League of California Cities and the National League of Cities to address these issues. Most recently, our County leaders have acknowledged that our cities should be treated more as “partners” and less as “customers” when discussing future regional issues. Expect to see more engagement between governmental partners in 2018.
Among the other issues we will face in the upcoming year are the evolution of laws and policies governing cannabis use, the potential re-use of the mothballed California Youth Authority property and the continuing need to address homelessness. I am hopeful we will have meaningful community discussions regarding the cultural development of Paso Robles including new and re-purposed facilities and a nurturing of the performing arts.
These are just a few if the issues we will face in 2018 and there may be more out there. I am so very pleased that here in the City of Paso Robles we have the “can-do” attitude to face the expected and unexpected with courage, optimism and boundless energy. As we look to 2018 we do so as people who are immensely proud of our past and who have great confidence and energy for the future of our city.
On behalf of the entire Paso Robles Council and staff I wish for you, your families and our community the happiest and most productive New Year.
Until next we blog, here’s to you Paso Robles!