Mayor, two council members deserve re-election in SLO

The Tribune recommends Marx, Ashbaugh, Carpenter

letters@thetribunenews.comSeptember 30, 2012 

The three San Luis Obispo City Council incumbents are Dan Carpenter, John Ashbaugh and Jan Marx.

  • SAN LUIS OBISPO MAYOR

    Number of seats: One

    Term of office: Two years

    Salary: $1,016 per month

    Candidates: Steve Barasch, architect/businessman; Donald E. Hedrick, artisan welder; Jan Marx, incumbent/attorney

    The Tribune endorses: Jan Marx

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported Councilman Dan Carpenter's vote on a two-block improvement project on Higuera Street. Carpenter raised concerns about the expenditure, but ultimately voted in favor of the project.

When we endorsed Jan Marx for mayor two years ago, we had reservations that her slow-growth, environmental focus could hamper the city’s economic development. That has not been the case; the city has moved forward with several projects, including Chinatown, Garden Street Terraces and the much-needed expansion of the Los Osos Valley Road interchange.

As the city’s top elected official, Marx also deserves credit for helping to see San Luis Obispo through one of the worst fiscal crises in its history. Several actions, including voluntary pay cuts agreed to by city staff, are helping the city recover over the short term. And while it was largely symbolic, the mayor and council also agreed to cut their pay as well.

Also impressive are measures that will help ensure the city’s fiscal stability into the future. The repeal of binding arbitration was a huge step in that direction, and Marx was a strong and very public proponent of that. That was an especially important statement coming from Marx, since she had at one time opposed putting the issue on the ballot.

That said, we have not seen eye-to-eye with Marx on every issue; her focus on “neighborhood wellness,” for example, was ill timed given the city’s other needs. The decision to require residents to “shield” their trash cans from public view was especially ludicrous.

We also have been disappointed with the way the council majority — including Marx — has dealt with the issue of homelessness.

The decision to start ticketing people for sleeping in cars parked on city streets was too hasty and led to a costly lawsuit against the city.

Looking forward, Marx told The Tribune Editorial Board she supports construction of a homeless services center on South Higuera Street; the expansion of the safe parking program; and increasing the supply of the city’s affordable housing and transitional housing. We’re glad to hear that; should she be re-elected, we’ll look to Marx to take a leadership role in carrying out those goals.

Marx also vows to work on bringing in more head-of-household jobs. That’s a tall order, but we believe she is the best choice to bring improvement in this critical area. She’s smart, diplomatic, she does her homework and she’s shown herself to be a good ambassador for the city, in dealing with the private sector as well as with other government agencies. The Tribune strongly endorses Jan Marx for mayor.

John Ashbaugh

There have been times when John Ashbaugh has been a minority of one on the City Council. He was the only council member, for instance, who opposed the ballot measure that did away with binding arbitration. While we don’t believe that his position was in the best interests of the city, we respect Ashbaugh’s ability to take a stand, to explain his positions on controversial issues, and then to move on at the end of the day.

We should add that there have been other occasions when we have strongly agreed with Ashbaugh. He and Marx, for example, were the only two council members who voted to appoint an advisory committee to review salary and benefits for future city councils. As we said then, “The City Council should have welcomed a review by a compensation panel, instead of inviting criticism by dodging it.”

We also commend Ashbaugh for his creativity and compassion — for example, he spoke in favor of trying to convert the old Sunny Acres orphanage into living quarters for people with mental illnesses. And, while we haven’t agreed with all of his positions on ticketing homeless who sleep in vehicles parked on city streets, he’s been a strong supporter of the proposed homeless services center on South Higuera, as well as the safe parking program at the Prado Day Center.

Ashbaugh has been a strong voice for working families, as well as for the mentally ill, the elderly, the sick and others in need of safety net services. At the same time, he appreciates the need to strengthen the city’s economic base by allowing growth and removing some of the impediments to development.

The Tribune supports the re-election of John Ashbaugh to the San Luis Obispo City Council.

Dan Carpenter

Dan Carpenter has been strong on fiscal restraint: He pressed for more contract concessions from city employees, for example.

He also is a big proponent of public accountability. Last year, he was the only council member who opposed even the possibility of putting an extension of the half-cent sales tax on this year’s ballot. At the time, Carpenter said the council should wait an entire eight years — the length of time Measure Y is in effect — so that the public would have time to fully evaluate how the city used the money.

The council eventually decided not to move forward with the tax election this year — a wise move.

On another important issue, homeless services, Carpenter has been something of a wild card. He cast the sole vote against approving a settlement with homeless advocates who sued the city for ticketing people who were sleeping in their vehicles.

Recently, though, he was one of only two council members who voted not to pass a new ordinance banning sleeping in cars parked on city streets.

“My concern is that we are not addressing changing behavior but addressing a fine structure,” Carpenter said then. “The answer is not to create another ordinance but to work toward finding solutions.”

Hear, hear.

Dan Carpenter is knowledgeable, highly principled, well organized and he looks out for the taxpayers. The Tribune strongly urges his re-election.

One final word

City Council candidate Jeff Aranguena finished a close third in our evaluation of City Council candidates. He impressed us with his knowledge, his enthusiasm and his concern for the city.

If he is not elected this time around, we strongly urge him to stay involved in city politics — perhaps by volunteering on an advisory council — and to try again in the future.

Editorials are the opinion of The Tribune.

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