John Spatafore would be good leader for SLO shelter efforts

While we hope he will run again for City Council someday, right now he is in a strong position to break the deadlock on this issue

May 8, 2013 

John Spatafore

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

John Spatafore’s decision to drop out of the San Luis Obispo City Council race is undoubtedly a disappointment to his many supporters. Spatafore was a strong candidate, and while we ultimately endorsed Carlyn Christianson, we believe Spatafore also would have made a fine City Council member.

We strongly urge him to consider running for a council seat in a future election. In the meantime, we hope he will fill another pivotal role by leading the effort to build a homeless services center in San Luis Obispo.

In a meeting with The Tribune Editorial Board, Spatafore spoke eloquently of the need for commitment and visionary leadership on this project. We couldn’t agree more. The debate over where to build the shelter has become polarized to the point of paralysis. Fundraising is at a standstill and there’s a danger that a $1 million state grant could be lost.

We need someone to keep the community on track — someone with diplomacy, objectivity, asense of urgency and the vision to unite us behind a common goal, which is to build a permanent, well-designed facility to replace the deteriorating Maxine Lewis Memorial Shelter and to consolidate services spread throughout the community.

Spatafore already has been at the forefront of this cause; he was a founding member and chairman of the SLO City/County Task Force on homelessness, and he serves on the board of Friends of Prado Day Center.

On top of that, he has forged relationships with leaders on both sides of the issue, including the South Higuera Street business owners who oppose a shelter in their neighborhood, and prefer 40 Prado Road instead.

As we’ve said before, we don’t share that point of view. We support moving forward with the South Higuera location — we believe it’s the least costly and most expeditious way to go. But if no one’s going to budge until we have an engineering study on the other site, so be it.

But let’s get that study done as quickly as possible. And once we’ve made a decision on a site, let’s not look back.

The alternative is to continue searching for the perfect site — the one that will satisfy all constituencies. That’s a search that’s doomed to fail, and we can’t let that happen.

With the help of strong, committed leaders — and again, we hope that John Spatafore will be at the forefront — it won’t.

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