Looking back at a long career

February 26, 2014 

Kathy Smith

JAYSON MELLOM — jmellom@thetribunenews.com

After being honored to represent the community through seven years of public service on the San Luis Obispo City Council, I will not be a candidate for office in the fall. I will retire Dec. 1, the end of my current term.

My vacated seat paves the way for younger minds and new approaches to grapple with an increasingly intense and heavy workload. Coupled with the need to ensure that the elected council governs the city, the immediate horizon calls for fine-tuned judgments of the massive development projects.

My council perspective dates back to 1994, before emails and paid staff-driven leadership. Elected officials initiated the one-on-one meetings with staff, when needed. Most of our time was devoted to citizen communication as a first priority.

This council term has been more than a full-time job. We’ve been through two difficult budgets — one reducing staff wages and the other tiptoeing through a recovery plan. I hit the pavement through three elections, a special where I backed Measures A and B (pension reform and ending binding arbitration) and supported Dan Carpenter for a full council term in 2012. A special vote on a semblance of a Measure Y proposal is likely in the upcoming election.

I have been a strong supporter of neighborhood wellness as a priority with increased code enforcement officers, and council reluctantly passed a new approach to water rates which, actually, does assure San Luis Obispo protection from severe drought concerns in the immediate future.

Development proposals have included Garden Street Terraces, Monterey Place, Marsh Street Commons, SLO Brew, Orcutt Road Subdivision, Broad Street area plan, 19- and 41-unit senior rental housing projects, the skate park, water reclamation energy efficiency project, and more. I opposed those I felt are detrimental to the spirit of what remains a small community. This council will yet consider preliminary action on San Luis Ranch and the Chevron development agreement.

Special focus has been made to the Land Use and Circulation Element Update, now being assessed for an EIR, and homelessness concerns, which led to ordinances dealing with sleeping in cars, establishment of a Safe Parking Program and public safety measures for alcohol sales outlets. Adopted are strategic plans for climate action, bicycle transportation and economic development, as well as a historic context statement.

Increasing legal considerations were highlighted by fire and police staff indiscretions and constant closed sessions with lawsuits against the city, as well as directions to staff on employee bargaining group negotiations. One big win was defending and winning a costly suit filed by Vinciguerra Construction.

Department head staff turnover has been unsettling. The only two who remain are the heads of utilities and parks & recreation, with multiple turnovers in finance, city clerk, council administrative assistant and Fire Department. New department directors need to get in sync with our SLO way of life.

I have been blessed with support from all segments of SLO voters and have treasured knocking on doors in both of my council elections (1996 and 2010). I sincerely attempt to represent the “voice of the people” as I cast votes on issues. I want to thank those who agree and disagree. Listening to citizen points of view has been an avocation for me.

I am aware of some possible candidates and expect to jump on bandwagons that embrace a resident-oriented approach. San Luis Obispo is a special place, named the “happiest” city because of citizen empowerment. I serve to facilitate that empowerment.

Kathy Smith recently announced her retirement from the San Luis Obispo City Council.

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