4 questions for Jamie Irons and Carla Wixom, Morro Bay mayoral candidates

newsroom@thetribunenews.comApril 28, 2014 

Jamie Irons and Carla Wixom are running for Morro Bay mayor.

Mayor of Morro Bay

Term: 2 years • Salary: $700 per month

The Tribune asked Jamie Irons and Carla Wixom, candidates for mayor of Morro Bay, to answer each of these four questions in 125 words or less.

JAMIE IRONS

Jamie Irons, 54, has been mayor of Morro Bay since 2013, previously serving on the Morro Bay Planning Commission from 2009-2012. Irons, a Democrat, manages rental properties he owns with his wife, Monica, and formerly was an instrument controls technician at the Morro Bay Power Plant after completing a state-certified four-year apprenticeship with PG&E.

1. What two issues do you most want the City Council to address immediately and how?

1) Active recruitment and selection of a new city manager with the skills to proactively help shape and solve our critical long-term issues including economic development, diversifying our water supply, updating the General Plan and addressing our infrastructure needs. 2) Address our water supply. SLO County is in a declared drought emergency. Practically all of Morro Bay’s water is sourced from state water, which has declared zero deliveries for 2014, and we must assume the same for 2015. The permit to operate the city’s desalination plant expired before I took office, and we are working with the Coastal Commission to re-permit it. We also need to coordinate with the county to address short-term water supply needs.

2. How would you address the loss of $800,000 a year to the city with the closure of the Morro Bay Power Plant?

In order to ensure long-term financial stability, we need to focus on three key strategies: 1) Support local businesses through effective economic development and tourism marketing; 2) Partner with and leverage local, state and federal resources to reduce impacts to the city’s budget; and 3) Continue to evaluate the internal operations of the city to ensure we are running as efficiently as possible. Many needs have been ignored over the years, including dilapidated streets, an outdated wastewater treatment plant and other aging infrastructure. While we maintain a balanced budget because we anticipated the loss of revenue and adjusted expenditures accordingly, we cannot solve these issues with a status quo budget. The balanced approach outlined above pursues increased revenues as well as efficiencies.

3. Where do you think a new wastewater treatment plant should be built and why?

The wastewater treatment plant must be built in a location the Coastal Commission and Regional Water Quality Control Board will permit. This means a site removed from coastal hazards and capable of recycling the water for future reuse. Last year, an excellent alternative site-selection process included significant community participation. Two viable options were selected: The Morro Valley and the existing California Men’s Colony plant. Our next steps are a final intensive review, cost analysis, additional community input, and final action by council. Balancing cost, permitting requirements, long-term water needs and future regulations will be key as we consider which of the two feasible locations provides the most benefit to the community.

4. What is the most important action you can take to enhance the quality of life for Morro Bay residents?

Ensuring safe, clean and reliable long-term sources of water is the most important single action we can take to support and enhance our quality of life. Morro Bay is fortunate to already have many strong assets that make our quality of life exceptionally high, including a unique natural setting, a full-service business community and numerous citizens who contribute to our small town. Often taken for granted, water contributes to economic development, supports agriculture surrounding our city and sustains our environment. It will take better conservation, developing new supplies, collaborating with state and regional boards, and using existing infrastructure such as the desalination plant and wastewater treatment plant. Other creative and affordable solutions must also be pursued to secure water now and for our future.

CARLA WIXOM

Carla Wixom, 55, has owned Carla’s Country Kitchen restaurant in Morro Bay for 26 years and served on the City Council from 2008-2012, running unsuccessfully for mayor in 2012. A Republican, Wixom attended Cuesta College. She is married to Dan Wixom and has three children, a daughter-in-law, a stepdaughter and a son-in-law.

1. What two issues do you most want the City Council to address immediately and how?

As mayor, I would focus on the city’s long-term financial future and ensure that there is an adequate supply of drinking water for the present and future generations. I would secure the city’s financial future by not only tightly controlling expenses, but by also enacting policies that encourage economic expansion. Improved economic activity will produce the additional revenue that will keep the city running smoothly. To ensure an adequate drinking-water supply, I would work with the county and the regulators at the state level to develop a regional solution for our needs. In addition to our wells, our desalination plant, potential reuse and conservation, I believe water from the state will always be part of the solution.

2. How would you address the loss of $800,000 a year to the city with the closure of the Morro Bay Power Plant?

The plant generated more than $500,000 that was used for day-to-day city operations and $250,000 that went to our Harbor Department. Anticipating the eventual closure of the plant, four years ago I voted — along with my fellow City Council members — to slowly eliminate using the $500,000. The difference each year was used to strengthen our reserves. Because we made that tough choice, the impact of the plant closing on the city’s finances is negligible. During my last year in office, in a controversial vote, I supported the formation of an independent Tourism Bureau. Its efforts have significantly increased our bed tax. This increase over budget is close to making up for the lost power plant revenue.

3. Where do you think a new wastewater treatment plant should be built and why?

Since our current City Council has committed to choose a location by August, it is unlikely that I will have the opportunity to vote on the issue. However, as a candidate or mayor-elect, I will encourage the sitting council to seek a location with input from not only our partners at the Cayucos Sanitary District but also the county and state regulators. We must choose a site that doesn’t overburden our existing ratepayers but makes sense for the generations that will use the plant for the next 75 years.

4. What is the most important action you can take to enhance the quality of life for Morro Bay residents?

I believe there are a number of issues that affect the quality of life for the citizens of Morro Bay. Local government has a role in some of those issues. To me, feeling safe is of critical importance. It is very comforting to know that if a member of my family has a medical emergency, help is only minutes away. Not worrying about the quality of my drinking water and the reliability of our sanitary systems is another important quality-of-life issue to me. For my family (both my children and their grandmother), to have the facilities and the programs to enjoy recreation also is important. As your mayor, I consider maintaining or expanding our excellent city services as my No. 1 priority.

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