San Luis Obispo residents will have the same leadership in coming years — all three incumbents were victorious Tuesday night.
Incumbent Jan Marx took an unquestionable lead for mayor against challenger Steve Barasch in early returns and continued to gain momentum throughout the night.
Marx held a solid lead with 63 percent of votes cast. Barasch, a vocal critic of the city who ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility and a call for transparency, received 30 percent of the votes. Community advocate Donald Hedrick, who also threw his hat in the ring for mayor, had few votes.
Marx, who celebrated Tuesday night at Big Sky Café in downtown San Luis Obispo alongside her husband, Steven, said her main priority will be to set the city’s goals for the upcoming two-year budget cycle.
Under Marx’s guidance, the city has cut more than $3 million in employee compensation such as benefits and salaries to try to balance its budget.
Lingering tension between the city and employees from those cuts will have to be addressed, said Marx.
“There will definitely be a focus on strengthening employee morale,” she said.
The two council seats up for re-election, both four-year seats, will also be filled by incumbents.
Councilman Dan Carpenter took a definitive lead Tuesday, followed closely by Councilman John Ashbaugh. Carpenter, who was first appointed to the council in 2010, led with 32 percent of the votes. Ashbaugh was close behind with 31 percent.
Opponents Jeff Aranguena, Kevin Rice and Matt Strzepek trailed behind with a significant gap in votes.
“I don’t anticipate doing anything different,” Carpenter said. “I’ve been a strong supporter of fiscal sustainability by being a watchdog on spending money, and I will continue to make that my big issue — fiscal responsibility. I’m going to make sure and check my colleagues on that.”
Carpenter said he also plans to take a strong lead in dealing with the growing issue of homelessness in San Luis Obispo.
The city has struggled in recent months to find a balance between providing services for those living on the streets and in their cars and protecting the health and safety of the community.
“Because I received a substantial amount of votes, I consider that a voice of approval from voters,” Carpenter said. “I intend to remain focused on those issues.”
The City Council recently affirmed its stance against homeless people sleeping in their vehicles on city streets, narrowly passing an ordinance that prohibits camping on all city streets and parking areas. Under the ordinance, people who camp in their vehicles will be ticketed instead of being charged with a criminal offense.
The ordinance is the city’s latest attempt to address a contentious issue: the growing number of people living in their cars. Some residents have complained these people leave behind litter and human waste, and that they bring unruly behavior to otherwise quiet neighborhoods.
The city was sued by San Luis Obispo attorneys Stewart Jenkins and Saro Rizzo for a similar ordinance that issued tickets to those people found sleeping in their cars as misdemeanors.
Ashbaugh agreed that the homeless issue was something that would come to the forefront of discussion.
“We are going to continue working on issues of how to deal with our homeless here by not only managing the problem but ultimately resolving it,” he said.
Despite the strife caused by the budget cuts made in the past year, Ashbaugh said that all three incumbents being re-elected signals that the community supports the direction the city is headed.
“It validates the strategy that we have developed, and I think successfully employed in negotiations with our employee groups,” Ashbaugh said. “Now that is behind us, we have a solid basis to proceed in the future and can rebuild morale.”