Of the five candidates running for two seats on the Atascadero City Council, we found incumbent Tom O’Malley to be the strongest candidate and our top choice.
O’Malley is experienced, hardworking, articulate and meticulously organized. It would be a shame to lose his expertise and guidance at this critical time in the city’s history, as it tries to move forward with economic development and improvements to the downtown.
In his eight years on the council, O’Malley has dealt with a variety of challenging issues, including the Wal-Mart controversy; the aftermath of the San Simeon Earthquake, which greatly damaged the city’s historic Rotunda building; the ongoing economic downturn; and a string of political upheavals that divided citizens on environmental, business and growth issues.
Through it all, we’ve found O’Malley to be even-handed and professional, and we believe he’s brought positive changes that will help the city operate more smoothly in the future.
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For example, within months of first taking office he helped engineer a compromise that changed the way city planning commissioners are appointed. Previously, all seven commissioners were appointed by a majority vote of council, which meant that whatever group happened to be in power on the council controlled appointments to the Planning Commission. Now, each City Council member appoints one representative, and the remaining two are voted on at large by the council, which helps ensure that a greater diversity of views will be represented on the commission.
We also like the fact that O’Malley’s experience extends beyond the city of Atascadero to include service on several regional boards and committees. He’s served on the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board; he’s been president of the San Luis Obispo County Council of Governments; he’s been a representative to the League of California Cities; and he’s been chairman of the county’s Economic Vitality Commission.
The second seat was a tougher decision. We found two candidates to be almost equally qualified and capable: Brian Sturtevant and Chuck Ward. In the final analysis, however, we believe Sturtevant would be a better fit on the current council.
Like Ward, Sturtevant has served on the Planning Commission, which gives him a good grasp of issues facing the city, as well as a strong working knowledge of how city government functions.
He also would be able to offer the perspective of Atascadero’s young, working families. We like the fact that he’s a strong advocate for economic development in the downtown and recognizes that, in the long run, some city investments now will pay huge dividends in the future.
Like O’Malley, he’s a strong supporter of the city’s decision to invest in the repair of the quake-damaged Rotunda building.
“It’s the icon of our city,” Sturtevant said. We couldn’t agree more on the need to move forward with the renovations.
We like the fact that Ward has a strong, independent voice — for example, he was the only one of the candidates who unequivocally opposed the development of two movie theaters in the city — yet we wonder whether his black-and-white perceptions would interfere with his ability to examine all sides of an issue and help bring about a compromise.
We’re concerned, too, that Ward was reluctant to answer our questions about climate change and greenhouse gas emissions — an issue that will become increasingly important to governments of all levels. His final analysis — “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it” — hardly seems an adequate, or accurate, response to such a critical issue.
Bottom line: We believe that O’Malley and Sturtevant are the right combination for the Atascadero City Council. O’Malley will bring years of experience and expertise in dealing with issues on city, regional and state levels, and Sturtevant will provide a fresh perspective and a willingness to listen to all sides. The Tribune strongly endorses Tom O’Malley and Brian Sturtevant for Atascadero City Council.
Race: Atascadero City Council
Number of seats: 2
Length of term: 4 years
Salary: $300 per month, eligible for health benefits
Candidates: Writer/businessman Bret Heinemann; City Planning Commissioner Sandy Jack; City Councilman Tom O’Malley; City Planning Commissioner Brian Sturtevant; City Planning Commissioner Chuck Ward
The Tribune Endorses: Tom O’Malley, Brian Sturtevant