Two of the five candidates seeking to fill the vacancy on the San Luis Obispo City Council stand out as exceptionally well qualified: Carlyn Christianson and John Spatafore.
Of the other three, Paul Brown does have previous council experience and a reputation as a fiscal reformer. However, at a recent Tribune Editorial Board meeting he seemed out of touch with current issues, particularly the homeless services center. Also, we continue to be troubled by some of his past behavior, such as an incident early last year when Brown — then a Morro Bay police officer in training — had two guns stolen after he carelessly left them inside his personal vehicle.
The two remaining candidates, Kevin Rice and Don Hedrick, are outspoken government critics who have run for office before — Hedrick on multiple occasions — but lack the skills and experience needed for council.
That leaves Spatafore and Christianson.
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Both have political experience — Christianson on the city and county planning commissions and Spatafore on the school board; solid knowl edge of the issues facing the city; and impressive professional backgrounds.
On top of that, they have similar outlooks — they describe themselves as socially progressive and fiscally conservative — and they line up on many of the issues.
Given their strengths and their similarities, this is a tough call, but we believe that Christianson’s experience with planning and development, both on a city and regional basis, gives her the edge.
On both the city and county planning commission, she’s shown herself to be thoughtful and thorough in reviewing the issues and making decisions.
We especially like the fact that she’s been a strong voice for workforce housing, and has also supported commer cial and industrial developments — including both solar projects on the Carrizo Plain.
She’s not afraid to speak her mind — she has, for example, taken The Tribune to task in a couple of critical letters to the editor — but she’s also scored points for diplomacy.
Consider this letter from District 1 Planning Commissioner Jim Irving: “From the perspective of aNorth County rancher and Realtor who is naturally more conservative in most matters than Carlyn, I’ve learned to respect her opinions and have found her to be respectful of mine. While we don’t always agree our deliberations have never been adversarial or negative.”
We also like Christianson’s pragmatic approach. On the issue of the homeless servic es center, for example, she acknowledges that neighboring businesses have legitimate concerns with the proposed South Higuera Street location, but since CAPSLO has entitlement and funding for that site, she believes the project should go forward there. At the same time, she favors revising the South Higuera Street design to address concerns of business owners. That makes perfect sense.
Christianson has been endorsed by San Luis Obispo Mayor Jan Marx and Councilman John Ashbaugh, and we recognize that some will see that as a red flag — an indicator that the three will vote in liberal lock-step.
Her record, though, shows Christianson to be an independent thinker who’s not afraid to take a minority position, whether she’s been a voting member of a commission or a member of the public expressing her opinion.
If she’s elected to council, we will look to Christianson to continue to be a strong, independent voice whose votes will be cast, not on ideological lines, but on the merits of each issue.
The Tribune strongly endorses Carlyn Christianson for the San Luis Obispo City Council.