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From roads to cannabis, here’s where Grover Beach candidates stand on the issues

Election day is looming, and it’s time for Grover Beach residents to decide who they will choose to lead the city.

This year, three candidates each are running for City Council and mayor. (Grover Beach Mayor John Shoals, who has served two consecutive two-year terms, has reached his term limit and cannot run again this election cycle.)

In the mayoral race, current council members Jeff Lee and Debbie Peterson are facing off against court reporter Liz Doukas.

On the City Council, two incumbents — Barbara Nicolls and Mariam Shah — are hoping to hold onto their seats against their lone challenger, Robert Robert.

To help make up your minds, here are the candidates’ answers to three quick questions asked by The Tribune. (Council candidate Robert Robert did not respond to our questionnaire, so his answers are not included.)

Liz Doukas

Running for: Mayor

Age: 60

Educational background: Fresno Community College

Occupation: Court reporter

Prior experience running for public office or serving as an elected or appointed official: City Council candidate in 2006, 2008 and 2012 elections. Grover Beach Traffic and Noise Group, 2001-2009.

1. Mayor Shoals once commented that he wanted Grover Beach to become a “young, hip city.” What’s your vision for the city?

Our city’s “young, hip” citizens cannot afford to purchase a home in this community, and that is a sad state of affairs and is a complex issue. Our community includes hip and young, a large retirement population and young, hard-working families with children. We have to take all of our citizens into consideration when we make decisions. My vision for the city is great fiscal health with income-generating projects coming to fruition, an open and transparent city hall, and much needed attention to the aesthetics of our community, which up to this time has stalled Grover Beach becoming a “destination” city. We must make every dollar count in improving our infrastructure, including moneys from the general fund, not just K-14 bonded funds (for road repairs), and more accountability in how our moneys are spent. It is troubling that “consultants” have received hundreds of thousands of our city dollars for projects that have never come to fruition. Example, the Ramona Specific Plan and the Beachfront Lodge Project in which moneys have been expended year after year after year with no measurable results generating substantial income for this city when other communities have thrived and grown dramatically.

2. What is the major issue affecting Grover Beach and what would you do about it?

Our infrastructure is a disaster due to neglect by current and former leaders of this city, all the while promising over these many, many years that infrastructure was their No. 1 priority, thusly falling way short and leaving our citizens driving on streets ridden with potholes. Our city council voted to give city management and themselves raises this year. Meanwhile, our city workers, the lowest paid in the county, are told they are not getting a cost of living increase as the city has pulled out of contract negotiations.

3. Where do you stand on Grover Beach becoming a leader in legal cannabis in SLO County?

We must proceed cautiously and not negatively impact our citizens. While Jeff Lee and John Shoals ignored staff recommendations and voted for several marijuana sellers they had developed cozy relationships with, I would like to promote business owners who sell locally grown crops and who do not have a criminal history. Meanwhile, because of conflicts of interest, Debbie Peterson cannot vote on marijuana issues. The city needs a non-biased mayor who can vote on marijuana issues in our city. I would also prefer boutique hotels all along Grand Avenue, infill projects that define our city as quaint and inviting, generating substantial TOT (transient occupancy tax) and not rely solely on marijuana dispensary sales.

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Jeff Lee

Running for: Mayor

Age: 51

Educational background: Bachelor of science in civil engineering from Merrimack College.

Occupation: Professional engineer/capital projects manager for San Luis Obispo County Public Works

Prior experience running for public office or serving as an elected or appointed official: Grover Beach City Council (2012 to present); Grover Beach mayor pro tem (2014-2016, 2018); Grover Beach Parks, Recreation and Beautification Commission; League of California Cities Transportation, Communication and Public Works Policy Committee.

1. Mayor Shoals once commented that he wanted Grover Beach to become a “young, hip city.” What’s your vision for the city?

My vision for Grover Beach expands on the concept of a young, hip city through community engagement. The city has great events that provide opportunities for families to enjoy Grover Beach. Grover Beach will turn 60 in 2019 and my proposal is to initiate a year-long series of community events that bring residents and businesses together to participate and celebrate. These events would offer people of all ages and backgrounds to come together, get to know their neighbors, talk, share ideas and genuinely be active in their community. My hope is that this engagement continues past the 60th anniversary celebration and people become interested in serving their city as a volunteer, an organizer, a parks and recreation commissioner, a planning commissioner or a City Council member.

2. What is the major issue affecting Grover Beach and what would you do about it?

Roads have been the major issue affecting Grover Beach for many, many years and they will continue to be a major issue until they are fixed. With voter approval of Measure K in 2014, the city has started the process to fix our streets. We have made significant progress and more is coming; however we need to remain focused in order to finish what we have started. Finishing what we’ve started is a theme of my campaign and it also includes planning for the future. The city will need prudent fiscal management and strong economic development to continue providing for core city services, including staff development and retention, infrastructure maintenance (buildings/roads/water/ sewer) and emergency services such as police and fire. The economic development strategy that I have helped shape includes residential in-fill projects, hotel development, the fiber optic network and safe implantation of the cannabis industry. This diversification will increase revenues to meet the expectations of our residents.

3. Where do you stand on Grover Beach becoming a leader in legal cannabis in SLO County?

I have been an advocate for exploring the opportunities of the legal cannabis industry within Grover Beach. Our residents overwhelming supported the industry through passage of Measure L (local tax measure) and Prop 64 in 2016. With this support, the City Council developed and adopted policies that brought forth the safe and methodical implementation of a legal, legitimate industry. This process has resulted in Grover Beach having three operating cannabis businesses, and these businesses are proving to be good community partners. Some of the criteria that I used in my decision-making process was the need for local ownership, local work force, as well as safe and secure operations. Additionally, if a private property owner or business choose to relocate or choose to expand their existing operations in a different location, I felt it necessary for the new owner to provide assistance to the existing businesses. Change is never easy and the cannabis industry brought forth some change to the industrial area of Grover Beach. With our decisions, the City Council is revitalizing the industrial area of our city with legitimate businesses that will operate safely and increase revenue to the city. This revenue will allow for city service improvements, maintenance of infrastructure, park improvements, sidewalks, etc.

Debbie Peterson

Running for: Mayor

Age: 62

Educational background: Bachelor of science in communications (public relations) from University of Idaho

Occupation: Real estate broker and Grover Beach City Council member

Prior experience running for public office or serving as an elected or appointed official: Grover Beach Planning Commission (two years as chair) 2004-2008, Grover Beach City Council 2008-2012, 2016-present, Grover Beach Mayor 2012-2014.

1. Mayor Shoals once commented that he wanted Grover Beach to become a “young, hip city.” What’s your vision for the city?

Grover Beach is already a friendly, up-and-coming community. Alongside these attributes, I see Grover Beach becoming a vibrant community uplifted by clean new residential and main streets with enhanced public safety provision and a robust commercial, retail and industrial business community serving both locals and visitors.

2. What is the major issue affecting Grover Beach and what would you do about it?

Public safety was the No. 1 concern cited by a survey of residents last spring. It is also the main issue of interest of the 50-plus businesses I have met with over the same time frame. The concern is not that the city is unsafe, but that it is very important to have good police and fire assistance in place for the safety of the residents and to address the problem with the transients that make Grover Beach their temporary homes. We are fortunate to have the support of the community in these issues because both fire service provision and additional staffing in the police department will take up a larger proportion of our general fund, which I support. I have put together weekly Facebook live streaming at local businesses to talk solutions with Grover Beach residents, business owners and employees. I support immediate implementation of the suggestions of our recent police department audit that recommended an additional five full-time (employees) and one part-time employee in the department so that there can always be one officer assigned to resolving the transient issue as well as more motorcycle and foot patrols.

3. Where do you stand on Grover Beach becoming a leader in legal cannabis in SLO County?

I am proud of our dedicated and hard-working staff who researched and crafted our ordinances. It was a bold and forward-thinking solution to bolster the city’s limited finances.

Barbara Nicolls

Running for: City Council

Age: 79

Occupation: Grover Beach City Council member

Prior experience running for public office or serving as an elected or appointed official: Grover Beach City Council, 2014-present

1. Mayor Shoals once commented that he wanted Grover Beach to become a “young, hip city.” What’s your vision for the city?

My vision for Grover Beach is that we can be Mayor Shoals’ “young, hip city” and a multi-generation, multicultural, high-tech, retirement, beach community. We are actively working with our business and regional marketing to put our “brand” in the public eye. Inclusive is the one word I would use to describe who our city is, and how we operate.

2. What is the major issue affecting Grover Beach and what would you do about it?

The major issue affecting Grover Beach is the lack of affordable housing. Grover Beach is ‘built-out’ geographically, so in-fill is our only option in new housing. How we manage that by changing some of our zoning laws and development options will be the answer to success or failure in providing low-to-very-low (income), workforce housing that young families can afford. I would like to see planned unit developments that have one market-rate, single family home paired with either small apartments for multi-family rental, or a smaller single-family home priced for mid- range affordability.

3. Where do you stand on Grover Beach becoming a leader in legal cannabis in SLO County?

Grover Beach is the leader in San Luis County when it comes to legal cannabis. Our council members, staff, police department and fire department have more than done “due diligence” when it comes to ordinances, safety regulations, background checks of applicants, and setting reasonable fees to effect good revenues for city services. Personally, I would rather have left it at medical cannabis for a year to be sure our system was working as expected, before extending to recreational use.

Mariam Shah

Running for: City Council

Age: 42

Educational background: University of Michigan 1998, double major in American culture: society and politics and Spanish; Georgetown University Law Center 2001, juris doctor

Occupation: Attorney; stay-at-home mom; Grover Beach City Council member

Prior experience running for public office or serving as an elected or appointed official: Grover Beach City Council (2014-present), Mayor Pro Tem (2017), vice-chair of Air Pollution Control District, vice-chair of Homeless Services Oversight Committee, Visit SLO Cal advisory committee member, current president of Channel Counties Division of California League of Cities.

1. Mayor Shoals once commented that he wanted Grover Beach to become a “young, hip city.” What’s your vision for the city?

“Young and hip” is more a state of mind than an age. It’s a place where new industries, ideas and opportunities are welcome; a place where neighbors can co-exist without fear or judgment; and a place where people can still afford to live. In that way, Grover Beach is well on it’s way to a “young, hip” future. I also want to keep Grover Beach the wonderful, safe and friendly place that it is to raise a family. That means prioritizing safety and taking steps to provide affordable housing so that young families can still afford to be here.

2. What is the major issue affecting Grover Beach and what would you do about it?

Grover Beach will face tough financial decisions in the next couple of years. Like most cities in California, our costs to maintain the CalPERS retirement system are going up as well as our costs to maintain fire services at the current level. We have been hard at work to prepare for these events. We have at least three pending hotel projects ramping up in our city, we have the first phase of our fiber optic network nearly complete, our train station expansion is underway and we are the first city in the county that is already collecting marijuana tax dollars.

3. Where do you stand on Grover Beach becoming a leader in legal cannabis in SLO County?

I was initially apprehensive about this industry. However, we’ve been publicly working on this three years. I’ve personally met with countless marijuana professionals, toured facilities and asked tough questions. Dispensary doors opened in Grover Beach in May 2018. We’ve had zero spike in crime or incidents. There are more manufacturing applications pending in Grover Beach than ever. Each of these businesses will be paying 3 to 5 percent directly to Grover Beach, allowing us to do countless good things for our residents. I encourage people to drive by these businesses within our industrial zone to see how they have improved the area.

Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie
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