Arroyo Grande should protect the historic buildings in the city’s prized Village while promoting economic development, six of the seven candidates vying to fill the City Council seat last held by Ed Arnold agree.
About 40 people attended Wednesday’s candidate forum at the Woman’s Club Community Center. Longtime resident and applicant Tim Moore did not attend.
The council is scheduled to appoint one of the candidates on Tuesday. The new council member will serve through December 2012.
Arnold resigned April 27. He has pleaded not guilty to seven felony charges, including assault with a deadly weapon, in an alleged Dec. 15 attack on a woman who had been living with him and his wife at their Arroyo Grande home.
In the aftermath of his departure, the city’s budget remains a top issue for the council, which is now addressing a $625,000 shortfall in the next fiscal year.
Tim Brown, a planning commissioner, works for the state Department of Industrial Relations as an information and assistance officer. Brown said the city’s water supply must be addressed, and the city needs to increase revenue through increased economic development.
“Sales tax revenue is the lifeblood of the city, and we need to work on the Grand Avenue corridor,” he said.
He also supports preserving agricultural land and designating historical properties whenever possible.
Bill Honeycutt is a retired commander with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department. He said the city needs to identify new revenue sources without raising taxes or fees.
Honeycutt said he strongly supports making sure the city maintains its level of public safety. He also said the city should try to attract different types of businesses to the Village.
Shannon Kessler, an independent salesperson for South County Realty, was recently appointed to the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission.
She said the city should continue to provide support to new businesses and look for opportunities to make West Grand Avenue more pedestrian-friendly.
On the issue of business development in the Village, she said: “We need to define the look we’re going for in the Village so we don’t always end up at loggerheads.”
George Martin, a vice president at Rabobank in Arroyo Grande, said he wants to make sure the city grows in a sustainable way for future generations.
He said the city should consider working with other cities to jointly provide dispatch, police, or other municipal services.
The city also needs to find and establish sustainable water sources to allow future development, he said.
JW ‘Jamie’ Ohler
JW Ohler owns a home design and planning business in Arroyo Grande. He served on the city’s Architectural Review Committee member from 1999 to 2005.
His main concern is the city’s budget, and city officials need to work on encouraging businesses to develop throughout the city, he said.
“It’s important that we expand and encourage other businesses so all of Arroyo Grande will thrive,” he said.
Caren Ray, also a planning commissioner, is a teacher with the Santa Maria high school district. She said the city must find a way to generate revenue but not at the expense of its Village district. “The city has done a good job of balancing the economic needs … with its historic roots,” she said. The city also needs to proactively deal with its dwindling water supply and search for ways to increase work-force housing, she said.