SLO budget committee meeting to be open to public, media

San Luis Obispo City Manager Katie Lichtig said Friday that she will allow the public and the media to attend meetings of a newly formed budget task force committee.

Last week union representatives from the San Luis Obispo police and fire departments, citing concerns about elite special interests, publicly withdrew from the task force.

Lichtig, who was hired in December, handpicked the 32-member Financial Sustainability Task Force to advise her on the city finances leading up to the beginning of the city’s two-year budget-setting process.

Lichtig initially said the twice-monthly meetings were closed to allow members to speak freely. She did not elaborate Friday on why she decided to open the meetings to the public and the press, but in an e-mail, wrote: “After discussing this issue with the Task Force yesterday, the meetings will from now on be open to the public and press. I am hopeful that this change will eliminate an unnecessary distraction and refocus the Task Force on the important work of thinking creatively and constructively about our future financial sustainability.”

Erik Baskin, president of the San Luis Obispo City Firefighters Association, said Friday that Lichtig’s action is “a step in the right direction” but still doesn’t address the bigger issues that the union representatives had brought to the city manager.

“We feel that the make-up of the committee is still an unbalanced majority of the elite special interests within the city,” he said, “not made up of average middle-class residents of San Luis Obispo.”