Money — spending it, saving it, making more of it — is the dominant issue among candidates seeking a seat on the San Luis Obispo City Council.
All eight contenders say strengthening the city’s $96.1 million budget is their top priority.
Significant decisions await those elected. The $30 million Los Osos Valley Road overpass is inching closer to a reality. Meanwhile, a sales tax measure bringing about $5 million annually to the city will sunset in 2014.
At stake are two four-year council seats belonging to John Ashbaugh and Dan Carpenter
and the two-year mayoral seat held by Jan Marx.
All three incumbents are seeking re-election. Challengers for mayor are architect Steve Barasch and community advocate Donald Hedrick.
Opponents seeking the open council seats are firefighter Kevin Rice and history teacher Jeff Aranguena. Matt Strzepek, who suspended his campaign in September, also recently put his hat back in the ring.
How do the candidates suggest improving the city’s budget? By attracting more head-of-household jobs to the city, focusing on pension reform and finding ways to reduce spending.
The majority of candidates support the city’s recent move to cut employee compensation by more than $3.1 million but acknowledged that morale has suffered because of it.
Barasch is the only candidate who said he disagrees with the negotiated cuts, instead advocating for a department-by-department analysis to reduce redundancies as a way to save money.
Homelessness has also been a campaign talking point as the city struggles with how to address a growing population of people living on the streets, camping in creek beds and sleeping in their cars.
Two candidates, Strzepek and Hedrick, are both homeless themselves. Hedrick, who refers to himself as “residentially challenged,” has lived in his car for more than 15 years.
Strzepek, who also lives in his car, recently filed a claim against the San Luis Obispo Police Department for alleged harassment.
Campaign finance statements on file with the city show what candidates have raised and spent through Oct. 1.
So far, Marx has raised $14,866, including a $3,000 loan to herself, and Barasch reported $8,245, which includes his own $3,000 loan. No contributions have been reported by Hedrick.
Marx’s supporters include many retired community members and self-
employed business owners. Barasch’s donors include property owners and insurance agents.
To date, Marx has spent $10,102 campaigning, and Barasch has spent $6,778.
A city ordinance limits campaign contributions to $200 per election by anyone other than immediate family.
Council candidate Kevin Rice reported $3,700 in contributions, including a $3,000 loan he made to himself. Of the three contributors he listed, none lived in San Luis Obispo.
Incumbent Councilman Carpenter has raised the most of all candidates — $22,161. So far, he has spent $12,962. Donors include county Supervisor Adam Hill, local developer Tom Copeland and several retired community members.
Incumbent Councilman Ashbaugh raised $15,407, including a $6,441 loan to himself. Contributors include Marx, retired community members, business owners and county Supervisor Jim Patterson.
Aranguena has raised $7,787 and spent $5,234. Hill also contributed to his campaign along with the San Luis Obispo Democratic Club and several teachers.
Strzepek did not report any contributions or expenditures.