Elections

Where Paso Robles candidates stand on immigration, tourism and other key issues

Paso Robles is gearing up for the November election, with candidates campaigning to lead the city as mayor or sit on the City Council.

Two council seats are up for grabs, along with the mayoral office. Four candidates are competing in the council race, and two are vying to become mayor.

Three candidates are newcomers to Paso Robles government, and three are incumbents running for re-election or a new office.

The Tribune sent each of the candidates a three-question survey asking them about their stances on important issues facing Paso Robles, from immigration to the city’s growing status as a tourism destination. Mayoral candidate Jim Reed did not respond to our survey request and was not included.

Andy Pekema
Andy Pekema is a candidate for Paso Robles City Council. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Andy Pekema

Running for: City Council

Age: 31

Educational background: BS in Mechanical Engineering, Cal State Long Beach; Certificate in Space Structures & Mechanisms Design & Analysis from UCLA

Occupation: My primary occupation is currently father. I also run a small business, Amendment Development. I turn vintage pianos into bars and décor. Prior to moving to Paso Robles, I was an engineer and have worked for Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Toyota, and Hyundai.

Prior experience running for public office or serving as an elected or appointed official: Nothing in government, but I was president of the CSULB chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

What’s your stance on California’s “sanctuary state” law?

I have mixed feelings on SB54, the “sanctuary state” law. I agree with the stated goal of the law, which is to make our immigrant population more comfortable with local law enforcement. I also believe our police officers have better things to do than check people’s immigration status. On the other hand, I don’t like that SB54 prohibits cooperation between various government entities. I believe that is counterproductive and maybe even dangerous. All that being said, I think there are much more important issues facing our city that we should be focused on.

How can Paso Robles balance its status as a growing tourist destination while providing adequate services to residents?

On the whole, I believe tourism is good for Paso Robles. There are certainly some downsides, but we shouldn’t pit tourists and residents against each other. As far as city services are concerned, the same things are usually good for both tourists and residents. Everyone wants good roads, clean water, beautiful parks, and low taxes. On the City Council I will do my best to protect our residents from the negative aspects of increased tourism without discouraging that tourism. It won’t be easy, but I think just about anything is possible when the city and public work together.

What do you see as the top issue facing Paso Robles and what would you do about it?

The top issue I see (and feel) in Paso Robles is the state of our roads. I believe the construction and maintenance of good roads is one of the most important functions of any government, and our city is currently failing in that department. If elected, I will not rest until we fix the roads that are crumbling, remove traffic bottlenecks, and do it faster than we have in the past. This will be difficult and expensive, but I’m prepared to work hard to build the roads Paso deserves.

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John Hamon
Councilman John Hamon is on the cusp of winning his fourth term as a Paso Robles representative. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

John Hamon

Running for: City Council

Age: 64

Educational background: BA from Cal Poly’s School of Industrial Technology

Occupation: City Councilman, owner of Hamon Overhead Door Co. in Paso Robles and Santa Maria

Prior experience running for public office or serving as an elected or appointed official: Paso Robles City Council 2006 to present, ran for the District 1 seat on the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors in 2016

What’s your stance on California’s “sanctuary state” law?

I do not agree with our Sacramento Legislature’s approach to allowing sanctuary to foreigners who disobey our state-federal rules and regulations that require a legal path to become citizens. Paso Robles is a welcoming town, however our country is governed by laws designed to protect all who are here, citizen or not and so to with Paso Robles. If we are called to an individual who has committed a crime such as domestic violence, burglary or criminal threats, he will be arrested just as anyone. Having said that, we do not actively seek out individuals just on the suspicion that the person is here illegally. As a city councilman, I have sworn an oath to up hold our laws, both state and federal. The “sanctuary” law puts all elected and sworn law enforcement officials in a position of allowing illegal foreigners that have previously posed a threat to communities back into that community without allowing the federal government to do their job to protect us from further harm.

How can Paso Robles balance its status as a growing tourist destination while providing adequate services to residents?

Tourism is a large part of our city’s economy. It pays for many general fund items that our Roblans would otherwise have to. Police, fire, parks, and street/building maintenance are just a few areas that their tax dollars financially support long after they have gone home. With our continued growth in visitor revenue, we have budgeted and invested more into our in our safety personnel, streets, water and wastewater facilities that benefit all who reside here year-round. A three-day stay in one of our luxurious hotels or upscale RV resorts will bring more tax dollars into the general fund than a single-family home does all month. These dollars are being spent wisely for the benefit of all.

What do you see as the top issue facing Paso Robles and what would you do about it?

Because all cities are service organizations and have little ways to bring in revenue with which to pay their bills, I see our unfunded liability to the CALPERS as a major issue. Because of poor decisions from the CALPERS board in Sacramento, many cities are strapped with a heavy weight around their budgets’ neck, which restricts reinvestments into the city’s public services, streets and facilities. Paso Robles citizens passed a half-cent sales tax override that has been used to improve very old and deteriorating streets because of it. We should not have to tax ourselves more to pay for poorly managed pension funds at the state level. CALPERS is like the song “Hotel California” …”You can checkout, but you can never leave.” Trying to do so will bankrupt every city.

garcia
Maria Garcia is poised to become Paso Robles’ first councilwoman in more than 30 years. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Maria Garcia

Running for: City Council

Age: 47

Educational background: Texas State Technical College Harlingen; Trinity Valley Community College, Palestine, Texas

Occupation: Walmart pharmacy technician, Mary Kay Cosmetics beauty consultant

Prior experience running for public office or serving as an elected or appointed official: First time running for public office

What’s your stance on California’s “sanctuary state” law?

My stance on California’s “sanctuary state” law — I see both sides of the law. The ICE program, known as Secure Communities, launched after the 9/11 attacks under the Patriot Act. It required immigration agents to have access to the fingerprints and criminal history of any immigrant booked in jail. But the program deported too many immigrants guilty of minor crimes, like traffic violations and nonviolent offenses like theft and burglary and in response. That is why some 200 cities created sanctuary laws. It was also putting a fear in the communities. Every city is different, depending on the community. In our community, I have spoken to our Police Department and the sheriff’s department and they are doing their jobs in protecting us, and until Congress changes the law, I have full faith in our local agencies.

How can Paso Robles balance its status as a growing tourist destination while providing adequate services to residents?

Paso Robles is growing into a tourist destination — it did not happen overnight. It has grown because we have the Mid-State Fair and Vina Robles and Firestone Brew. We have the wine industry, and we have a quaint square, in the downtown park. Our business and our economy rely on the tourist. They key word is BALANCE. I have been canvassing for my campaign, and the residents are concerned. The biggest concerns are the short-term rentals and the downtown parking. Because we get tourists, prices at hotels and restaurants are higher and for events. My idea of balance is to stop new short-term rentals that will put more homes on the rental market, fix the downtown parking issue, and give locals a local price like certain days at restaurants Monday thru Wednesday. At the movies have Tuesday Night Special, etc. Maybe the city can have a Paso Robles Resident day — give back to the community day for dealing with the tourists.

What do you see as the top issue facing Paso Robles and what would you do about it?

My top priority is public safety and essential infrastructure needs. I will work hard to build up police and fire departments with the equipment and staff that we need. If the population is growing as are needs for the weekend travelers so should our protection and safety. And we also need to ensure we are ready for the next disaster.

Steve Martin
Mayor Steve Martin likely won another term as leader of Paso Robles. Joe Johnston jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Steve Martin

Running for: Mayor

Age: 66

Educational background: BA in Journalism from Fresno State; Cal Poly undergraduate studies in physics, organic and inorganic chemistry, analytic geometry, calculus

Occupation: Mayor; owner, S.W. Martin & Associates — communication/marketing/advertising; owner/operator: Internet Radio Station VoiceOfPaso.com

Prior experience running for public office or serving as an elected or appointed official: Mayor, 2014 to present; City Council, 1987 to 1996; ran for the District 1 seat on the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors in 2016

What’s your stance on California’s “sanctuary state” law?

After much public input and research done by our police chief, I believe the differences between state and federal agencies have divided our community and caused unnecessary strife. SB54 is confusing and discourages collaboration among federal and local agencies. It also undermines the community trust required for efficient law enforcement. I have urged the state to make a thoughtful and speedy resolution of the conflict created by SB54.

How can Paso Robles balance its status as a growing tourist destination while providing adequate services to residents?

Paso Robles is fortunate to have tourism as a strong economic generator, providing an estimated 40 percent of city revenues. Now we turn our attention to other areas of economic development to enhance local companies and attract new businesses to provide a greater depth and variety of employment. It is important for the economic stability of the city that we succeed. We have supported efforts by our Chamber of Commerce, which has hired a new economic development director. By expanding the employment base, we will balance the city’s job sector, creating new revenues to provide services for all citizens.

What do you see as the top issue facing Paso Robles and what would you do about it?

A recent citizen survey indicated two things. First, most residents think the city is a great place to live and municipal affairs are handled well. Second, top concerns match efforts that are ongoing: street repairs, economic development and enhanced public safety. We currently spend about $7 million per year on streets and will spend more if voters bless the second sales tax override. We are working on economic development projects to expand and diversify the city’s employment base. We completed a new public safe master plan this year and have begun implementation.

Rivera
Michael Rivera is a candidate for Paso Robles City Council. Courtesy photo

Michael Rivera

Running for: City Council

Age: 64

Educational background: Corporate America

Occupation: Businessman: medical industry, hospitality industry

Prior experience running for public office or serving as an elected or appointed official: Santa Maria Parks and Recreation Commission chairman and commission member, Guadalupe Planning Commissioner

What’s your stance on California’s “sanctuary state” law?

The sanctuary law SB54 is an assault on the rule of law. It makes us all less safe and makes law enforcement’s already-tough job even more challenging. Both our own district attorney and sheriff have said as much publicly. I will push back against this law in whatever way I can, and I have. A separate set laws for criminal aliens is dangerous and an affront to citizens and legal residents and to the American people.

How can Paso Robles balance its status as a growing tourist destination while providing adequate services to residents?

As we move forward, our city must prioritize. The hospitality industry is doing fine and we as a city must focus our energy on developing a plan to look toward head of household jobs and improving our own city’s infrastructure. We have not addressed our General Plan in a comprehensive way since 2004. Hospitality does not, in most cases, provide for head-of-household jobs but will result in the creation of a permanent underclass. We must avoid this, because it will continue to separate us as a city.

What do you see as the top issue facing Paso Robles and what would you do about it?

Future development, planning for our growth is going to be critical in maintaining Paso Robles’ character and quality of life. Revisiting our General Plan and slowing down for a period is necessary moving forward. I do not want to become Orange County. We need to think very carefully about where we are going. We are told we have a population of 32,000 but we had 1.2 million visitors last year. Therefore, our population is 132,000. The current City Council has not addressed this, and many citizens of our city are not happy. Let’s save some Paso Robles for tomorrow, shall we.

Lindsey Holden: 805-781-7939, @lindseymholden
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