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Column: Are small-town values eroding in Paso Robles? 

–By columnist Laura Parker of Paso Robles

When I first began visiting Paso Robles over 15 years ago, I stayed at the Paso Robles Inn with my husband. One evening, we walked around the park after eating dinner at the Steakhouse. As we crossed Spring Street heading back to our room, I was a few steps ahead of him. A police cruiser pulled over and a very young-looking officer got out with his Field Training Officer close behind. He gave me a lecture about jaywalking and wishing me a safe visit to the area.

I got off with a warning. Later that night and over the years my husband and I would share a laugh over this interaction. He was an officer in San Francisco and his work time was consumed by more serious crimes. It really illustrated the small-town feel of Paso Robles.

A few years later in 2007, we bought a place on a couple of acres out near the airport. Working in education I could spend the summers here and enjoy the sun and summer fun. I remember several times when I was walking in town and noticing cars would stop for me to cross even when I was on the sidewalk, not yet at the curb. San Francisco has maintained for years a high pedestrian death rate, so this was totally new and surprising behavior to me! As I rushed across the street I always felt noticed and cared for by these drivers.

Lately, I am missing these types of small-town connections. It could be that now I am looking beneath the surface. Or is it that the small-town caring for your neighbor focus is eroding?

The politicizing of mask-wearing is one example. A car stopping for a pedestrian to cross, holding the door for the person behind you, waiting your turn in line, or wearing a mask — aren’t all of these ways we show our care for our neighbors?

A longer-term concern that is growing for me is the focus of our elected leaders. Reading the articles and watching some of the YouTube postings of meetings gives me the impression of a city council focused on budget line items, tourism and business; and a school board focused on the grand jury report.

Who is focused on residents and our needs? Who is planning solutions for an additional school and 2000+ new homes adding traffic to the already crowded Niblick corridor? Who is planning for developers to share the burden of updating aging infrastructures like the sewer system? Who is planning for school programs developing creativity, design and systems thinking so our graduates will be competitive and prepared for the 21st century and beyond? Who is looking at other similar communities to learn from their successes and missteps to plan for a great Paso Robles 50 years from now?

My hope is that we will demonstrate our care for each other by bringing all members of our community to the table and crafting innovative solutions that will keep us viable and connected for decades to come.

Columnist Laura Parker is a retired public educator, mother, and grandmother. She was recently a candidate for the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees. She’s been a part-time resident of Paso Robles since 2007 and a full-time resident since 2016.

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