Mayor Martin discusses struggles of pandemic in year-end review
Never in most of our personal histories have we ever been so glad to say goodbye to one year and hello to the next. All the world’s challenges, increased and expanded by the coronavirus, have conspired to make 2020 a time to forget. Now, as we approach the year’s end, it is tempting to do that and wax eloquently about the prospects for 2021. The effects of the pandemic will extend into next year, however, and that means our rosy prognostications about the future must be tempered with the realities of the present.
We, as a city, had burdens enough before the arrival of the virus. Issues including affordable housing, street repairs, homeless services, and public safety were challenges enough without a pandemic. Then, the complications of face-masking, hand-washing, and, most significant for local businesses, social distancing restrained us physically and challenged us politically and philosophically. In the absence of consensus, multiple attitudes and actions often conflicted, sometimes creating an even more difficult atmosphere.
Our city government has delayed collection of taxes and fees, shepherded the distribution of hundreds of thousands of dollars in business assistance funds, and provided help with the establishment of outdoor dining for our restaurants. We have offered empathy and education before enforcement, working with the Chamber of Commerce and others to counsel those who need help with compliance and issuing administrative citations in only the most egregious cases. To protect the public, we closed city facilities and perfected the art of public meetings via telephone and Internet, preserving and enhancing the ability of citizens to be involved with government. We will continue all of these efforts and more to the greatest extent of our capability.
Now, as we anticipate a long-awaited vaccine, we can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel, although that tunnel still stretches out a ways. We are blessed in this county to have experienced a relatively light viral load. Health care services are intact and, while we have experienced infections and even deaths, those numbers are low compared to some of our neighbors. Our first responders have been faithful to the call to protect and serve and most of us have acted out of personal responsibility to slow the spread of the disease. The physical and fiscal stresses have been almost unbearable and we are left to face the arrival of a new year wondering if we have the stamina to make it to the end of the tunnel.
Great things are on the horizon, the vaccine first and foremost. After that, thanks to the confidence our citizens expressed in passing the J-20 measure, we will have substantial resources to bolster public safety and accelerate road repairs. We will work with our Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Association and other business partners to devise and implement an economic recovery strategy allowing us to recover from the devastating effects of the coronavirus. We have established new kinds of affordable housing models and have major Specific Plans to provide additional homes as the years unfold. We have significant new efforts to address homelessness as well as plans for economic development to increase and diversify our job base.
And so, we prepare to say farewell (and good riddance) to 2020. The New Year will have its own challenges, some borrowed from the past, others approaching from the future. We do have the stamina to finish this year and the vision and energy to begin the next. We will not throw up our hands in defeat. We will clench them with determination. We will join them, if only virtually, to support each other. We will use them in mutual respect, with love for our community and each other, to remain a “can-do” city.
As Mayor of our great city, I will never feel I have done enough to make our people happier, more secure and more confident. That feeling of insufficiency has been exacerbated by the challenges of 2020. I don’t plan to give up, however, and I know you will join me in this persistence. Indeed, it is that belief that sustains me in my efforts. I am reminded of the words of a previous Mayor of Paso Robles and his weekly radio greeting. It was Barney Schwartz who always said “be good to yourself, be good to your community and always say something nice about somebody.” Good advice then and now.
To you and yours, a very happy, secure and most prosperous New Year.
See you at the end of the tunnel.