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Mayor reflects on the year, looks forward to next 

Mayor Steve Martin

Mayor Steve Martin

Paso Robles proved itself again to be the “can-do” city

From the blog of Paso Robles Mayor Steve Martin

– One year ago I bid the old year goodbye and good riddance, while looking forward to a New Year filled with hope for recovery for our city as a vaccine emerged to blunt the ravages of COVID-19. As usual, things got complicated.

As we struggled with a brave, new world filled with continued masking, social distancing, and political upheaval, our city was forced into a new realism. In addition to the usual challenges presented by the lack of affordable housing, the impacts of homelessness and the need for improvements in our public safety system and street repairs, we also anticipated plummeting city revenues and new expenses caused by the effects of the pandemic. We braced ourselves for more problems and fewer resources.

Here’s what happened in 2021.

Vaccine distribution slowed the spread of the virus. We fought our way out of shutdown and, with city assistance, business survived. People still got sick, but not as frequently or seriously. Still, only about half of our city population has been vaccinated. Regardless of your own research or political allegiances one simple fact remains: those vaccinated are safer than those who are not. All else, as one news outlet describes it, “is noise.”

City finances bounced back. As restrictions eased, the pent-up desire to “get out and do something” drove visitors back to our city, which was described by Country Living as one of the 10 Best Small Towns in the nation; by NBC’s Today Show as one of the country’s Top Summer Vacation Destinations; and by Travel & Leisure as one of the country’s best small towns for retirement.

Paso Robles proved itself again to be the “can-do” city in San Luis Obispo County. We broke ground on a new fire station and made plans for a new police station. We finished a $1.5-million street-sealing project. We helped open Project HomeKey, the most significant effort to date to combat homelessness in our city. We used machines, work crews, even goats to clean up the Salinas Riverbed and reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfire. We broke ground on new homes and apartments. We received a $2.8-million federal grant to expand Internet broadband services. We welcomed back the Mid-State Fair, Pioneer Day and Christmas activities. (You can see a moving video of 2021 accomplishments at www.prcity.com/CivicMedia?VID=43, produced by city employee Shonna Howenstine.)

So, what’s next?

The New Year will bring its own hopes and challenges and promises; hope for continued physical and social healing for our city, state and nation; challenges of infrastructure and economic development; promises of new tools and new ideas. As virus variants emerge we will have to make personal and public decisions about protecting ourselves and our loved ones. As new technologies propel us into new economies we will have to see clearly which paths to take to reap the benefits of different and better jobs, more affordable housing alternatives and safer streets, bridges and highways.

Politically, progress will be more challenging than ever. Local, state and federal redistricting will draw new lines around our communities, changing the way we work together and sparking new controversies. New partnerships will be formed even as some old ones fade away. We will begin to think of ourselves differently in terms of geography, representation, vision and planning.

In the year to come we will be called upon to reach deeply into our pioneer roots, embracing new technologies and strategies. The notion that Paso Robles would become world-famous for wines and tourism once seemed far-fetched. Just so, the idea that technology, spaceport and telecommuting can make us the place where one can have a dream career AND a dream home in one of the finest communities in the nation may seem foreign. This new vision for Paso Robles will build upon our past successes and create a more prosperous, stable and resilient economy. We must be the new pioneers, as excited about our future as we are about our past, willing to embrace what comes next.

A year ago I bid 2020 goodbye and good riddance. Today, I bid 2021 farewell with the feeling that our “can-do” community has done it again. We have endured. We have thrived. We are ready for the future. Welcome 2022.

I wish everyone a Happy New Year and look forward with great excitement and anticipation to the things we will accomplish together over the next 12 months.

As always, stay informed, stay involved and stay strong Paso Robles.

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