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Mayor talks affordable housing, emergency services, looks towards 2020 

Paso Robles Mayor Steve Martin.

Column by Steven W. Martin, Mayor of Paso Robles

Jan. 10, 2020

As we turn the corner on a brand-new year and a brand-new decade, we take a deep breath, revel in the accomplishments of the last year (and the last decade) and turn our attention to the challenges and opportunities ahead.

The challenges for the City of Paso Robles will emerge in the upcoming budget talks wherein the community will inform us of what is required in the years to come. Unless there’s been a major change of heart, I expect those requirements will include such items as affordable housing, strengthened public safety and accelerated street repairs.

After a decade of slowed economic activity due to the recession, interest in new home construction has been revitalized and we will be reviewing plans to develop areas east of the Salinas River. The advantages include a stabilization of escalating housing costs, the jobs and other economic benefits associated with residential construction and a major checkbox associated with attracting new business to our city, which will provide a greater variety of high-paying jobs. The challenges include the need to mitigate intensified traffic and supply the high quality of public safety and other services that historically have been associated with the city of Paso Robles.

Now that we have a long-range plan for upgrading and expanding fire services in place, we will turn our attention to strengthening our Police Department. We will need a large contingent of new officers to address the security issues of our city. We will have to increase our efforts to be competitive in a marketplace and accomplish the new hires necessary while planning for the equipment and other assets necessary to support the entire department. We will also increase our partnership with our school district to increase law enforcement presence on local campuses.

Street repairs continue, frustrating some who must drive through areas disturbed by ongoing improvements and others who have been waiting patiently for repair work to reach their streets. The City of Paso Robles currently spends about $6-million per year on street repairs. To accelerate that process significantly will require new revenue sources. We will endeavor to keep our citizens informed of these needs and trust they will supply the resources needed to produce the service levels they desire. In addition to city street repairs, we look to the State for assistance with addressing the sometimes-lethal traffic problems caused by the overburdened Highway 46-East.

Other challenges will include the construction and management of a new homeless shelter near the City’s wastewater treatment plant, expansion of our library and intensified economic development efforts. With the assistance of a federal grant, the homeless shelter should be ready to go within a year. We will contract with El Camino Homeless Organization (ECHO) in Atascadero for management assistance. They are experienced and well-qualified and we look forward to tapping their expertise as well as utilizing the volunteer services of our own Paso Cares organization.

The City Library (the only city-owned library in the county) has received approval for expansion. Since the library is co-located in the same building with City Hall, we will study the alteration needs required to accommodate the library and municipal services before proceeding with the project. Expect progress in the last half of 2020.

It has been a personal mission of mine to spur economic development not only in Paso Robles but throughout the North County. I will be leading multi-agency efforts to accomplish that during 2020. We will work towards developing executive-level office space, industry-specific job training programs and other activities including business incubators, trailing spouse employment programs local business retention/expansion.

Transportation will continue to be a pressing challenge for our entire county. In addition to airplanes, buses, taxis, Ubers and Lyfts, look for discussion about the possibility of using the rail system that runs through our county for inter-city transit. This could be a major evolution in the way commuters get around in our region, benefiting business, traffic congestion and the environment.

That’s the tip of the iceberg and, if I’ve omitted something you think I should be working on, please don’t hesitate to contact me at smartin@prcity.com. Who knows, we may already be working on it and I can get you the information you need. If not, constituent input regarding priorities and funding is always welcome.

Here’s to a bright, productive and visionary 2020.

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