Opinion » Shredder

Your tax dollars at work



Newsflash everybody: Nobody believes that housing on the Central Coast is affordable!


Wait. I take that back. One person does, according to a survey recently released by the Hourglass Projecta local nonprofit that was "established to find solutions, not merely identify problems," as Hourglass CEO Melissa James described it.

Its "jobs action plan" will be relased in mid-March, James said in a press release announcing the earth-shattering survey results, so no worries everyone! We're saved! "What we found is a workforce that is losing hope, struggling to get by, and considering leaving the area," she said in the release.

That's not really news, though. There aren't very many high-paying jobs and housing costs continue to rise as our elected officials argue over the best way to stimulate the creation of "affordable" housing units.

At least one elected official doesn't give a damn about keeping things affordable: Arroyo Grande Mayor Caren Ray "Raise The Rent" Russom. The city happens to own a residence surrounded by a parking lot in the Village that has some long-term tenants in it. Does anyone else think it's weird that the city owns a rental house? Well, Russom believes the rental is so cheap that it's basically a "gift of public funds."

Meanwhile, the rest of the City Council just thinks they should let the longterm renters keep on renting. Although, the City Council did vote to increase the unit's rent to $1,320 a month at its Jan. 28 meeting. Russom repeatedly objected to this affordability and advocated opening up the rental to other residents who would—read "could"—pay the market value of the rental, an additional $200 to $300 a month.

I'm sure that would play out well: "City kicks out residents in the middle of California's affordable housing crisis to bring in an extra couple of hundred dollars a month!" Sounds like a real winner to me.

Oh wait, I get it! Now, I know what you're thinking Russom. Maybe then you can get that 60 percent raise you wanted! Yes, the same one that the other City Council members really didn't even want to talk about even though they are the lowest paid elected officials in SLO County.

I think Russom would be much happier if she moved to the city of San Luis Obispo, where the "market rate" rent would most likely price her out of the market, and ran for elected office there. That City Council just gave itself an almost 50 percent raise! If Russom was San Luis Obispo's mayor, Heidi "Raise My Salary" Harmon, she could be making $2,508 a month plus benefits starting in 2021.

You see, while Arroyo Grande's City Council is the lowest compensated in the county, SLO is the highest. And with this latest increase, no one is going to catch them!

Former SLO Mayor Peg Pinard called the raises "arrogant" and "self-serving" in a comment letter she submitted on the Feb. 4 SLO City Council agenda item. Pinard should have pulled a Nancy Pelosi and ripped up the agenda after the vote!

Self-serving for sure. Arrogant? I honestly don't know. The way Harmon couches it, "One of the greatest limiting factors ... in our community is compensation for these elected positions."

In a statement Harmon put out before the vote—I guess you've gotta get that PR machine moving and motivated to say what you want it to say, folks, and she's very good at it—she essentially said the way to get "thoughtful, creative, bold people from all walks of like to step into leadership, run for office, and lead our communities forward" is to pay elected officials a living wage.

I wonder how much a SLO city-owned home would cost to rent? "Market rate" is about $2,200 a month. Even with a salary increase, Harmon wouldn't be able to afford that on her mayoral salary alone!

But that's also why being a city elected official is considered to be a part-time position. Nobody makes close to median income based on one part-time job! Nor should they expect to!

It's a tough call. Tough call, folks. Your tax dollars at work!

What isn't a tough call, though, is fixing the issues on North Oak Park Boulevard in Grover Beach. It's a no-brainer, actually. And, in fact, it was on the City Council's Jan. 21 agenda. That same night, 33-year-old Justin Kissinger was killed when he was crossing North Oak Park. Instead of moving forward with plans to make the road safer, the council delayed its decision until a full investigation of the accident is complete.

Maybe the city got cold feet because of what happened the last time it decided to improve one of Grover Beach's many messed up roads. The city spent money on plans and construction for Newport Avenue only to have residents revolt. Grover had to pull everything out and is starting from scratch!

The city has already spent money on North Oak Park traffic studies, gathering speed and other safety data. Residents have requested less parking spots on the road near intersections, more street lights, marked crosswalks, stop signs, and traffic lights. And now there's been a deadly accident.

It's a four-lane road that carries 15,000 vehicles a day down it.

What the hell are you guys waiting for? Δ

The Shredder is feeling the competition from Nancy Pelosi. Send comments to [email protected].


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