The New Times article “Heading for the cliff” (Sept. 30) did a great public service by pointing out the threats to San Luis Obispo City’s financial stability. To quote Councilman Andrew Carter, “There are rocks ahead, and we’re heading straight for them. ... [If]we don’t do something soon, we’ll be wrecked.”
It is therefore astonishing that San Luis Obispo’s new city manager should respond, not by thanking New Times for raising public awareness, but by attacking New Times for delivering a less than upbeat message.
The new City Manager attacked New Times for its in-depth analysis of employee raises. She tried to paint a rosy picture but failed to mention that, less than a year ago, she was hired with salary and benefits of more than $300,000 a year, a significant increase over what the last city manager had been paid.
Most importantly, the city manager’s attack on New Times also included a number of “facts” that may lead readers to false impressions. For example, she implied that the city’s cosmetic “downtown improvements” are coming from federal grants and public art funds. In reality, at least $640,000 from the city’s budget is going to pay for such downtown niceties as fancy new trash cans and news racks, color changes to street lights and traffic poles, and cosmetic sidewalk changes.
The new city manager also wrote of “the key priorities identified for Measure Y” (the 1/2 cent sales tax increase). “Downtown improvements” was not a Measure Y ballot priority, yet the city is spending more for them than some of the real priorities city residents actually voted for.
Many city managers run continuous public relations campaigns to influence the public towards a positive view of City Hall. In the long run, the most important thing a city manager can do is to be scrupulously honest with city residents and make sure that all actions of the city, especially the Budget and the General Plan changes, are based primarily on the input from, and the wishes of, those of us who actually live here.