Q: When’s the last time you contacted your electeds? What was the issue you reached out on?
A: I reach out to my fellow electeds all the time. Most recently I have been speaking with Supervisor Gibson to see what more the county can do to help us with our growing homlesnees challenges. I am hopeful that the other mayors and I along with the County Supervisors can come together to do more to support our most at risk while also helping downtown businesses navigate this challenge.
Q: What did you want to grow up to be when you were a child?
A: I have always wanted to make a difference and make the world a better place. I first ran for office in the 4th grade. I was, and am, a big fan of Wonder Woman and I wanted to be her and fight bad guys and have a magic lasso that made people tell the truth.
Q: What is the biggest misconception others have about you?
A: Unfortunately I think there are many misconceptions and intentional misinformation about me. I think one is that I am radical in some way, because I stand up and am vocal about human rights and other important issues. Once people get to know me and actually see the very pragmatic policies and practices I strive towards and my ability to work across political differences- they change their mind.
Q: For you, what’s the best part about living in SLO?
A: Time and time again, together we have proved our willingness to meet big challenges head on – from becoming the first city in the country to ban smoking in all indoor public places, to setting the ambitious goal of carbon neutrality by 2035: Our small town has made a big mark on the world because of the dedicated and hardworking people that call San Luis Obipso home.
Q: If you had a campaign theme song, what would it be?
A: “I Believe That We Will Win” -Pitbull Sample lyrics: “You know what spreads faster than any virus … Is fear // When it comes to fear you can either forget everything and run // Or you can face everything and rise// And let me tell you what I believe // I believe we’re gonna face everything and rise // I believe that we will win (I believe that we will win).”
Q: Who has the best breakfast burrito in town?
A: The vegan burrito at Kreuzberg is pretty good, just sayin. But I don’t think I have ever met a breakfast burrito that I didn’t like.
Q: Knowing what we know now, would you have wanted to handle the city’s COVID response any differently and in what ways?
A: I believe that the City, abiding by the direction from public health experts at the County and State, has done a good job managing the threat of coronavirus with the information that is available to us at the given time. We must remember that public health and the well-being of vulnerable people always matters first. While I understand the frustration and confusion from business owners in the midst of the pandemic, we must remember that this is a public health issue first. Additionally, we have had to follow the lead of the Governor in most cases and have done our best to navigate those challenges. With that being said, we have actively worked with the Chamber of Commerce and business community to support businesses in applying for financial assistance and through innovative programs like OpenSLO.
Q: Are there any changes you’d like to make to the City’s Climate Action Plan? If so, how?
A: I am incredibly proud of the Climate Action Plan, which established San Luis Obispo as a national and international leader in the fight against climate change. The adopted plan provides scientifically-informed innovation to drastically reduce carbon emission, while heightening environmental justice, and economic sustainability. We recently updated our plan to evolve into a Climate Action Plan for Community Recovery. The plan establishes a community-wide goal of carbon neutrality by 2035, adopts sector specific goals, and provides foundational actions to establish a trajectory towards achieving those goals while centering projects and programs that have additional economic recovery outcomes. I would love to see a significant community engagement piece added to our CAP. One that not only educates and empowers the community on climate change but also acts as a mechanism for growing stronger community bonds.
Q: Do you support Measure G? Why or why not?
A: I support a vibrant community, a thriving downtown, local control, self reliance, protecting our quality of life, supporting everyone’s access to health and safety, creating a mechanism to retain small business, engaging the unsheltered in a meaningful way and job creation for local working people. I support all of these opportunities with the accountability built into Measure G. This is just some of what we can do with more fiscal support. Historically 70% of our sales tax is paid for by visitors, so Measure G-20 is the fairest and best way to sustain our city’s health without overburdening residents. Our community expects a full service city and we strive to provide a high quality of service, programs, and infrastructure to meet that expectation. Our resiliency and recovery meta city goal will guide us from crisis to opportunity. With community oversight and input, the passage of Measure, G will allow us to address many of the concerns we share about homelessness, essential infrastructure, and retaining small businesses. We anticipate creating a small business revolving fund that will go a long way in supporting struggling businesses in their moment of need. I’m concerned about candidates who do not see the value of Measure G and offer no plans as to how to invest in our community at a time when it needs it most. This suggests a lack of understanding of the very critical challenges we face and the work it takes to move our community forward.
Q: With Black Lives Matter movements taking place across the nation and here in SLO, how do you propose to promote racial equality locally?
A: Over the last months and years, we have bore witness to the stories of people of color who have shared with this community their stories of unwelcoming experiences. Experiences that are raw, real, scary and at times downright painful. SLO has one of the lowest diversity rates in the whole state and it is incumbent on us to do the work to ensure all who live, work and play here are able to say they truly experience belonging. I’m grateful that we designated funding to create a diversity equity and inclusion task force to begin what I know will be a long process in addressing how we invite, welcome and support more diversity in SLO. It is crucial that we continue being creative and critical in long standing practices and policies within the city to ensure they support greater access and diversity.
Q: What do you think is the city’s role in attracting more diverse, young professionals to live and work in SLO? What can the City do better?
A: From listening to local BLM leaders, it seems clear that one of our greatest challenges to diversity is creating an environment in which People of Color feel safe and seen, and able to find community. Due to a long history of well-known racial incidents on campuses and in the community at-large, we know that we have a lot of hard work to do before this is accomplished. But it must be done. In addition to overcoming the social and racial challenges to creating a diverse place for people to live and work, we need to address the economic barrier that many here face. The recently published Outspoken series featured an all-too-common experience in which talented and hardworking people still cannot overcome the high cost of living. As most peoples’ largest single personal expense, we must stay the course and continue our efforts to streamline housing affordability. Collaboration with other agencies and programs such as the hot house to proactively support diversity in innovative and entrepreneurial spaces is an additional pathway to inclusion. I am currently working with venture capitalists and other business leaders to create the conditions for more founders and CEOs of color to see themselves thriving in SLO.
Q: Do you believe adding density to the downtown core is one of the tools to help alleviate our housing crisis? What other tools should the City implement to make SLO a more affordable place to live?
A: The City of SLO needs additional housing, and one place for housing is in our downtown. Housing downtown allows people to live closer to where they work and brings new life to downtown spaces. California density bonus laws require city councils to grant incentives and exceptions to development standards such as a height requirement, in order to build more affordable housing. We have minimal discretion to vote no on these projects unless there are significant health and safety concerns. 1144 Chorro, for example, was allowed to go a bit higher than average projects and we were able to create 13 affordable units through that process. That’s 13-26 more working people who will be able to afford to live in SLO. We have such an amazing amount of beautiful open space and this happily keeps us from building out and creating sprawl. In order to house working people and seniors more affordably, we will need to build up at times when appropriate. Increasing housing density is one critical step of many needed in order to alleviate the housing crisis. As we consider all of the direct and indirect impacts of this crisis – high cost of living, sprawl causing congested roads and long commutes, and limited economic opportunity or mobility – it is critical that we move forward all well-planned housing projects to keep up with the overwhelming demand. Additionally, relaxing parking requirements, setback requirements, and other development standards allow the CIty to prioritize the needs of people over view sheds.
It is also important to note that while my opponent claims that the City needs to reduce onerous requirements and conditions of approval, this is something that we have been already actively pursuing during my term as Mayor. We have successfully streamlined the number of reviews needed before a project is approved and modified fee structures to incentivise affordability. We will continue to diligently and creatively revisit and revise the approval process to create greater accessibility. We just launched a Tenant Improvement Permit Processing Fast Track program designed to assist business and property owners with timely reopening and needed modifications to business operations in response to the COVID pandemic. Finally, it would be impossible to talk about the housing crisis without talking about those most impacted by it – our neighbors without a home or struggling with housing insecurity. The City’s recently adopted Housing Element, or long-term plan for housing, includes an update to the City’s inclusionary housing ordinance within the next year. This mechanism requires market-rate developers to set-aside a number of units for low-income households or pay an in-lieu fee for nonprofit homebuilders to build the required units. If I am reelected as your mayor, I will ensure that this policy does so much more to meet the needs of our most vulnerable residents.
Q: How will you integrate the concerns of U40’s into your decision making process? What is your experience with mentoring or amplifying the voices of younger generations?
A: The reason that I got into politics in the first place was because of my concern for the next generation as a mother. As I learned more about the state of the world that younger generations would inherit, I felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility to do everything in my power to change that course. This approach has led me to address both short term concerns and pursue long-term goals during my two-terms as mayor. I still feel this responsibility every day as mayor. Sustainability is a central focus of my policy in every sense – the sustainability of our climate, our economy, and our well-being. I have put a conscious and concerted effort to stay engaged with the U40 community as a way to check myself and ensure that I am on the right course. This has included attending many forums and events hosted by many incredible local organizations including SLOU40, the Young Professionals Networking Group, Cal Poly Democrats, and Cal Poly Black Student Union.
Additionally, in consideration of the many unique challenges experienced by the U40 community in staying engaged with the City due to working hard to stay afloat and raising families, I have fought to make engagement accessible in the digital space. I continue to connect directly with our U40 community via social media and online surveys, as I recognize the deep importance of hearing what this demographic—the future of our community—has to say. Finally, when faced with issues that impact the U40 residents specifically or disproportionately, I don’t presume to be an expert and directly reach out to many advocates to provide me with an informed and educated opinion such as when the City considers expanding childcare access, increasing housing opportunities, and reducing carbon emissions. I am always hoping to find new ways to engage and learn from the diverse experiences of people in this community. I am honored to be endorsed by Kelly Donohue, Ellie Washington, and Michael Hopkins amongst other members of the U40 community.
Q: What is one of the biggest challenges SLO faces over the next decade and what are some ways to address it?
A: Unfortunately, I foresee multiple challenges on the City’s horizon and narrowing it down to one issue would be an injustice to the importance of the problems that we face and most importantly, the people impacted by them. COVID-19 – The global pandemic suddenly ended a record period of growth and prosperity that we enjoyed here in the City and immediately put us in the middle of an economic downturn that in many ways is worse than the Great Recession. We have worked incredibly hard at the City to find the appropriate balance between abiding by best public health practices to slow the spread of COVID-19 and ensuring the economic vitality of this community and keeping our local small businesses afloat. We need to constantly reevaluate this balance understanding that opening too quickly for our local economy will result in the deaths and permanent health effects on our most vulnerable residents.
Race and policing – We cannot forget our BIPOC, (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), brothers and sisters in this important moment in history. We cannot just listen, we must actively work to undue racist institutions and systems that make it difficult for people to feel safe and enjoy the same opportunity as the rest of us. I will continue to use the platform as mayor to create open dialogue that will translate into real action to reform our police department to make all people in this community feel safe.
Climate-caused natural disasters – While the City is doing its part to reduce carbon emissions, we know that this only makes us safer by creating a model for others to follow. We must still prepare for the seemingly inevitable “fire season” that we have become accustomed to in California. We need to continue to invest in vegetation management in our open spaces and ensure that our fire department is ready to meet this threat. However, if there is any community well-equipped to meet these challenges, it is San Luis Obispo. Time and time again we have proved that we do not back down from big challenges to meet a moment in history with bigger solutions.