Change Paso is getting to work
April 10, 2012
There are many problems facing Paso Robles these days, and most of them have been caused by poor management in an environment where cronyism thrives, said the co-chairperson of a new group with “change” high in its agenda.
Karen Daniels, an insurance executive who has seen downtown Paso Robles’s infrastructure crumble to what she called “an embarrassment” since she opened her Spring Street office 16 years ago, leads Change Paso Robles Now, or CPRN2012, with co-chair Sally Reynolds.
Daniels cited diminished police services, terrible downtown streets, an ancient water treatment system, and a powerless panel of city council members for most of the problems.
“The city’s own objectives have not been met,” she said Monday. “Officials claim to be making efforts to maintain public dialogue, but I see no evidence of that happening. They claim elected officials ‘pride themselves’ on being available to the public. Again, not true. And they claim this is a well-organized city — the evidence speaks volumes to the contrary.”
Police services have been pared down by more than a third, with only 0.9 officers per thousand residents. By contrast, she noted, the county average is 1.8 officers per 1,000, and Pismo Beach has 2.2 per 1,000. The police department initiated a “safe mode” recently, which calls for limited response to 911 calls, and which was planned and initiated in total secrecy.
“The leadership of our department is suspect, too, ” she said, pointing to the recent departure of Lisa Solomon, the former chief of police who collected $250,000 and golden retirement benefits after news reports of her alleged sexual behavior on the job and her spotty management methods.
“Our city officials too often act autonomously, and ignore input from the residents,” Daniels said. “And there is an attitude around City Hall that the people of the city are to be tolerated, not served. Frankly, we are very tired of that attitude.”
Daniels noted that Jim App, the city’s manager, has been in his job for more than 16 years. “His arrogance is indicative of someone not realizing their place as a public servant,” Daniels said. “The people of this city run this city, and that is what these folks (currently in office) need to understand. We certainly understand it.”
“We live in a city where tourism is very important, and the condition of our streets in the downtown area is just pitiful,” she said. “While top management of the city is getting bloated, self-serving salaries, the city crumbles around us.”
Daniels said CPRN2012 will advocate that a new police chief not be hired until after the November elections, when two council members and the mayor are up for reelection.
“And we do not plan to support any new tax revenue until there are new people in those key seats of government, whom we can trust to use any new revenues in a proper manner,” she added. “Mayor Duane Picanco himself said he heard comment from citizens of Paso Robles that they do not trust their city council with their money! If the mayor can say that at a city meeting, there is definitive merit to it. We need to be able to trust who spends our money, and where it is being spent.”
The new group already has nearly a hundred members and is growing steadily, Daniels said.
“It’s quite obvious that many other people in this community share our concerns,” Daniels said. “We plan to make a huge impact. The people are the authority in this city. We are taking back Paso Robles!”