Paso Robles Council saves us from ourselves once again

March 9, 2012

Gary Nemeth


The Paso Robles City Council meeting on March 6 is proof that we can be assured that our elected leaders are interested only in what is best for all the citizens of Paso. During public comments a citizen identified the council and manager Jim App as being inept, and not caring about the safety of the community.

He brought up that he attended the meeting on Feb. 21 asking the council and manager to direct public works to replace signage and street lights that were inoperative. He believed that according to his training as a 30 plus year history with the California Highway Patrol this is a safety concern for the community. It has not been addressed then and it still is a safety concern and he is still requesting the council and/or App to take action.

There was no comment by the council or App.

The council saves us by placing on the ballot the question about extending the mayors term to four years. There was one public comment which was this is the wrong time to bring this up and that there are more important issues to discuss, spend money on such as hiring additional police, discuss the pending suits, and other concerns of the city rather than extending the term from two to four years.

The mayor responded that this is a very important issue. Running for mayor is very stressful, and is very expensive. You have to campaign every two years and I (mayor) believe it should be four years.

Gillman said he agreed with everything the mayor said, Gillman is running for reelection. Strong also said he agreed with Gillman and the mayor and added that by making it four years it would open it up to more people to run for mayor. Strong is also running for reelection.

Councilman Steinbeck wanted to know how this would affect him and Council Hamon running for mayor coming up. The mayor explained that since both of them had a 4 year term as councilman, they both can run for mayor and if not elected they would retain their seat as councilman. Picanco is also up for reelection as mayor.

There was no discussion on any of the issues that are facing the city today. Do you believe anyone of them should be the mayor or even be reelected?

They are hoping you will forget what the problems really are and that they have failed to handle them. The mayor stating it was a surprise to him that there is a problem. Councilman Strong stating if you see him on the street and ask him a question about what is going on; he will give you a copy of the written response from Yang that he carries or Steinbeck who will point you to the editorial from Mr. Cuddy stating that he agrees with the editorial.

The alleged ticket quota, the alleged “SPA” problem, the alleged four to five other employee complaints pending, the alleged providing incorrect numbers to DOJ, the media the citizens, with Attorney Yang stating “a new computer system, the State DOJ, or human error” caused the problem. Who had the responsibility to make sure the numbers were correct?

Most of us have heard of the Peter Principle and I believe this is a great example of that.  According to the Grand Jury report just released it is obvious that the City of Paso Robles does not follow its own vacation accrual policy. The largest accumulation is among the police department, management and confidential unit employees.

Currently, a total of 47,045 hours of accumulated vacation hours is on the books equals an unfunded liability of $1,646,575. The Grand Jury also noted that Paso Robles appears to have a set of personnel rules and regulations that has not been updated since 1998. City Manager App was the personnel director for the City of Paso prior to becoming the city manager. I understand that Police Officers are needed to work the street, 27 officers to patrol, what is managements excuse?

Who recommended the attorney that is looking into some of these problems? City Attorney Yang made the recommendation on the attorney. Unused vacation time and unused sick time can be used to add to retirement as calculation for credit for years of service administrative time off to conduct an investigation is not an uncommon practice.

When did you actually see or interact with the mayor or councilman at other than when they are running for office?

Gary Nemeth retired from the San Luis Obispo Police department following a 30-year law enforcement career. Nemeth sat on the Paso Robles City Council from 2000 through 2008.

Nemeth said he has sent his opinions to other media outlets such as the San Luis Obispo Tribune which have refused to publicize his views. CalCoastNews welcomes opinions from both sides of an issue. Please include a contact phone number. Send opinions to

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Just heard that Lisa Solomon is not at work. Jim App announced this on KPRL, but didn’t explain why –because he is such a dunce that he thinks we will assume she’s taking vacation (and not on administrative leave). Hopefully, she is pondering her resignation.

This morning, KPRL reported that the chief of police was taking a two week vacation… I believe it was Dick Mason who said it…

When a candidate runs for a 4 year term on the City Council he or she is offering a covenant to the voters to serve all 4 years on the Council. When a City Council member runs for Mayor in the middle of his or her term, he or she is breaking that covenant by spending the time that should be devoted to service on the Council to campaigning for the Mayor’s seat. If the Councilperson wins the Mayor’s seat the Councilperson’s seat suddenly becomes vacant. In most cities (not in Morro Bay) this leaves the Council to fill the seat with someone the voters may not have elected or to set a special election. Of course, the special election will usually be at an unusual time reducing turnout while at the same time generating extra expense from the City’s general fund. But bypassing the voters to fill the vacancy with a friend of the remaining Council members is usually too tempting for them to choose the special election option anyway. So the Voters almost always end up with an unelected Council member “representing” them.

Shouldn’t a City be required to put the vacancy up for a fair and free election by the City’s voters? And shouldn’t a Council member who breaks his or her covenant to serve on the Council for the full 4 years by running for Mayor forfeit the Council seat and pay the cost of holding a special election to fill out their term with someone who will keep faith with the voters? This would prevent these kinds of political shenanigans, no matter what the Mayor’s term ends up being.

Having a four-year mayor position may make sense in the future. However, at this point, when the city council will do nothing to fix the problems in the city, except stupid grandstanding PR stunts, perhaps mayors should only be able to be mayor for one year, and city council members only be elected for two years.

Actually, if we were going by the current bunch in office, it would be safer to give them all two-month terms in office.

A bit more SMOKE AND MIRRORS for an already dysfunctional city council

The only reason for the big push for a four year mayoral term is that it makes it easier for the ‘Figure Head” mayor to do nothing! The Council and Mayor really do not run the city. All the decisions are made by City Administration not by the Council. The Council may review plans and approaches but really never hand down any decisions of their own. All their decisions are based on “Staff Recommendations”.

Essentially any big decision that needs their (Council) approval is studied by the city department it pertains to and then that department staff makes a recommendation to the Council, which they follow about 100% of the time.

The Mayor and Council are just tired of running for re-election and this is just a way to skirt having to do that every two years. I do believe there are a couple Mayoral Candidates that will prove tough to beat this year, so Picanso may have to go back to umpiring for that extra income!

It will be interesting to see what happens when these pay-outs begin on the lawsuits that have been filed against the city! We will see what kind of teeth the Council has then. My guess it won’t be teeth, it will be dentures!

A seed… Haven’t seen one of those in years!


Are you high dude?

You kind of get it but don’t give Council any credit. Agreed, City Staff have run the show for a long time. The tide is turning. Thank goodness. That is why we need leadership. A four year term for a Mayor could help with less distraction of elections. However, we need someone in there that gets it. We have not had a leader since Mecham. Still, Hamon and Gilman have shown that they will not put up with less than professional performance. This is a good.

I hope you are right and that we have some strong candidates for mayor and council. It is time.

Hamon is the one who pushed the lower fees for developers, costing the city about $500,000 this last time when he should have recused himself from the discussion/vote as he is a sub contractor for garage doors and stands to make a profit from this deal. I ‘m waiting to see if there is a Hamon garage door on each one of the new houses to be built. Surprise, surprise!

Understandable scrutiny here, Citizen. But anyone who actually knows Hamon would tell you different. He’s actually one of the few councilman to do right by what benefits the community at large, not himself – whether or not anyone’s looking.

Let us not forget that Gilman was the architech for Mr. Smiley, owner of Paso Cleaners, that wanted to put a cleaners in a no-retail zone and guess what, we have a Commerical Cleaner there today. I can only say that if Hamon and Gilman are the role models for this council, no wonder we have the problems we have. This a contractor, architech, a planning staff, a public works depart with an engineer all doing what in this dead period of construction and they can’t even come up with a step of workable plans after how many years. God save the Paradise!

“Essentially any big decision that needs their (Council) approval is studied by the city department it pertains to and then that department staff makes a recommendation to the Council, which they follow about 100% of the time.”

In my experience, the city staff brings back the recommendations the council wants them to. The city manager tells the staff what to put into the recommendations, but it is hardly ever recommendations the city council does not want to hear.

If the city manager does not, the city manager can be immediately fired by the city council.

From the last two meetings, I heard t very strange practices that the city is doing. (1) the city is hiring an engineering company to make up the bid document for two road improvement projects and paying them $18,000. The staff person, when questioned, said that they had to know how many yards of gravel would be required and other minutea. We have a public works department with engineers, and I’ve never heard of such specificity in a bid document. Usually a city specifies what needs to be done and lets the different companies figure out how much it will cost them. Am I out of date with procedures?

(2) Jim App told the council that he would have one of the engineers rewrite a document in common language (not engineering terms) so that they could understand it, and the rewrite would take several weeks. Why not have the council go over the document with the engineers?

(3) in the last meeting, we learned that the Beechwood/Olsen housing development is being done by the city with the developers paying the cost. The city hired a design firm that quit, and they never reported to the developers, and never showed a financial statement to them, but are asking them for more money. The usual path is that a developer creates his own plan and submits it to the city for approval. Has anyone else heard of a city actually doing the development?

From Citizen–Sorry for the grammatical and spelling errors.

Citizen, from what I understand, Olson/Beechwood was a city-initiated project. About 12 yrs ago the then-financially-well-off city of Paso approached the various land owners, asking them if their property could annexed into the city limits for a housing development. I have no idea why Harrod, Olson & the others let the city take over but they did. The city originally agreed to cover staff costs/EIR costs, etc in exchange for control of how the area was to be developed but they changed their policy a few yrs ago and then the economy tanked & a decade later, the property’s still ag land.

Now the landowners are pushing the city to up the density of homes even though the surrounding roads are completely inadequate to handle the increased traffic. Charlois, Creston, Rambouillet are gonna be reaaalllly congested when Olson/Beechwood gets built. I have zero confidence that the roads will be widened, re-paved or even re-striped before that giant housing development goes in.

I’m all for property rights & it’s a shame Harrod and the other landowners have sunk tens of thousands of bucks into the land for zero to happen but the roads and surrounding streets MUST be improved before that area gets developed.

I agree with you about the roads and traffic. From what I could tell, nothing is going to be done except to connect the subdivision with Niblick and Creston, two already busy streets. The city fails Traffic 101 every time. In this case, they were warned by Calcog or whatever the county committee is, and the mandated traffic study, but they are ignoring any traffic considerations.

Citizen, about the first part concern.

I don’t think it is unusual at all for a government agency to contract with an engineering company (or other “specialist”) to come up with the bid, especially the minutea, and especially for large projects. Whether this occurs depends on the number of folks in City Planning, their specialties and their experience. If, for instance, a city only needs to do a type of project once every 20 years, it makes more sense to contract it out than to keep someone on staff that can do the type of ciphering and documentation needed for bids on projects–especially projects where screw-ups can create public safety risks. Developing such a project to the bid level involves being up to speed on the public code requirements, environmental requirements, etc If the city doesn’t have someone in planning who can do that, then often they will send it out. This is especially true in today’s business environment where the move is to get rid of employees, not bring on new employees.

There are big problems if the bid-development project is sent to an unethical engineering group. Because the project is in the hands of a group who stands to make a profit from many aspects of the bid-development process–including their own bidding out to subcontractors for specific duties–they can really run up some nightmare costs.

This url,, leads to a LA Times six-part series (with 6 additional columns or articles) about the LA Community College’s $$billion extensive remake of 9 campuses.

Here’s the lead-in:

“Classrooms were overcrowded. Athletic facilities were decrepit. Seismic protections were outdated. Leaders of the Los Angeles Community College District decided to remake the nine campuses for the 21st century. They promised rigorous oversight of costs and quality. But a Times investigation found that tens of millions have gone to waste.

Sometimes government agencies send out a very small project to an engineering firm when they could have easily had someone do it in house. I know of one specific local agency that does this a lot. It appears to be an issue with cronyism, and not an issue of not having qualified staff who have the time to do it.


Gary, what else are you working on? What is the solution? Do you need to be running the show?

Gary – would you please run for mayor of Paso Robles? We need to get rid of this current city council (they’ve become too comfortable in their positions…) (make a clean sweep) and you have my vote if you decide to run…

Just a self serving group of idiots! …”And I mean That!”

Slowtime: It’s a humorously scathing statement and all, but it begs the question. Have you ever attended any of the City Council meetings or studied the way each member votes? I think it’s an unfair blanket assessment to make unless you’ve done the homework. I’m not trying to be contentious here. It’s just that it seems to be the popular thing to do – bash on every member, not just one, two, or a few, without more thorough study of the issues and each councilman’s reasoning.

Again, no disrespect intended. I want to see justice prevail as much as anyone else, but I think there’s a more constructive way to go about it.

I disagree. They bring action (or in their case; inaction) as a majority, therefore can take criticism as a majority.

“A fish rots from the head down”

I think the board or city council or county members have the responsibility for both their own individual votes, but also the vote of the council or board as a whole, especially over time.

Having seen a board of directors and a city council work from the vantage point of being part of staff support, this is what I have observed over the course of working for two local governments.

The members of the board or council pretty much have a good idea how the others will vote on an item. This can influence their own vote. For instance, if a member is the last one to vote on an agenda item, and there is a tie vote, the last voting member may decide to vote differently on an agenda item to either make sure it passes, or make sure it doesn’t pass.

In a perfect world, the viewpoints and needs of all of the board/council’s constituency will be represented amongst the directors/council members. Therefore, an anti-growth council member/director may have a strong anti-growth constituency. This means she/he can sometimes politically afford to be unpopular with the developer constituency, where a pro-development member/director, who depends on political support from pro-development interests, cannot.

I’m not saying that council/board members don’t sometimes actually conspire. I haven’t seen it occur, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. But mostly they don’t need to. This is because the board/council has enough knowledge of the other members of the board or council to anticipate how the other members will vote, and work within the context of the group vote to effect what, overall, the board/council and their constituencies want to accomplish.

No doubt, but conjecture is just that at the end of the day.

Only one’s Creator knows what’s in the heart of a man or woman.

Votes, however, are indisputably engraved in stone.