Paso Robles candidates perform at political forum

October 18, 2012

Andrea Seastrand

Six candidates for Paso Robles City Council participated in a lively forum Wednesday evening in the Grand Ballroom of the Paso Robles Inn.

Change Paso Robles Now (CPRN2012) hosted the forum and former congresswoman Andrea Seastrand moderated, which included candidates both on the ballot and running as write-ins for the mayoral and councilman positions.

Incumbent Mayor Duane Picanco did not attend the forum, but his write-in challenger Gary Nemeth did and impressed many members of the audience. Nemeth, a member of the council from 2000 to 2008, criticized the city’s initial inaction and ultimate cash settlement with former police chief Lisa Solomon-Chitty.

“I actually blame the city council as a whole, but I think they were getting their marching orders from the City Manager [Jim] App and the City Attorney [Iris] Yang,”

Nemeth went so far as to say he would attempt to replace the city manager.

“I would look at trying to build a consensus with the new council that the people of Paso Robles hire, and the consensus should be that we ask Mr. App to resign,” Nemeth said. “He’s served long enough.”

Nemeth also said the new council should not renew Yang’s contract.

Though Picanco is the only candidate for mayor on the ballot, an additional write-in challenger participated in Wednesday’s forum.

Jeff Rougeot arrived in the middle of the forum and left shortly before it ended. Rougeot, who smelled of alcohol and appeared considerably intoxicated, remarked multiple times on the need for new lights on baseball fields.

“Lights on our baseball fields — that’s all I want,” Rougeot said just before leaving the forum.

The mayoral write-in candidate attended the event wearing sandals and walked in and out of the ballroom several times while drinking cups of coffee.

Other candidates carried much more serious tones.

Incumbent councilman Nick Gilman said the allegations of misconduct against Solomon-Chitty “blindsided” the entire council. Gilman rejected the assertion by Nemeth and others that the council should have fired the former chief.

“We set policy,” Gilman said. “City manager implements it, and that includes hiring and firing and being responsible for personnel.”

While Gilman acknowledged that evidence of Solomon-Chitty’s misconduct existed, he said he never read nor received a report detailing the findings of the city’s investigation.

In his bid for reelection, Gilman faces challenges from fellow incumbent Fred Strong, who did not appear at the forum, as well as from candidates Steve Martin, Jerry Jones, and Jim Reed, each of whom attended Wednesday.

Martin, who previously served 10 years on the council in the 1980s and 1990s, stressed the need to properly staff the police department.

“There are fewer officers on patrol per a thousand people in the city of Paso Robles today than there were when I was on the city council,” Martin said. “There are twice as many people in the city today as there were when I was on the city council.”

Martin also offered a three-step approach to securing funding to repair the roads. If the half-cent sales tax on the ballot fails, Martin said he would establish a road budget and attempt to gather funding from other agencies. If those measures also failed, Martin would advocate for placing a sales tax back on the ballot with the specific purpose of road maintenance.

Write-in council candidate Jerry Jones also argued for a specific function sales tax if the November measure fails. Jones said he would immediately call for a special election to put the street maintenance specific tax on the ballot.

The final candidate, Jim Reed, whose name will appear on the ballot, called for slashing waste in the city budget as a means to fund road repair.

“I have been hearing about a $560,000, thousand-square foot bathroom in the city park,” Reed said. “It just goes on and on.”

Reed said city expenditures have bloated from $32 million in 2003 to $54 million currently.

“Now we have no money in the budget for roads, the parks are in shambles and, if you ask me, the pools are closed.”

Rural Patriot

I attended the CPRN20112 Forum last Wednesday night, and also want to say I was impressed with the way it was handled. I’m sure the organizers were as stunned as I was to see one of the candidates for mayor appear while obviously impaired by alcohol consumption. In spite of that, the moderators did their best to be fair.

I only wish more people had showed up Wednesday night. I realize that some people had already voted, but I’m sure there were enough people who hadn’t who could have filled all the empty seats I saw. I’m glad videos will be available on line soon.

I was happy to learn more about all the write-in candidates and get a better picture of those on the ballot. Some I know, and some I’ve only heard of or seen at City Council Meetings. I have only recently begun taking a more active role in local government, and I can see that it’s just as important to our lives, if not more so, than national government. It’s the city and county that burden the citizens with new ordinances and fees month by month. Because hardly anyone who does not have a particular ax to grind ever shows up at city and county government meetings, our public “servants” know they have little oversight from the citizens. I just joined CPRN2012, since they are at least organizing to try to change the situation. Were I able to vote in Paso Robles in this election, my votes would go to Jim Reed and Jerry Jones for city council, and Gary Nemeth, with whom I talked for quite a while after the forum, for mayor. We need to get some new faces and fresh ideas on the council to shake up business as usual at City Hall. Although Gary Nemeth is no newcomer, I’m convinced he’s joined the race out of concern for the city rather than political ambition. I think he will truly serve the interests of the people of Paso Robles.


I was there, as well. This was the first city council candidate forum held in Paso Robles, so, given that, the turnout was actually pretty good.

The candidate about whom I changed my opinion was Gary Nemeth. I was kind of “meh” before about him, but listening to him speak on the issues, he had a lot of insight, he knows what the problems are in the city, and he does not appear attached to the status quo.

I was pleasantly surprised City Manager App showed up and stayed for the whole event. The audience, and some of the candidates, cut him no slack, and they called a spade a spade.

My impression of Gilman…he’s Satan. Sorry, flash-back to the Church Lady. Seriously, he is firmly entrenched in the status quo, and reacts sometimes angrily to suggestions change is needed.

It was a great event. CPRN2012, especially our Danika, did a great job.


This is my view of Fred Strong and Duane Picanco. Never underestimate the power of the vote. Residents of Paso Robles, you can do it! Make sure to vote and take someone along to the polls with you!


SLO-shank, I appreciate the support. CPRN2012 appreciates your efforts.


“Close the pools”? Has any candidate stopped to think about younger families in Paso,Robles? I know. candidates talk about problems with narcotics, gangs…The truth is the city needs to invest in our children and particularly our youth. If there are facilities for children in our town there will be less families moving to other towns, leading to better attendance, less drug use and crime and healthier families. if you keep taking things away and mismanaging what we do have there will not be anything left. Why are children the lowest priority?


I know of studies done in two cities that were looking to expand and create growth that would not be a drastic change on their towns, and yet bring in the young families that could add to the GNP and bring in new business, and one of the most important factors is education and programs for children of families. This city in this respect is throwing out the baby with the pool water. Just go back and do a little research on the problem with our schools, and as a single dad with two teens this town has NOTHING…NADA for kids and is doing whatever it can to kill anything that might take these kids off the streets and away from drugs and gangs. TOO MANY OLD MEN…AKA THE GOOD OLE BOYS and one strange city attorney.


“Why are children the lowest priority”?

Because they are too young to buy wine.



I am sorry to confirm that you are correct in what you heard, One of my competitors that was invited to attend told me that when he asked who was invited to attend that my name was not mentioned, when he asked why, he was told that they were not aware that there were any qualified write-in candidates… much for higher education. However, that is not why I am writing. I just want to express my sincere thanks to CPRN2012, Paso Robles Main Street and the Paso Robles Rotary Club for inviting and allowing the candidates to speak and be heard by the diverse attendees at these forums. It was a challange for a novice, but enlightening and gratifying to see and experience the quality and variety of the questions posed to us that were invited to participate..Thanks again to these organizations


Writein, I can only shake my head in disgust. Every candidate should be invited if it is to be a true candidates’ forum. Otherwise, it’s just selective networking with an agenda.

You are welcome.


It is my pleasure to be a write in candidate for Mayor. Write in GARY NEMETH for MAYOR and working together we will change the direction of our city. Thanks to all those that attended the forum and became more informed on the issues and to CPRN2012 for holding this and bringing us all together.

I believe that we all now need to get out the vote. The incumbents all have the misplaced belief that they have the election won, as we all know Paso Robles is a can do community. Walk your neighborhood, call or email your friends, family or all the folks you know that live in Paso, ask them to WRITE IN GARY NEMETH FOR MAYOR. Then vote for anyone but the incumbents.

I do believe it is time for Manager App to retire or build a concesus with the “NEW” council members to use the “at will” provision of his contract. Also we should not renew Attorney Yang’s contract. Regarding the Sales tax going to the General Fund for 12 years, the problem I have is that the current council does NOT trust the Citizens on Paso to make the intelligent decision that would have a specific sales tax going only to ROADS and replacing needed POLICE and FIRE EMPLOYEES. They would rather put their trust in a pole.

I have always believed that Governmevt is “of the people, by the people and for the people.” After the people of Paso write in GARY NEMETH FOR MAYOR I will bring trust and confidence to the office if MAYOR. I will work to bring economic development toour city, working with PRHS vocational ED programs, Cursta College, Cal Poly, and SLO EVC all who have programs that are designed to assist in employment needs. We need to reduce the interferance that city government puts on priviate enterprise, time and unnecessary regulations cost money. We need to plan for the future now, so our children have some hope that life will be brighter. Tell your friends and neighbors to WRITE IN GARY NEMETH FOR MAYOR.


No one, including you Mr. Nemeth ever talk about what can be done to bring in income and growth to the town. Of course you need to get the pot hole road system fixed, some activities for children and help keep productive families in town, and clean up the Paso education system that is going to just have young families leaving to find a better life and education for their children…you want educated people to stay here and/or move here?…all you got is a bar in town and vineyards. NO ART, NO CONCERTS, NO PLAYS, CONFERENCES OR SYMPOSIUMS, NO CULTURE, seems folks think that the Pioneer Parade and the Fair is all you need. What you want? Factories, prisons, just a tax? what is your plan to bring in culture and money? Believe it or not they go hand in hand…the good ole boys run off the car show, fight anything in the way of music events, fight the Winery Music Awards, fight the Film Festival, don’t do anything to help the possible entertainment and culture that could not only bring income but give a spark of life and something for people to do here. Why only bars and vineyards? strange

Rural Patriot

Seems to me that art is very active in Paso Robles. I make frequent visits to Studios on the Park where art appreciation and instruction are available for people of all ages . It’s right across the street from the park on Pine, and if you think there is no art, you really need to pay it a visit. Talk to the artists and craftsmen who are residents of studios there and look at the calendar of classes. When they have their First Saturdays event every month, they also bring in fine musicians from our area.

We also have a Festival of the Arts every year that brings in a multitude of artists in all media and a wealth of activities for all ages. Anyone who thinks there is no art in this community just isn’t looking.


Agreed Rural Patriot, that is a start and great to have a few other galleries that have opened down town…but what about concerts with National acts, not just local folks in the park, plays, symposiums, conferences, independent movies…the theater only shows what Hollywood tells us to go see and no documentaries, good movies for kids, the Paso Robles Players have to go to Tempelton to do plays…this is a small dose for the locals that is going on…it is not going to draw tourist or entertain the ones that come here to drink wine…I have been to the past 3 economic study presentations…each report says TOURISM is what we can have…why they cover up the hot springs and not promote them?


The biggest thing about the vineyard/winery industry is this: it has grown too fast, its growth is unsustainable, and there is a “bubble” that will burst, just like the silicon-valley bubble burst.

The City of PR has put the majority of its eggs in one unstable basket, and it will be the PR taxpayers who pay when the bubble bursts.


Mr. Nemeth, thank you for making yourself available for improving government and leadership in the City of Paso Robles.

You’re now requesting that the voters write your name on the ballot. I just have one question:

Why didn’t you submit papers to run for Mayor in the first place?

Meanwhile, from an apparent lame duck incumbent, a sandal-wearing write-in arriving a drunken stupor, to an on-again / off-again mayoral write-in candidate. I mean no disrespect, truly, I don’t. But this has all been very confusing for us voters…and sad.


When you ask for diversity of candidates, you can’t complain about it when you get it.

If you want the status quo, then vote for an incumbent.

If you want change, you have to vote for someone who is not invested in the status quo, like incumbents are.


Gary, I am so glad you could attend. As I said in another post, I wasn’t impressed much with you before the event. However, you changed my mind completely by about midway through.

You did a great job. You showed that you know a lot about PR and governing it, but it is long enough since you were involved in city government before that you are clearly no longer a part of the status quo. You have enough distance to see the problems, and you have the experience to start fixing them.

A perfect combination. Thanks again.

JB Bronson

And who do we think is responsible for Nick Gilman to not receive a report of the City’s investigation on Solomon? Therein lies the problem. The Council kept in the dark is a symptom.


Nick, Solomon partied on, most times out of control, at the Native Grill in SLO with celebrities and friends to such an extent that the bar kept a special table roped off for her use only on Friday and Saturday nights. EVERYONE in SLO knew about it, especially the SLOPD. How could App and the rest of you Council Members not know? Shame on you, shame on App.


So in addition to everything else, Duane Picanco and Fred Strong are also cowards. What a pair of losers. They honestly need to be replaced.



You post with a boardname and make outrageous statements to people who exist in the real world.

Who is the coward?



you post as a board name as well, correct.

I wont use the words “cowards” and “losers” but I sure do believe these guys are not acting in the interest of the citizens who originally elected them and that they are not fullfilling their fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers.


You need be real specific when accusations like that are made. How are they not fulfilling their fiduciary responsibility, specifically?

Oh, by the way, all of us who use usernames are cowards, all of us. I don’t think for a minute that the crap that’s posted here would continue if we all had to stand by what we post and reveal out identity.

So, what are the specifics, I haven’t mailed in my ballot yet.


One specific accusation is that Jim App assigns city staff to blog on work time to counter any criticisms of his management and criticisms of the city. Are you one of our public servants paid by our tax dollars to shut down city residents who complain about how the city is run? This accusation is confirmed by FOIA from Jim App and by the investigation Cal Coast News made showing one blogger coming from the Paso Police Dept.

If you want to know the specifics, do your own research on this web site.


That’s a serious accusation, what is the status of the investigation?

And, what has that to do with the above accusation aimed at Strong and Picanco?

I have no dog in this fight, only more that tired of unsubstantiated accusations.

I am not a public servant, haven’t been paid by the government since being discharged from the military.


You are in a message board environment, where most of the regulars know the information that has been presented on the site, and don’t give references–it is wasted time and effort.

In fact, show me a news-media-related message board where people give references for everything they post. You can’t.

So why are you applying one very difficult standard to CCN’s posters and one to all the other media’s posters?

I think you DO have a dog in this fight.


Weasels weaseling around weasel robles


My husband & I hated to miss the forum last night but it was impossible for us to get there. Kudos to CPRN2012 who organized it for the community. Our votes will be going to two new council members to fill the seats of the incumbents & one new mayor to replace the old guard. If it’s not possible for financial cuts to bring the money to repair our streets, we would vote for a sales tax to be implemented for that purpose, only IF the money was purposely set aside solely for that end. Thanks again, CPRN, for your great work!


Congrats to Karen Daniels and CPRN for a very well planned, organizied, and professional forum! it was a pleasure to be there.


Thank you. It was the culmination of many weeks effort along with a great support team. It was absolutely my pleasure to bring it together for the community of Paso Robles, giving the 75 people who attended the opportunity to participate in a forum with their candidates. We certainly learned something about each one of them!

CPRN2012 is working now to provide the video of this event on our website, We will let you know when it is available.


Anyone voting in Paso should have attended this forum. It was professional, informative and an eye-opener as to who is serious about solving the problems of Paso. Thank you to all the dedicated and concerned citizens who organized this community forum, a model for other cities.


I attended this forum last night and would like to extend my thanks and appreciation to CPRN2012 for putting it on for the citizens of this city. Overall, it was informative. My main disappointment was the

low turnout – as with attendance at CC meetings and other candidate forums – there are way too many people in this city that, by their lack of particapation, show they do not really care how this city is run. Either because they don’t have the time, do not believe they can make a difference, or just do not care.

That lack of particiaption or un-caring attitude is exactly why this city is where it is. The city manager and city council can do, and have done, pretty much whaterver they want and serve those whom they choose. A very big example of this is the 1/2% sales tax – they relied on the input of paid pollsters to ‘determine’ that it would be wrong to make this a specific tax for streets only. This issue impacts Paso Robles, not some other part of SLO couinty or state, What a novel idea, but it would have been so simple to just ask your citizens – all of them. Bold leadership demands nothing less.

This city needs new, bold leaders that will have the guts to really look out for ALL citizens of this city.


Couldn’t agree with you more. I attended the forum at Cuesta this afternoon and only need one hand to count the concerned citizens that attended.

As for the candidates, Strong, Gillman and Martin were there, but the rest were absent. How can you get votes if you fail to show and state your case?

Apathy is alive and well in Paso


I heard that only selected candidates were invited to the Cuesta form?


One more thing, if you are so inclined and are interested in some fresh opinions from someone that has seen the highs and lows of the City of Paso Robles for over 65 years, I would very much appreciate if you would write-in Jerry Jones and don’t forget to check the box…thanks



Were you invited to the Cuesta forum?