Paso Robles council race too close to call

November 7, 2012

The Paso Robles City Council race remains too close to call with just late arriving vote-by-mail ballots left uncounted.

Former councilman Steve Martin leads by a fairly comfortable margin over incumbents Fred Strong and Nick Gilman and challenger Jim Reed. Martin received 27.81 percent of the votes counted.

But, Reed only trails Strong by a total of 44 votes in the race for the second council seat. Strong has received 23.52 percent and Reed has received 23.21 percent. Gilman is in fourth place with 22.16 percent.

Mayor Duane Picanco will keep his seat on the council, as he garnered 85.67 percent of the vote. The ballot only included Picanco’s name in the mayor’s race, but write-in candidates amassed a total of more than 1,000 votes. Both former councilman Gary Nemeth and Paso Robles business owner Jeff Rougeot ran as write-in candidates for mayor.

Likewise, longtime Paso Robles resident Jerry Jones ran as a write-in for city council. Write-ins received 3.31 percent of the votes cast for council members.

While the election remains undecided, at least one incumbent will likely lose his seat in a year laden with controversy for the council. Following the $250,000 “retirement“ payout to former police chief Lisa Solomon-Chitty, the concerned citizens group Change Paso Robles Now emerged and encouraged new membership on the council. Change Paso Robles Now organized a forum that provide exposure to the new candidates.

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Finally, some election results to be proud of!

Let’s not forget- we haven’t seen the complete ramifications of the current CC. It will take some time to reverse the damage that has been done. New names on paper doesn’t mean instant change. We must stay informed and involved, not take a deep sigh of relief and rest. Change will take time and effort.

Interestingly, change was also delivered by voters to the South County.

Two non-incumbent (and non-Santa-Maria-pipeline advocate) candidates were voted into office. Mike Winn, an NCSD director, decided not to run again, and incumbent Ed Eby was voted out of office!

Oh, I can’t WAIT for the swearing-in ceremony, where there may actually be some real “swearing” going on!

The NCSD Board of Directors meetings should be quite lively in the future.

If Martin and Reed prevail, App should be toast.

This is AMAZING!!!

Steve Martin, with 27.81% of the votes counted, holds a “comfortable margin” advantage over incumbents Gilman and Strong!

Reed, with 23.21% of the counted votes, is only 44 votes behind incumbent Fred Strong!

The Paso Robles voters are to be commended for being informed enough about city politics and city council candidates to, mostly, demonstrate by their vote their frustration and lack of confidence in the city council incumbents.

However, I believe the key component of the Paso Robles voters being informed is because of the CalCoast News coverage of the ongoing debacles unfolding in Paso Robles city government. While the Tribune remained silent, CCN investigated and took the risks involved with publishing their findings. The residents of Paso Robles owe a big THANKS to CCN for doing the “heavy lifting” of reporting on the problems in Paso Robles.

In addiction, did much of the behind-the-scenes organizing and information distribution. also organized and conducted the highly successful City Council Candidates Forum–the first City Council Candidates Forum for Paso Robles.

This forum was a very important opportunity for the people of Paso Robles to ask questions of the candidates in a public forum. The incumbent candidates have largely been held unaccountable for the many controversial (and taxpayer-expensive) decisions they made, and the generalized unsatisfactory course of the City of Paso Robles, because their only regular public interaction with city residents is City Council meetings. Citizens are limited to 3 minutes to voice their opinions–and usually on the agendized item being discussed–with little, if any, city council member feedback.

Because of these restrictions, city council members have been able to sit on their taxpayer-funded council “thrones,” and make vastly important decisions regarding the allocations of funding and other major city policy issues, without having to take into consideration any meaningful interaction with the public on the issues upon which decisions were being made.

In this highly-controlled public-arena interaction between voters and city officials and administrators, the city council members, city attorney and city manager have all the power, and the Paso Robles citizens have NONE.

For the voters of Paso Robles, the Candidate Forum was the first time that city voters had the opportunity to ask questions important to the voter, in a public forum which was not controlled by city council members, James App, or Iris P. Yang.

While it is true that only one incumbent, Gilman, participated in the CPRN2012 Candidate Forum, the forum served as a public venue where Paso Robles voters could ask questions which were critical of the performance of the city management and city council.

Indeed, attendees had the opportunity to publicly criticized James App (who was seated in the forum audience), which is something that–if it had been allowed to occur regularly in the past–may well have applied public pressure sufficient to end James App’s reign over Paso Robles far sooner than the 15 years (an absurdly long period of time for one person to be city manager for a city) he has been allowed to control almost every aspect of the City of Paso Robles.

So, congratulations and thanks to the voters, to CCN and to for doing what many thought was impossible: starting the process of dismantling the cronyfication of Paso Robles city government.

I must disagree with MaryMalone. The election did nothing more than give the “stamp of approval” to the Paso CC and to App. The way things are done, how decisions are made, what issues get priority will, in my opinion, stay much the same as it has been for the past 4+ years.

Why did only ~60% of registered voters in Paso actually vote. That is nothing short of pathetic.

With so many crystal clear issues – almost 40% chose to not give a damn. And that, in a nutshell, is

exactly why Mr. App and the CC have done what they have done, and will continue to do what they will continue to do.

All of us, including myself, need to take a close look at what was not done correctly. It may be true that CCN and/or CPRN2012 got the message out. Unfortunately, the message was not read by enough voters. It is very likely that only a small, maybe very small, part of Paso Robles really reads CCN, and even a smaller number ever logged into CPRN’s website. If that is not the case, and yet very little was changed in this election, then what else happened? Maybe CCN, CPRN2012, and a large % of those that have been so vocal over the past 8+ months believed that the issues were so

obvious that it was a ‘no-brainer’ – two new CC members would be elected, the general fund sales tax would be overwhelmingly defeated, yada, yada, yada. Yet, that was not the case. Why?

It would be interesting to hear what others think was the reasons for what happened.

I think your expectations are unreasonable, both for Paso Robles and for a newly formed group like

In a semirural bedroom community like Paso Robles, change doesn’t occur because you shout a few slogans. It takes time and a lot of effort. To replace even ONE incumbent is an incredible accomplishment, especially given the limitations of the resources of those doing the heavy lifting in getting that accomplished.

Those who are not involved in the work often are clueless about how much work goes on behind the scenes. Do you have any clue how difficult it is to put on a candidate’s forum for the first time? How expensive it is–both in $$$ and energy? For instance, how much of either $$$ or energy did you contribute to the forum? t It was the FIRST city council candidate forum presented in the City of Paso Robles. That is pretty significant.

The reality most people don’t realize is that it takes a lot of time and effort for new City Council members to begin to get up to speed on the vast amount of information they have to know to be a City Council member. A new mayor, especially one who has never been on the PR City Council before, is going to take even longer to get up to speed. One new council member is JUST FINE and, in fact, a great accomplishment..

Before we go any further in this discussion, I have a few questions for you.

1. What is your source for the “60%” figure?

2. Do you think voting turnout at 60% is “pathetic”?

3. Are you aware of the reports from the Bay Area, the Los Angeles area, and the Orange County area indicate voter turnout, in general, was lower than in 2008?

4. Are you aware of the importance of increased numbers of “young” voters this election? There are many reports of the “youth vote” increase in voting numbers in 2012 being a defining factor in voting outcomes. How many “youths” of voting age are there in Paso Robles? Bedroom communities usually trend “old” in registered voters.

5. The fact that even one incumbent was voted off the council is INCREDIBLE. How many incumbents were voted off of other SLO County cities’ councils?

Jeff Rogeout taken into custody today. Bail set at 1.1 million!

For what?

Thre counts dui, a.d.w., grand theft, plus misc. counts.

Jacoby and Miers won’t work this time, time to call the Funke one!

To tell you the truth, I am relieved. He was a train-wreck waiting to happen, and the reports of him violating his ex-wife’s restraining orders is a big cause for worry for the safety of his wife and kids, especially if he is still able to buy a gun (assuming, hopefully, after the reports of gun-shooting, his firearms have been confiscated from him).

Gilman is as good as gone. Steve is in. Now if Reed can pull back from the slim margin, we can see if Paso can get back to some better things.

I hope so too. Paso really needed to clean house. Hopefully they get rid of corrupt old Jim App too.

App has been city manager 15 years. That is unheard of. App’s 15-year reign over Paso Robles has allowed him to, in effect, become the sole power making the decisions for Paso Robles.

When you consider the fracked-up decision regarding getting read of ex-police-chief Lisa Solomon, largely orchestrated by James App, that alone is an example of why city managers should not remain at one city for more than five years before being forced to move on.