Paso council race almost seems civilized

October 31, 2014


In a campaign season drenched in vitriol, the contest for two vacant city council seats in Paso Robles appears quite sanguine. And the mayor’s job there will be filled by default; former council member Steve Martin will assume the four-year post unopposed.

Five candidates seek a pair of council seats.


Jim Reed

Jim Reed

Jim Reed, a computer draftsman with his own business, came within a whisker last election of unseating inveterate council member Fred Strong. Reed is an outspoken critic of Paso Robles’ city management, and was one of the founders of a group called Change Paso Robles Now 2012.

While his opponents claim they will “get in there and fix this and control that,” said Reed, “all I see happening is the continued growth of government’s boot on all our necks.”

Reed is the only candidate to directly criticize City Manager Jim App, who has been in his position for 16 years.

“The council has absolutely no control over App,” said Reed. “People say it will cost too much to get rid of him. I say it will cost us all too much to keep him.”

Reed also is not reluctant to mention several of Paso Robles’ more embarrassing public situations, like the $250,000 city payoff to former police chief Lisa Solomon-Chitty after she was accused by fellow officers of sexual improprieties. Reed also cites a lawsuit settled by city officials to avoid a public civil trial with a former police officer who was charging the department with establishing unlawful ticket quotas and other department irregularities under Solomon-Chitty’s reign.

Reed is critical of an $800,000 expenditure by city planners to provide a partial grant match for renovating 21st Street while many of the city’s downtown streets are falling into disrepair.

“Staff apply for all these grants, and then the council tells the citizens they have no choice” but to match funds for projects “that we don’t need. The council is five pinheads buying into bigger problems.”

He cited crumbling infrastructure and neglected maintenance at the city’s airport and parks.


Pam Avila

Pam Avila

She’s economic development director for the Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce, experience which Pam Avila says will help the city “continue attracting visitors as well as new business to the area.”

Avila shares the concern about the condition of city streets. Paso citizens deserve to feel the city is taking proper care of our resources and infrastructure,” she said, adding that new city revenues should soon be available “to bring our streets up to an acceptable level. The process has already begun but there is still a long way to go.”

Avila wants to hear more from residents about the area’s water needs before she weighs in on the controversial issue.

“I want to weigh all of the information from everyone affected — general agriculture, wineries, small property owners and yes, the cities of North County — before I reach conclusions about what I believe to be reasonable solutions for both the short and long term,” she said.

Avila also hints that she might be open to a management change in Paso Robles.

“I worked in Silicon Valley for more than 20 years,” she said, “and saw numerous businesses start up, grow, and then hit a barrier. In most cases, the talent and expertise required of the executives when the company was small, were not the same talent and expertise required to grow that business past a certain level. I believe that Paso is in a similar situation. The leadership has done a good job of getting us to where we are today; but we are at a point where new talent, expertise and experience are needed to move Paso into the future while safeguarding its heritage and lifestyle.”

A “careful strategy for future growth and development” would ensure “a more diversified economy,” she suggested.

And she is not concerned about a possible conflict of interest with her Chamber job.

“That would only arise when the council is voting on funding matters relating directly to the Chamber. There are already numerous precedents for council members recusing themselves in similar situations,” she noted.


Steve Gregory

Steve Gregory

Steve Gregory, a city planning commissioner, wants a return of city services to previous levels after years of budgetary cutbacks. He also views the condition of city streets to be a major problem, and has a plan to augment funds for needed repairs.

Gregory, if elected, said he would immediately propose “a budgeted line item to put money into maintaining our roads. These funds can come from the increase in sales tax revenue and our Transient Occupancy Tax. We are seeing strong growth in both of these taxes and we can adequately fund a substantial budgeted line item for road maintenance.”

He said the 21st Street project was intended to “fix the continuing drainage problems” but has not. “The design and issues resulting from that road repair are a concern.We are being forced by the state to deal with the water run-off in a manner that doesn’t seem practical.”

According to Gregory, the city’s residents have reduced overall water use by 40 percent since 2009, and that the city’s intention is to “continue to use less and less of the ground water wells as we get the Nacimiento water treatment plant working and fully implemented into our water system.”

Gregory said manager App “has done a decent job of keeping our city working through a very difficult financial time.”

But Gregory said the council “needs stronger leadership to direct App and staff. I believe the discontent of our citizens is because our Council needs to get back to managing our city and directing our City Manager.”


Duane Picanco

Duane Picanco

Duane Picanco, a familiar political face who has most recently served as mayor, said he believes city streets are no worse than that of “other cities in the county.”

He repeats the contention of the sitting council that local road repair was hampered by reductions in state funding.

“ When the state took away gas tax money in the early 1990’s ,” he said, “cities and county roads and streets began to deteriorate because lack of funding. Paso Robles residents passed sales tax increased to be spent only on street repair. Now two years later, other cities are trying to pass sales tax increase.”

Picanco said the 21st Street project was the result of “a combination of things. First the street had greatly deteriorated and storm runoff was creating problems. Most people think that the median is landscaping, which it is not. It’s designed control storm water run-off and retention.”

Picanco said he believes that city management “has done an excellent job managing our financial resources during the recession. And he sees new revenue increases that will “slowly restore maintenance and services. I don’t think we are out of the woods concerning the recession.”

And, he adds, referring to his long tenure, “There isn’t anything like experience.”


John Hamon Jr.

John Hamon Jr.

John Hamon has been a city council member since 2006. He, too, is anxious to return city services to an earlier, higher level. He was the only member of the current council, he points out, who voted against city employee raises this year, contending that city streets and other infrastructure needs funding more than employees need raises.

He cites his “conservative voting record” and vows to see that rising city funds are spent “in the most resourceful way possible.”

Hamon is an advocate of “working together” with other council members: “I strive to always work collaboratively with my other colleagues to arrive upon a mutual agreement that is beneficial to all concerned.”

Hamon’s concerns about street repair are more moderated than his opponents.

“The lion’s share of our streets are in fair condition,” he contends, saying the recession prompted the council to “focus on the basics, police, fire, and sewer and water.”

But he said the current sales tax increase on one-half cent is being used “as promised” for street repair and maintenance.

He expressed some dismay with design elements of the 21st Street project, but said he is satisfied with manager App’s performance.

App “has his faults as do we all, but on the whole he is effective, communicates well with the council and his managers,” Hamon said. “For the most part I am satisfied with his performance to date.”


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My prognostication is Mr. Picanco will be appointed by the City Council even if he finishes

fourth or fifth in total vote count. So, in my opinion, he will be given the vacant seat left by

Mr. Martin who decided to run for Mayor unopposed. The remaining two (2) year seat should be given to the next candidate that receives the next highest number of votes from the

electorate. However, what comes into play is “the good ole boy” club membership. Just another method by our local politicians to assure their “in house” control downtown.


Obviously we won’t know right away since it is so close. What I said before though still stands. Whoever comes in third should get that third seat with no funny business by the council.


It is such a strange concept-the way people “choose” iconic people to worship and run their affairs. Politics aside for the moment, let’s look at the glamour and sports icons. (Usually women choose the prior and men the latter). Sometimes these figures are “groomed” by large corporations, and sometimes not. For instance, a lot of women “follow” the Kardashians, and Kim is the key figure. Kim endorses certain products. Young girls already have dolls that resemble her likeness (so they also can later worship her skillfully crafted image). She also currently works out in a corset, and because she does it-it has become “viral”. She carries her own line of products too; people follow every word that is tweeted, every trend, even attempt to look like her. (Mostly women, but sometimes not). For men, it is many times the “sports figure”. “Look at that guy run. He is so strong and virile”. “Look, there he is selling Viagra. I should be like that. I still ‘have it’. I should be a real man-get a younger woman and really prove myself. I will see my doctor.

A long time ago, ranchers discovered a secret. Going down the ramp to the slaughter house, cattle prods had to be used frequently. But then, they changed one small thing. They built separate doors to the left; and to the right. It gave the cattle the illusion they had a choice (they still ended up in the slaughter house, of course) but they were much easier to manage. And cattle prods became nearly obsolete.

So, which icon works the best for small town politics? While the small minds are busy like a bee hive arguing about it, the truth is: you end up in the same “slaughterhouse”. Someone chooses for you. You just decide which one. Move along now, make your choice-will it be right or left?

Let’s fire all politicians. In Rome a real democracy was rotating common citizens who did not possess wealth and had a good reputation in their community. Everyone got their turn and that way-no one took a bribe and went bad. Let’s change the way we see ourselves too, while we are at it. Let’s stop seeing women through a lens of sexual appeal, and look within. Men too. Let’s stop making them feel they have to “perform” all the time and be some unfeeling rock. Let’s allow women to get old, gain some weight and men to get a little paunch and lose their sexual drive a bit-without forcing them to worship icons and buy products to live up to some illusionary standard. Let’s knock everyone off their damn pedestal and take the reigns. Let’s stop pretending this system is working: because it isn’t. Something larger than us controls us-and it uses icons to control how we think about ourselves and what who purchase-AND who we vote for. Stop the small-mind beehive. You are speculating and voting for something that doesn’t exist. It is something you have been “set up” to believe in-but it is used to control you. You will deny this, but that is because this works subliminally and affects the subconscious mind. If you watch tv, you DO buy products without knowing why you do. You DO vote for people based on a “created” persona. People; wake up.


Dude, those kind of mushrooms are illegal.


I do not understand Jim Reed running for Council. He has not taken part in proposing any solutions for the problems he cites.

He does not go to City Council or Planning Commission meetings.

Wouldn’t you think that if you were running for an office you would attend the meetings, offer opinions and give input. Unless you have followed the issues and participated in the process it is very difficult to step into this position and make complex decisions.

I think the only reason he got so many votes last time was that people confused him with Jim Reed, the head of the Main Street Board at the time.

Avila, too, has not attended the City Council meetings.

I don’t get it.

I understand the concerns with the incumbents.

Gregory seems to be a clear choice. I am struggling with the others.

I must say that the race has been very civilized compared to say the Los Osos CSD.

Happy about that.


Why is Steve Gregory a clear choice? He has played everything right down the middle

and did not receive a single major endorsement? Perhaps it is a good thing that he is not an experienced politician? But the most telling thing is the list of donors. They are the same as Hamons and he has been on the same side of every issue with Hamon. If you replace Hamon with Gregory aren’t you getting exactly the same thing? Paso needs a change, not more of the same.


One of the reasons you cite is right on. He is not an experienced “politician”. He has spent many years on the Planning Commission so understands the issues. He had been responsible for implementing the current policies of the City, not making policies. I think from what he has learned on the PC he is in a good position to change some of the policies that need changing. I have seen him in the PC meetings and he listens to what the public says and is not afraid to take a stand.

Neither Reed nor Avila have this education or understanding. And the incumbents actions speak for themselves.


You can listen to the city council meetings on KPRL. In fact, IMO there is usually no reason to attend the meetings unless you want to speak on an issue and the agendas are posted on the city’s web site. You can also read the minutes although they are not very timely. As to attending all the Planning Commission meetings, even the present city council members don’t attend them unless they have a special interest in some project.

All three newcomer candidates have proposed solutions. For example, both Gregory and Reed have proposed a yearly budget for road repairs. I don’t know of any city in the county that did away with its yearly road maintenance budget except Paso Robles. It’s pretty obvious that when you maintain your roads that you save money in the long run by not having to completely rebuild the roads.


Reed won’t be a yes man for every project that comes out of the engineering department (with a nod from Ap). I agree that Ap has to go. He should take city engineer, Mike Frankenstein(sp), with him. Frankenstein pushes ridiculous and wasteful projects for his former employer (Cannon Ass.). Remember the roundabouts? That gem is still on standby.

We are stuck with that 21st Street mess and maybe more of the same on 12th Street. Asinine money generators for Cannon and useless losers for the City’s residents. The literature for this crap suggests that it is a gift from the state without emphasizing that much of the project money comes out of the city coffers. Who accepts gifts with a price tag? The City Council, that’s who. Rather than spend our tax money for road repair as we intended they are ripping the charm from our neighborhoods.

How about all that diagonal parking between Spring & Vine? I drive by in fear. Worst of all is the desecration that the planners allowed when they gave the go-ahead to Heritage Bank for the monstrosity on Vine. It would have been more appropriate on Main St., Disneyland than old town Paso.

Reed is only one man but at least he is on our side. I’m pretty sure that neither Ap nor Frankenstein(sp) live in the areas they affect.


No disrespect intended …. John Falkenstien is the correct spelling of the perpetrator’s name.


Don’t know much about your council, but after reading your posts, you folks seem to have the same problem we’re having down here in AG.

Let’s hope the throw the bums out campaigns are successful, good luck!


Please remember that the incumbents gave disgraced police chief Lisa Solomon her $250,000 pay off. They closed the Centennial Swimming Pool to save money. They gave developers an estimated $1,000,000 in breaks on development fees over a two year period.

They approved housing developments/apartments working up to the 44,000 population cap without any new roads or ways to get to town, meaning that the increase in traffic will gridlock existing streets and E. 46.

They turned down all of Cal Trans recommendations to improve 46 traffic, including 6 lanes into town, a cantilever intersection at 46/101 and an overpass at Golden Hill and opted for the cheap but temporary improvements–an extra turn lane at 46/101, a bicycle tunnel under 46 at Buenavista and round abouts at Union Rd./46.

John Hamon, who has never recused himself from a development decision, creates the opportunity for his garage door company to make money every time a housing development or apartment complex with garages is approved. To me, this constitutes a conflict of interest.

Steve Gregory, who has served for years on the Planning Commission, is dedicated to building more houses “to get us out of recession” and “infill” on the West side of town. Infill allows people to build garage apartments in their back yard. He said at a forum that this will provide low cost Senior Housing??????

Pamela Avila has a second possible conflict of interest. Her son is a Paso Robles Police

Sargent. Hence, the recommendation from the Paso Police Department. She has only lived here 7 years, and works part time at the Chamber with a grand title of Economic Developer, but if you look at the web site, it is for first time small business owners.

Duane Picanco is knowledgable and asks the questions that reveal flaws in development plans. He does vote against the majority on different issues. He has no conflicts of interests and does listen to people. He just gives up too easily and goes along with the rest of the council instead of winning them over to his side.

Jim Reed is my recommendation. He is a long time Paso resident and small business owner. He’s a certified green building professional. He knows the city budgeting, the city history, and city problems. He wants to be a voice for the actual residents and local businesses of Paso, spending taxpayer money wisely, promoting diversified economic growth and keeping the Paso lifestyle.


Very well said, citizen. Don’t forget to mention the incumbents’ push for the increased road tax (which sadly passed) and how they and future councils are free to use that $$ for whatever they want to–not just for badly needed road improvements.


Also Hamon and Gregory are very supportive of the 1,000+ new homes Beechwood development and I wonder why! Lots of garage doors will be needed for sure! Sure, the rest of us have been on water restrictions for 4+ years and neither Charlois or Creston Rds. are built to accommodate thousands of new residents…but build, build, build says the council!

And at least Picanco has been more fiscally conservative but he’s been serving for what–12 years or something? It’s really time for some fresh blood. He seems tired and out of touch.

Most all, we need council members who will not continue to be Jim App’s puppets.