Arroyo Grande mayor speaks out

June 8, 2015


After a dramatic five-week write-in campaign last fall, it’s continued to be an interesting and exciting first six months as Mayor of Arroyo Grande. I believe we have contributed to many positive changes for the city.

Beginning as the City’s representative to the South San Luis Obispo County Sanitation District Board, my first initiative as your mayor last December, was to propose consideration of an audit of that district’s past practices. The board voted to engage Knudson and Associates, a well-respected firm recommended by a citizen advisory committee, to begin work on that project.

The sanitation district is still caught up in the very unfortunate litigation against the State Water Board set in motion by the previous sanitation district staff and board, and the $1.1 million fine for the 2010 sewage spill is before the court. I have urged a negotiated resolution that will stop the legal bills, over $800,000 to date, and position our district to move forward with important projects, and my fellow board members concurred.

Last week’s resignation of the long time district legal counsel may also facilitate the district to move in this new direction. I have since initiated contact with the Regional Water Quality Control Board and hope to explore any possibility for a beneficial settlement and end to the litigation.

To continue to protect public health, we need to add a redundant processing component to the sanitation plant so existing equipment can be taken out of service for repairs. Reasonably settling the current litigation will facilitate commencing the redundancy project. Meanwhile, the district operating staff reporting to Superintendent John Clemons has been cutting cost, implementing efficiencies, and more than meeting all permit requirements to optimize our position.

Other issues facing the sanitation district include considering the viability of water recycling in context with other similar proposals and other options for increasing area water supplies; reducing costs for worker’s compensation insurance and certain employee benefits; assuring member agencies equitably and publicly agree on the apportionment and reasonable cost of services provided to the district as required by law; and consideration of televising district meetings for convenient access by all district residents.

With respect to the city itself, the December engagement of Interim City Manager Bob McFall has seen city operations carried forward smoothly.

In April, our City Council was able to hire a new permanent city manager, Dianne Thompson, who will start on Aug. 1, and to name a new city attorney, Heather Whitham.

We’ve avoided potential litigation by swiftly settling matters with former city manager Steve Adams and instituting a moment of reflection at council meetings.

Changing from the previous council’s track, in December we denied a large housing project proposed at Courtland and Grand Avenue, and have entered a memorandum of understanding with the developer to facilitate a new project with a larger commercial component there. The MOU will save both the developer and the city time and money processing permits.

In January action, our council decided to pursue both a “rehabilitation” plan and a plan to replace the original Bridge Street bridge with a new one, using pieces of the original’s distinctive green steel truss as a decorative element. The option I tend to favor would rehabilitate the existing bridge with new supporting structure underneath.

Our council took a step to fix the Brisco Road interchange congestion, starting two possible options through the environmental and public review process. Option 1, at relatively lower cost, would eliminate the northbound on- and off-ramps at Brisco Road, widen the Grand Avenue bridge, and improve the freeway ramps at both Grand Avenue and Camino Mercado to alleviate traffic.

Option 4c, the other, more expensive option, would relocate the northbound freeway ramps away from Brisco Road into a new roundabout at West Branch Street and Rodeo Drive.

SLOCOG has committed approximately $6 million to help fund this project regardless of the alternative chosen. I urge all residents to learn the details, consider which proposal would be most beneficial to them and to share their thoughts with staff and council either in a series of upcoming meetings, or directly.

The council is listening to public concerns and in February clearly heard the desire to keep the Elm Street dog park open after an unfortunate turn of events with the previous partner that could have forced closure. In parallel with outstanding work by committed volunteers, I believe we have found a path to keep the park open as well as make viable improvements.

During recent televised meetings, the council also received the capital and general fund budget proposals for the next two years. The collaborative interdepartmental budget preparation process considered staffing, service levels, and proposals for the future. Consideration includes the difficult legacy issue of paying down $14 million in previously unfunded liability related to the CalPERS retirement program. I will work hard to consider all options and choose the best path forward.

We are also looking forward to the grand public reopening of the police station on June 13 after a comprehensive and cost effective reconstruction project. The Women’s Club facility, which served as the interim police station, is being refurbished and returned to its prior uses.

We have also had time for fun activities including the annual Easter Egg Hunt, Arbor Day tree planting, and Father/Daughter Dance.

As slow as government can be, we have accomplished a lot is a very short time.  As your mayor, I find the challenge and opportunities exciting and welcome your input.


honk for hill


Thank you once again CCN, for giving Jim Hill a place to speak to AG residents.

I am doubtful this will see the light of day anywhere else.

Rich in MB

Can anyone explain why the Tribune is going under….well this Jim Hill Success story is why.

The Tribune told us over and over that there was nothing to see here….go away you radicals…who’s the fool now? The Tribune…RIP.



McClatchy reported a first quarter net operating loss of $11.3 million and more deep declines in print advertising today as its stock continues to takes a pummeling.

McClatchy shares have been trading between $1.50 and $1.60 the last several days. That is about half where they were at the start of 2015, and they have lost roughly three-quarters since this time a year ago.

Wall Street values the company at a market capitalization of $135 million, That’s less than $5 million per paper in a collection of 29 titles in 28 cities including the Miami Herald, Kansas City Star and Charlotte Observer.

It is even rumored that the Trib sold the SLO building, part of McClatchy’s digital transformation.


Misfit and malcontents with trashy, iconic yellow signs Yep that says it all, or that is what you were called, and then you won.

AG you spoke and were heard, it just took a few days past Nov 4th to let you know


Thanks CCN you put your money on the right pony, I love a good underdog, cause it is a dog eat dog world out there and sometimes it all works out.


When Jim Hill’s name surfaced as a candidate for mayor, I was a skeptic. I refused to simply jump on the bandwagon of an unknown candidate and join the bashing of the previous mayor and his supporters. I asked questions about Jim Hill and most were answered, and in the mean time Mayor Ferrara’s actions hung himself and cost him the election.

So far, Jim Hill has done the things he proposed and he has gained himself a supporter (me) with his actions as mayor. Keep it up mayor Hill.

On a side note:

Many years ago, I watched Ferrara him-haw over the Brisco Road interchange options while money from other sources was available for the next project on the 101. He finally decided that no option seemed perfect, so he chose to do nothing instead. The money from other sources, went to the new Nipomo exit (the one that I have seen about 2 cars use) and we still have the Brisco mess.

Of the two options Hill is suggesting, I like the cheaper version that includes widening the Grand Ave. bridge and removing on/off ramps from Brisco.



Don’t kid yourself, Ferrara didn’t do nothing…The city has spent more than $2 million on Brisco (NOT including staff time over the past 8 years or so). $2 million on consultant fees and who knows what else.

Are we any further ahead? No. Why? Because Ferrara, Guthrie, Costello and the gang refused to choose the only option the city could afford. They were holding out for the option which will add millions more to the tab.

We have to wonder why.


I didn’t know that there was a preferred plan all along by that group of council members.

What is your preferred plan for Brisco? (The one that has been tried)


Close the on and off ramps at Brisco, eliminating the need for the left turn lane in the underpass. This enables two lanes of traffic to move from El Camino Real onto Branch, one going left, the other to the right It worked years ago when the ramps were closed for a trial period.

Since Ferrara and the council chose not to proceed with a proven option, and continued to spend tax dollars on the more elaborate, pricey option, it is probably safe to assume it was their preferred option.

Even now, Teresa McClish insists on keeping option 4c on the table, in spite of the fact the city has NO means in which to pay several million extra. Seems like her loyalties to Ferrara and his way are still in play.

This project should have been completed years ago, yet we’re still spending money on a plan we can’t afford, and have no means to pay for.



I remember the lanes being closed now. I also remember a plan to put an overpass over 101 by continuing Halcyon Road to meet up around Rodeo. That seemed like quite an extravagant undertaking. Is that 4c option?


Option 4c calls for the Brisco northbound off ramp to be moved closer to the Grand Ave northbound on ramp. A roundabout would be constructed near St Pats school. A portion of the South County Regional Center parking lot would be sacrificed, retaining walls would be required…

I’m sure there’s more to it than that, but $16million + doesn’t really get you much these days.


Who are the four of you with the “dislikes” and why do you bother?

Jim Hill has been a refreshing drink we needed.

Join the bandwagon – life can be a positive ride if you allow it to be.

and if you are unhappy, change something! Jim did!

Kevin Rice

Tony, Adams, McClish, Carmel.


My guess is that the 4 dislikes come from the likes of

Tony Ferrara

Steve Adams

Caryn Ray

Tim Carmel

not necessarily in that order


Lucey, Guerrero, Mann, Ogren and/or Rick Sweet.


The thumbs down are coming from folks who didn’t want us to know:

The city has $14 million in unfunded pers liabilities

The city has spent $2 million on Brisco, when a simple solution exists, and has been tried!

The truth about the wastefull sanitation district lawsuit Ferrara refused to settle.

The FCFA is not the bargain we thought we were agreeing to.

Thanks Jim, for showing us what’s really been going on right under our noses.


This cannot be right.

Your words actually seem reasonable and make sense!

You actually have SEVERAL freeway optioins to choose from, with COST OPTIONS???? oh em gee. Like, you actually dusted off the AG abacus and counted BEADS to come up with numbers (we know no one has budgeted in so long, there probably isn’t a calculator in the Mayor’s office- HA!)

I feel like the Grinch when his heart grew two sizes. Maybe if we can get a few more people like Jim Hill with critical thinking skills, there is HOPE…. and not the Obama kind…


This just pisses me off!

You see, I live in San Luis Obispo and we’re stuck with Jan Marx.

Thank you, Mayor Hill, for reminding me what we have been missing in San Luis Obispo for DECADES: a competent mayor.

Grumble, grumble.


Stop grumbling and take action. If you don’t like who you have, then get a few hundred

others together and vote them out ASAP.

You seem to take a little pride (maybe are even a little jealous) of what the voters of

Arroyo Grande did – and rightly so.

It can be done – they proved it. But it will not be easy; Marx and her cronies are not stupid. Their well-oiled political machine, along with the blind support of the Fibune, has

served them well. It will take some hard, down-in-the-trenches work to overcome that.

Rich in MB

It’s easier to complain than to organize and DO SOMETHING….it’s the New American Civics of Complaint over Action.


With diligence, competence and an avowed sense of honesty, Jim Hill is fulfilling the promise that is hoped for if not expected by his administration. I pray it will last. With citizen support it will!


Every time I see that picture of Jim Hill thanking the voters, it reminds me that it is us, the residents, who should be thanking him.

Things are now moving in the right direction and I am grateful to Jim for getting this “train-wreck” back on the right track.

My suggestion for the District, given the amount of money we are paying for a part-time administrator and outside engineering services would be for the District to examine whether now is the right time to bring in a full time Administrator/Engineer who would reside at the plant.

This person should be someone who has demonstrated abilities for both managing a sewage district AND past demonstration of his/her ability to perform small/medium engineering/design tasks in-house.

Anyway, that’s my 2 cents worth, and thank-you again Jim.


Thank you, Mayor Hill. Your honesty and up front approach is a refreshing change to the “old boys club” antics we have experienced for too long.

You truly do represent the “people” and I appreciate how you are always available to listen, with an open mind.

Yes, you and the council have accomplished a lot in just 6 months. I can’t wait to see the results in the near future! THANK YOU!