Steve Martin’s election story
October 26, 2016
Special to CCN by William Peischel
The closure of Diablo Canyon Power Plant, gang-related activity, homelessness and the drought are among the largest issues in the race for supervisor in the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors District 1 election. Two candidates are vying for the position. John Peschong, a Republican, is from Templeton, and works as a partner in the political consultation firm Meridian Pacific. Steve Martin is a Democrat from Paso Robles. He is currently the mayor of Paso Robles.
Martin, a Democrat, calls the homeless community’s lack of access to services a key issue for the county. Homelessness is a problem that exists everywhere; the most realistic way to confront the issue is to mitigate rather than try to eradicate, he said.
One of Martin’s proposed solutions for the homeless that live in the county is to expand a project of his own creation, The Mobile Assistance and Services Addressing Homelessness.
That first mobile assistance event, last October, had representatives from CAPSLO, California Health Center, the Paso Robles Department of Community Services, the Department of Motor Vehicles, Social Services, ECHO Shelter, Supercuts and the Food Bank, to meet and provide for arrivals. He says hosting events that are centrally located allows San Luis Obispo County’s homeless community to more easily access services for them.
“We had over 70 homeless come through. They got the dogs vaccinated, they got a haircut, they got a meal, there was someone to help them write their families,” Martin said.
Martin advocates for the expansion of such events. He says there is another mobile assistance event planned in Grover Beach, with at least four others planned in other parts of the county.
“I hope that if it’s really successful, which it has been to date, that would be replicated at least half a dozen times a year,” he said.
Martin has also proposed a reopening of the California Youth Authority Facility outside of Paso Robles to serve the homeless. The facility is not in use. The facility costs $730,000 a year to maintain, the San Luis Obispo Tribune reported.
“You have a medical facility, food service facility and workshops. Why can’t we use at least a portion of this property to establish a beyond homelessness campus?” said Martin.
Martin says he will propose a plan to the state to lease the facility to the county, or the city of Paso Robles. He says various organizations, the Paso Robles Housing Authority and School District have expressed interest in using the facility in conjunction. He says he hasn’t developed a specific plan yet.
“I don’t have a concrete proposal really to ask for that,” he said.
The facility is about four miles from Paso Robles. Bus routes could be added that stop at the facility, especially as city development moves outward, he said.
Martin acknowledges that the closure of Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in 2025 is a massive issue facing the county. The plant pays approximately $8 million in yearly property taxes to the county. There is also the welfare of the 1,500 people employed at the plant. He says an open dialogue with PG&E is essential the ensure that the transition moves as smoothly as possible.
Martin acknowledged that the effects of the closure will be painful for the county.
“I think that the presence of PG&E over the decades has been so significant that we’re definitely going to feel the impact. There’s no way we’re going to completely mitigate it,” Martin said.
Martin says he will look at other counties that have already made the transition and, if elected, implement measures that have proven effective in the past.
“What worked for them and what didn’t work for them? There’s no need to be reinventing the wheel. If we can avoid some pitfalls and learn some lessons from what’s happened before,” said Martin.
So far, he has not made contact with any of those communities, he said.
“I don’t have specifics that I can give you right now but there have been several communities that have gone through this process around the country,” he said.
To address crime in the county, Martin said he will take a cue from what worked in Paso Robles during his time as mayor. Violent crime in the county has increased over the past 15 years, according to the Department of Justice’s Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics. Martin says hiring seven additional police for the Paso Robles Police Department shrank the gang presence. In 2011, the police force had 26 sworn officers. Today it has 33.
“If you speak to our chief of police you’ll find that in the city of Paso Robles, the gang activity in the city, the arrests and the activity related, has declined over the last two or three years,” Martin said.
In Paso Robles, robberies and rapes are on a decline. However, aggravated assaults increased from 2010 to 2014, the San Luis Obispo Tribune reported.
Martin also suggested expanding the sheriff’s department, which has jurisdiction of the areas outside of cities. Unincorporated areas don’t have their own police organizations. He says those areas have outgrown the police structure to protect them, which is no longer large enough for the county population.
“We have in the hills out here east of Paso Robles, an entire hidden city – 25,000 people who have moved in there over the last 25 years, into the unincorporated areas. That’s like having a whole city out there with no police department,” he said.
Martin acknowledges that expanding the sheriff’s department would cost money that citizens might be wary to pay. Money may be reallocated from other programs in the county budget, he said.
Martin says that preventative measures are an important element of crime prevention.
“When we reach out to young people, particularly people who are at risk of being involved in gangs and give them opportunity to be involved in the community, then we build a stronger community because people invest themselves and they’re less likely to be harmful,” he said.
Earlier this year, Martin spoke out in support of the establishment of special districts to delegate water usage in the county. The vote, last March, did not garner enough votes to create the special districts. The districts would work to create compliance with California’s 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The law requires the development of a strategic plan for counties to utilize their water more sustainably.
Martin called that a missed opportunity, and said water deserves San Luis Obispo County tax dollars to ensure local control. He expressed concern that locals wouldn’t have the opportunity to have their voice heard when conversations between state organizations determine who will get less water to curb the losses.
“Its much preferable to set up special districts and pay a little bit of money to control your own water,” he said.
Martin said that if the Phillips 66 plan reached the County Board of Supervisors, he would vote in favor. The plan would add a railroad spur to Nipomo Mesa refinery, allowing for more oil trains to arrive on the site. If the spur can meet environmental standards and leave the quality of life of the surrounding population unchanged, Martin says the addition should be allowed.
“I’m in favor, but if the facts show that this will in fact not reach environmental restrictions and negatively affect the quality of life for people in the area, I will vote against it,” Martin said.
On Oct. 19, Phillips 66 filed an appeal against a vote by the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission, that rejected the Phillips 66 plan. That means the plan’s fate may lie before the County Board of Supervisors while Martin is in office.