Candidate for Mayor of San Luis Obispo.
|Why are you running for office?:
|We need bold, visionary leadership right now — leadership intimately connected to the very real, very immediate issues we are facing. The rapid decline of our Public Health and Safety is alarming, and the community is thirsting for a compassionate, pragmatic, results driven approach that unites us. And that’s why I’m running. We can do better, and we must do better.
|What makes you qualified for the job?:
|I’m a mom, I own a small business, I’m an entrepreneur, and I’ve had a diverse career path for 30 years that’s prepared me for the job of Mayor at this pivotal time in history. I have practical insight into how local, county, state and the federal agencies operate, and I believe in cultivating consensus among a diversity of thoughts to find practical solutions. As an entrepreneur over the last 18 years I’ve learned to adapt, to face hard questions and implement solutions. Like most local businesses, I have been brought me to my knees over the last six months, and I’m grateful to still be operating, but the reality is SLO is facing a small business crisis. As Mayor of SLO, I’ll lean on my experience and insight, bring us together through collaboration and communication… and implement practical solutions.
|What are your two main priorities if you win?:
|The reality is the priorities have already made themselves - We are facing a crisis in Public health & safety, and our local economy sits on the brink. Walking downtown, on Higuera alone I recently counted 17 'For Rent' signs. That’s alarming and it’s about to get worse. We have nearly 420 unsheltered people in SLO County as a whole and we’ve seen a rapid increase since COVID. Many suffer from substance dependencies and mental illness, and the younger demographic has doubled in the last two years. It’s both alarming and heartbreaking for me. We need to diligently promote tourism and that includes thriving small businesses in our town - we simply can’t keep going on our current trajectory - we can do better, and we have to do better.
|How will you interact with other governments?:
|I feel our City needs a devoted task force to interact with the County — to ensure our Health and Safety resource needs are met and accounted for. Unity is more important than ever if we want real, practical progress, and I intend to work closely with our neighbors in and around our County, especially as it relates to our Health & Safety. These issues don’t draw boundaries at City or County lines.
|What are your plans to help overcome COVID-19?:
|There are no easy answers. We have to constantly look at the data, listen to the health officials, and be diligent about protecting people who are high risk and protecting our community in all ways. I support reopening safely, in ways that protect people and also protect SLO from becoming a ghost town in the next year. I also believe our wellness community is essential business as they represent preventive healthcare and education. And our worship community is vital to the emotional, spiritual and mental health of many in San Luis Obispo. It’s not talked about enough, but our physical and spiritual wellbeing will be vital to our overall recovery and to growth and healing. We can’t just look through a pipe at this problem, we have to consider all of the implications and costs, and come up with practical solutions.
|Which two issues are most important to you?:
|Unifying our community and developing pragmatic solutions.
Unity is not just a buzzword for me - it’s something I believe in. The polarization in our country is tearing us apart, and I think we can do better in SLO. I’ve been smeared and wrongfully labeled by some in our community, and at the end of the day it’s sad to me. When opponents smear and label me, it defines who they are, but it does not define who I am. At some point, coming together and solving real problems — and candidly just coming from a place of love and not fear — has to be more important than winning in politics. I’m standing strong in that and I trust the people of SLO to see through playground politics, and see the true heart of my campaign.
There are some really very dire challenges facing San Luis Obispo right today. We’ve got massive Public Health and Safety challenges and real Economic and Small Business struggles. The hard truth is we can’t solve it all at once - candidates like to sell that they can do it all, but the truth is we have to be practical, we have to prioritize what we can get done and we have to implement. We can only do this collectively.
Extended Interview: Cherisse Marie Sweeney