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I’m still on the fence regarding Measure J, the retail shopping center.

While I rather not see that area developed, I do see the need for our region to generate tax dollars and retail seems one of the few ways this can be accomplished these days. Both sides agree that traffic will increase so it seems like there is no argument that there is demand for more shopping choices.

I’m getting disappointed with the opponents of the measure after reading about their refusal to disclose the LLC behind the campaign funding. Also, the person writing the Trib last week about the mailer sent out talking about the effect on downtown businesses was actually printed outside SLO County was just plain sleazy.

But, I’m also not thrilled with the Dalidio camp. I sent an email to the contact addresses on their website last Tuesday with some questions and have yet to receive a reply.

Here’s where my mind is at on a few things:

– If the marketplace is not approved, I see more chain stores looking at downtown as the way to get into the area. Over the past year we’ve seen more chain stores open up and the new Apple store will pretty much put the locally-owned MacSuperstore on Higuera out of business. I have not heard any downtown building owner say they will give a discount on rents to local small business owners vs. chain stores so I will assume they will raise the rents if there is someone there willing to pay it. I believe that we’ll see more locally owned downtown businesses leave if the Dilidio marketplace is not approved.

– There’s a lot of talk about the number of cars exceeding existing overpasses and streets but no one has brought up the impact of Cal Poly’s freedom to build what they want. Isn’t adding 3,000 more students in a few years is going to effect SLO’s traffic? I’m not sure what they are going to do about that and who is going to fund it. If you experienced the backup on Santa Rosa St when they closed Foothill Blvd for repairs you’ll know how close to maxed out SLO is on other streets.

I love this area but worry if the cities in the County can work together on a vision where we want the area to be in the next 30 years vs. having cities competiting against each other for the limited funds from the State. We’ve ignored the need for affordable housing and Santa Maria has stepped up and filled in the void and has become the most populated city in Santa Barbara County. And what do we do to fix the other problems we have in the County such as having our largest school district have one of the lowest teacher salaries while Santa Maria has one of the highest?

Residents of SLO County should look at the potholes of Grover Beach and the Los Osos sewer mess to see what happens when local government fails. I hope that we can elect the right people to represent us to shape the future of our wonderful area rather than ones that aren’t able or willing to deal with the new challenges that face us. If we don’t, we’re going to see more tax measures on future ballots and it’s not just going to be to raise the sales tax. The day will come when property owners are going to be asked to foot the bill if we can’t figure out how to raise the money we need other ways. I’ll be the first to put a name to it… the “SLO County Quality of Living Tax”.

Written by Keith Byrd - Go to Keith's Website/Profile