Three months into her term, San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon works to strengthen the city’s relationship with Cal Poly students. Fighting for students’ best interests on the city council and mending the relationship between school and city is at the top of her priority list.
“Cal Poly students are such a huge part of the city and our economy,” Harmon said. “I am really trying to heal the ‘town and gown’ relationship and make it less ‘us vs. them.’”
At the end of winter quarter, Harmon spoke to students in professor Steven Stern’s Governmental and Social Influences on Business class (BUS 404). Stern, an adjunct law professor, wanted to give students a chance to ask the mayor questions and humanize local government.
“I wanted to put a face behind politics and show them that there is an actual person who is dealing with the issues,” Stern said. “I think it is important to know the people, besides the things they see on CNN.”
Harmon took questions on policies ranging from legalized marijuana in the city, student housing, the recently repealed rental housing inspection program and safety enhancement zones.
“My style is to be as open and inclusive as possible,” Harmon said. “I want everyone to feel heard.”
Students brought up several issues, including a lack of bike racks downtown, crossing the railroad tracks and expensive fines incurred from parties. Students safety on St. Patrick’s Day was also discussed.
Throughout the class, Harmon took notes on ideas.
“I’ll just go back to my staff and say this is what Cal Poly students want!” Harmon said.
Harmon’s message to students is to not underestimate the value of showing up and letting your voice be heard.
“I want to inspire young people to get involved,” Harmon said. “I am more excited to hear that I inspired someone to take action over hearing that they voted for me.”
Business administration sophomore Archie Mitchell was, as he put it, humbled by the chance to have the mayor directly address his class.
“Getting to talk to Mayor Harmon was really meaningful,” Mitchell said. “It showed me that she cares a lot about Cal Poly students.”
Remi Crossetti, a business administration sophomore, said he definitely felt the relationship between students and the city improve since Harmon took office.
“I hope that there is going to be more change,” Crossetti said. “I am a big proponent of having more cooperation between student body and city, which starts with making student connections.”