Credit: Nicole Herhusky | Mustang News

On Tuesday, Oct. 28, mayoral candidates Cherisse Sweeney, Sandra Marshall-Eminger and incumbent Mayor Heidi Harmon participated in a live debate with Mustang News reporters Lauren Kozicki and Garrett Brown. 

The candidates covered a variety of topics, focusing primarily on issues such as the recovery process after COVID-19, homelessness as well as local protests and recent arrests.

Journalism senior Hailey Nagma fact checked some of the factual claims made by the candidates during the debate.

Heidi Harmon

“I have approved community benefiting housing projects with a focus on housing our local workforce and college grads.”

This is true. The City of San Luis Obispo put the 2019 Affordable Housing Standards in effect in July 2019, which “set maximum rental costs or sales prices based on income level and dwelling size.” 

“I have incentivized affordability and childcare access.”

This is true. In August 2020, the city launched the SPARK program to provide all-day childcare to families needing a place for their children outside of school hours. 

“We closed an $8 million funding gap impacted by COVID to balance out budget.”

This is true. In June 2020, the City Council voted to cut $26 million from the city budget to make up for the economic downturn due to COVID-19. The 2020-2021 Supplemental Budget outlines the city projects that will be put on hold and the strategies proposed to move forward in order to make up for lost revenue. Alongside the efforts to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, work will continue with affordable and workforce housing, implementation of the City’s Climate Action Plan, sustainable transportation, and fiscal sustainability and responsibility.

“The City of San Luis Obispo, under my leadership, has adopted the most ambitious carbon neutrality goal of any city in the United States.” 

This is false. According to the City of San Luis Obispo website, the city’s goal is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035. In June 2020, the city of Menlo Park, CA set a goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2030

Sandra Marshall-Eminger

“San Luis Obispo is the first city to be non-smoking in the United States.”

This is true. According to a 2011 article on the CDC website, “Comprehensive smoke-free laws were rare even at the local level until the 2000s. In 1990, the community of San Luis Obispo, California, adopted the first law in the United States eliminating smoking in bars.”

“I think we need to take a hold on the upcoming development we have to go through with San Luis Ranch, but we need to reconsider. If we keep bringing people in, we’re not gonna get ahead. Those 500 trees that were torn down, we can’t ever replace those for another 50 or 25 years.”

This is true. More than 500 trees were removed from the site where San Luis Ranch construction is occurring. In May 2019, the SLO Tribune reported that 574 trees were removed. 

This is false. Replanting cannot begin for 25 to 50 years. The San Luis Ranch project plans to plant 1,400 native trees of various types in their place, according to the SLO Tribune.

Cherisse Sweeney

“I had the opportunity to meet Tianna and talk to her mother and a couple of other Cal Poly students that came into my store after the first week of protests happened. And we had a really good dialogue. It was uncomfortable at times, and it was hard, but it was a really good dialogue. We were both heard.”

This is up for debate. In response to Sweeney’s comments, Tianna Arata posted a statement on Instagram and wrote that the conversation was not as good as Sweeney had said it was. She wrote, “Was it great when you continued to roll your eyes, scoff and mock me & my mother? Was it great when you disregarded any point I had to make? Or was it great when you physically turned your back towards me & others during the majority of said ‘Great conversation.'”

“We are seeing a rapid decline of what’s happening with people with their mental illness and the chronic substance abuse that we’re experiencing and seeing daily.”

This is true. On Oct. 14, 2020, KSBY reported differences in reported overdoses and a slight increase in suicide attempts, though there is no confirmed correlation between the shifts in data and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article had the wrong date of the debate listed. It has been updated to reflect the correct date.

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