Credit: Solena Aguilar | Mustang News

Ethan Gutterman is a history major at Cal Poly. The views expressed in this letter do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.

While San Luis Obispo is a great place to live and go to school, there is much we can do to make it more equitable. The most prominent issue to me is the failure of SLO Transit. The so-called “driver shortage” has caused each route to only have one bus which makes wait times as high as 45 minutes to an hour

We could bring those wait times down to 20 or 30 minutes if the city allocated more of our money to entice people to become drivers. The city could offer more significant signing bonuses or increase wages and benefits for drivers. The Public Works Department should work closer with the Regional Transit Authority (county bus system) to connect the city of San Luis Obispo to the rest of the county. I think the city should also be considering making local transit a free service for all residents. We as Cal Poly students already receive that, but the rest of the city does not. 

The lack of bike and/or scooter share in San Luis Obispo shows there is room to grow. Nearly every other college town in the state has bike share. We are lagging behind.

If you want to change that, the ability to participate in San Luis Obispo’s budget process for 2023-2025 is here. 

On Thusday, Jan. 26 from 6 to 9 p.m., the San Luis Obispo City Council and Revenue Enhancement Oversight Commission (REOC) will be hosting a community forum at the Ludwick Community Center (864 Santa Rosa Street San Luis Obispo, California 93401). 

The students, faculty and staff at Cal Poly need to make our voices and beliefs heard. Being such a large portion of the city population, the views of Cal Poly students ought to be heard and taken into consideration by the council. The best way to do this is to have a large Cal Poly presence at the community forum to share our demands of the city.

As the country is shifting resources from policing to community agencies, the City of San Luis Obispo is proposing to spend $52 million on a new police building. This is not representative of the views of most San Luis Obispo residents’ needs or wants — especially Cal Poly students. 

Currently, 25% of the city’s budget (the largest share of any department) is spent on law enforcement, and yet, much of that money is not allocated toward preventing or responding to crime. When they do respond to “crime,” only about 5% of 911 calls involve violent crimes, whereas 20% of calls pertain to homelessness and 21% are related to mental health, according to the 2021 SLOPD Annual Crime Report

These kinds of calls should be sent to mental health experts and social workers. A program like this already exists in the city; the Mobile Crisis Unit is run through the San Luis Obispo Fire Department and is designed to handle these exact kinds of cases.

Now, the city plans to debt finance $52 million of additional funding to law enforcement to build a new police building. Why would we spend an even greater percentage of our budget on policing, when we know that what would truly make our city safer is housing support, mental health support, etc?

Contrast this with the intense flooding around Laguna Lake, which shows our city needs to be prioritizing preparing for future climatic events. These rains will likely return, and with it comes millions of dollars of property damage and lives lost. It is not the time to be debt financing a $52-million police station.

Our city’s budget comes from our tax dollars. How these dollars are spent should be decided through a participatory budgeting process. The time to ask for input from the community is before decisions have been made about the scope of the project. We as students and residents of San Luis Obispo should applaud our city for opening up these forums. The burden is now on us to show up.