Heidi Harmon is the current mayor of San Luis Obispo and running for reelection. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News. This letter has been edited for clarity.
When I first began my campaign for mayor two years ago, I heard from a lot of students who felt ignored by City Hall. In two short years, I’ve done my best to make Cal Poly students know that their voices are not only heard, but also powerful instruments of change.
I’ve listened to students of color who feel alone, alienated and unsupported. I’ve listened to both men and women who fear or have experienced sexual violence. I’ve listened to students who must make the impossible choice between their education and a roof over their head. Because of your important feedback, we’ve done some incredible work together in this community.
Following the horrific racist incidents on campus last year, I began working with students and community partners including the NAACP, RACE Matters SLO, the Five Cities Diversity Coalition, and our city’s Human Relations Commission to listen and learn about what I can do as your mayor to make San Luis Obispo the “happiest city in America” for everyone, not only the privileged majority. We still have a lot of work to do, but with your support, we can succeed.
After hearing from many immigrant students, my colleagues on the City Council and I declared San Luis Obispo a “welcoming city” last year to protect undocumented students and residents from the danger of being uprooted from their lives and separated from their families. My opponent did not support this action.
Many students also expressed concerns about their safety and sexual assault. That is why in my first year as your mayor, I kept my promise and tripled the city’s street light budget to create new street lights and cut branches from blocking existing light sources. I also began a partnership with Bluebird Salon and our incredible local nonprofit, RISE, to raise money to provide services supporting victims of sexual assault. Along with my colleagues on the council, we declared the month of April Sexual Assault Awareness Month in San Luis Obispo. This is the beginning of a new era in San Luis Obispo where survivors are believed and supported.
One of the most common concerns I hear from you is the ever-increasing cost of living for college students. In February 2018, one report found that 12.3 percent of surveyed Cal Poly students experienced homelessness at least once within the previous year. The lack of safe and affordable housing is one of the most important social and economic issues facing our community.
Due to enormous pressure from myself and my colleagues on the City Council, Cal Poly agreed to include more housing on campus in its Master Plan. Additionally, I’ve approved housing projects in our city to ease, when appropriate, the immense pressure on the rental market for everyone. No one should have to choose between a college education and a meal or rent.
We owe the students of Cal Poly a lot. You are an essential part of the social and economic fabric of this community and you deserve an inclusive, safe and affordable experience during your time in San Luis Obispo. In only two years, we’ve accomplished a lot together, but there is still a lot more to be done. I hope that on or before Nov. 6, you will allow me to continue this work with your vote. However, regardless of your decision, I hope you will let your voice be heard in this community. Our democracy is only truly a democracy if everyone participates.
On that note, I would like to use the rest of my space in this piece to give you all the information that you need to vote. You can register right now online at https://registertovote.ca.gov. If you don’t have the time at this moment, it might be helpful to set a reminder on your personal calendar before Oct. 22, the last day to register to vote in California. Once you’re officially a registered voter, you can choose to vote by mail or in-person at your polling place, which you can find here: https://clerk.slocounty.ca.gov/pollingplace. I hope to see you at the polls Nov. 6!