San Luis Obispo voters face three choices for mayor this election season: current mayor Jan Marx, local architect Steve Barasch and modern-day Don Quixote rebel Don Hedrick.
The most well known of this year’s mayoral choices is probably Marx, San Luis Obispo’s mayor for the past two years.
Before being elected mayor, Marx served on San Luis Obispo’s city council from 1998 to 2002, and was re-elected again in 2008. She became mayor in 2010, beating out candidate Paul Brown by less than 200 votes.
Over the past two years, she has prioritized projects such as increasing bike paths, balancing the city budget, creating safe spaces for the homeless and improving the city’s infrastructure.
And Marx’s performance over the past two years is helping her win some of the student vote, city and regional planning senior BJ Kavadas said.
Marx’s leadership during the past two years helped the city thrive in tight budget situations, Kavadas, who works with the city’s community development department, said.
“For what it’s worth, she seems like an all right lady,” Kavadas said.
If Marx has one shortfall, it’s the inability to overcome the gap between the city and Cal Poly students, Kavadas said.
“I would like it if they showed more of an interest in us, but at the same time I feel like we need to show more of an interest in being part of the city,” Kavadas said.
And a large part of that interest is researching local candidates and exercising students’ voices as part of the local electorate, Kavadas said.
Marx could not be reached at press time for comment.
For other names on the ballot, however, things are not going as well. Barasch, a local architect turned mayoral candidate, got into the race because of the urging of friends and colleagues, he said.
“I guess I fell victim to the will of the masses,” Barasch said.
Barasch, who has been involved in local planning for more than 10 years as an architect and landlord in San Luis Obispo, said he specializes in restructuring companies to make them more efficient.
San Luis Obispo as a city is spending millions on unnecessary projects, such as homeless legislation and the Nacimiento pipeline, Barasch said. That money can be redirected to important issues such as new fire stations, he said.
In addition, the city continues to balance its budget by pulling money from savings, which is fiscally unsound for the future, Barasch said.
“My specialty is reorganizing campus, and the city is no different,” Barasch said.
And to supporter Leslie Halls, executive director of the San Luis Obispo County Builders’ Exchange, Barasch is just the man to fix problems in San Luis Obispo. Many of the members of the San Luis Obispo City Council, such as Marx, have been involved for too long, and it’s time to get people who aren’t politicians in the council seats, Halls said.
“People are ticked off,” Halls said. “Our city’s going the wrong direction and Steve has the business acumen and the intelligence and lack of special interest groups pulling his chains to be able to pull this off.”
The Quixotic Knight
Most people know Hedrick. They may not know him by name, but most San Luis Obispo residents instantly recognize the man dressed as Don Quixote, riding his chariot up and down Farmers’ Market’s main street on Thursday nights.
Hedrick, or “The Don Quixote de San Luis Obispo,” as he calls himself, has been a fixture of the San Luis Obispo mayoral race since 2006, after failing to block San Luis Obispo’s first mixed-use development, Hedrick said.
As a concerned citizen, Hedrick attended a city planning meeting where locals were each allowed five minutes to voice their concerns, or so it was advertised, Hedrick said.
“When I stood up, the chairman said three minutes,” Hedrick said.
This spark ignited Hedrick’s own personal battle against the city of San Luis Obispo, which has included letters of protest, extensive research of city laws and bylaws (Hedrick downloaded more than 1,000 pages of city documents and read them all one summer to find ways in which the first mixed-use project was illegal, he said), demonstrations at Farmers’ Market and his recurring bid for mayor.
And it’s a bid in a game where the odds have been rigged against him, Hedrick said.
Hedrick ran in 2006, garnering 527 votes. In 2008, instead of running, he supported a friend. Hedrick was back in 2010, though.
On election day, Hedrick watched as he tallied 20 votes (plus several hundred absentee ballots that had been sent in) and as the rest of the precincts reported, he didn’t win a single vote, which seemed statistically impossible, Hedrick said.
“I didn’t get a single vote the rest of the night,” Hedrick said.
The election was hacked, Hedrick believes, by organized crime who control the government and don’t want him in office, he said. He finished the election with only 512 votes.
Hedrick sees himself as a knight fighting against a government corrupted by international crime organizations who are using the Central Coast to launder money, he said, a Don Quixote in a world of very real windmills.
“That’s who I was up against,” Hedrick said. “That’s who corrupted the government.”
He’s running again this year, with out much more hope, but just as determined to get his message out, Hedrick said.
“The election was hacked, so I’m expecting this election to be hacked, too,” Hedrick said.