San Luis Obispo’s city council has four council seats, half of which are on the ballot for Nov. 6.

City council members work with the mayor to help shape San Luis Obispo’s future and work toward city goals, from infrastructure to environmental regulation. Seven candidates are vying for the two available spots.

Meet the candidates

Carlyn Christianson (incumbent)

Carlyn Christianson | Courtesy Photo

Carlyn Christianson is the only candidate running with prior experience on the council; she has been a member for the past five years and is running for reelection.

Christianson first moved to San Luis Obispo in 1989 with her husband and two sons. In an email to Mustang News she wrote she was “lured by the green hills, the coastal beauty and the energetic college town.”

Along with serving on city council, Christianson is an administrative assistant at Transitions Mental Health Association and has had a long career as a healthcare administrator for both nonprofit and for-profit organizations.

Q: What motivated you to run for council?

A: I ran originally because the city was faced with crucially important decisions involving housing, transportation, climate, environment and relations with Cal Poly, and I had the experience and skills to tackle those issues. I’d served on the City Planning Commission for six years and the County Planning Commission for more than five years, and been a champion of housing and environmental issues all along.  When I first ran in 2013, there were community members who thought the best way to work with Cal Poly was to litigate (this is unfortunately still true) and I very strongly instead favored a partnership approach to both the challenges and opportunities of being a college town. I’m running again because I am still a champion of housing, transportation and climate, environmental issues, and I still believe passionately in the city’s key partnership with Cal Poly in making this the best place to be.  

Q: What main issues will you focus on if elected?

A: The main issues for San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly are: housing, multi-modal transportation and traffic, climate action, fiscal sustainability, inclusion & diversity, water, neighborhood wellness.  Big picture: clean air, clean water, open hillsides, cultural richness, economic vitality and fair, sensible government.

Q: Why should students vote for you?

A: Students should vote for me because I have the deep experience and skills to actually get something done, and I’ve proven it with my track record on the council and as a volunteer and community member.  It’s easy to say things as a political candidate — I’ve actually shown that I can get results on the issues important to Cal Poly students and the university’s future. I’ve also demonstrated repeatedly that I don’t just consider one segment of the city’s population over others, but work always to include everyone in the conversation. I’ve delivered on my promises: integrity, transparency and a no-nonsense attitude coupled with an informed and thoughtful approach.  I remain a friend to Cal Poly, supporting many positive efforts over the years to address issues such as housing, transportation, public safety, climate action, water, environment, open space, and improving relations with neighbors and community.

Sarah Flickinger

Sarah Flickinger | Courtesy Photo

Sarah Flickinger grew up in Los Osos and is a 2002 Cal Poly journalism alum.

“The hills, the way of life and the people here are as much a part of me as anything,” the lifelong local wrote in an email to Mustang News.

After a career in communications, Flickinger is a homemaker who believes she can provide a “grounded, practical voice in our city’s leadership.”

Q: What motivated you to run for city council?

A: Following the election in 2016, I continued to see deepening divides within my own community. My natural response to things that frustrate me is to get involved, share my perspective and knowledge, and continue to grow my own learning and work toward positive change. I joined advocacy groups, I submitted public comments and I marched time and time again. Change was happening, but from my point of view, it wasn’t the right kind of change. There is a lot about the process of decision making in our city that leaves room for improvement, from my perspective. So, I did what came naturally — I got involved, this time running for City Council, with a commitment to transparency, accessibility and compassionate leadership. I will also note that this decision did not come easily, and was supported by many members out in the community, some of whom specifically suggested I run for office to provide a grounded, practical voice in our leadership.

Q: What main issues will you focus on if elected?

A: Data-driven climate action planning, goals and programs are extremely important to me, especially in terms of social and environmental justice, for a healthier future community. As an environmentalist and the mother of a young child, I feel strongly that we must take swift, real action at a much deeper level than our community ever has done before. Our city is currently undergoing an update of its Climate Action Plan, and to date our current climate action planning has left much to be desired, particularly in the realm of quantifiable vs qualifiable goals. I am following the process closely and have provided input regarding urban forestry, but there is still significant work to be done. For me, it is very much about setting the right framework in place to guide our future responsibly. Additionally, as our community grows, we need to scale our climate action and planning accordingly. This can be achieved through zoning and planning tools as well as through specific codes. Other issues central in my campaign include working toward a framework that better supports attainable housing and housing security while reducing displacement, particularly among vulnerable populations, and community wellness through increased awareness and planning relating to social and environmental justice and healthy community planning. I have previously been involved in three California Environmental Quality Act challenges as a volunteer and neighborhood organizer, each of which was resolved through successful settlement negotiations. Early engagement, open sharing of knowledge and compassion are increasingly important as we progress, and these are values I am committed to bringing to City Council.

Q: Why should students vote for you?

A:  I have experience working toward agreement between differing viewpoints, and I’ve engaged with the city from a variety of perspectives over the years. I understand how to effect positive change in the framework and planning to achieve results, and I am committed to inclusive, engaged, just and transparent leadership. And my perspective is very different from any of the other candidates, though it is a common one out in our community: as a lifelong local, as a person making their way through the world while living with a disability, as a woman who has first-hand experience with injustice, as someone who has had to stand up for their right to be treated fairly and equitably and as a homemaker who purposefully chose to exit the workforce in order to contribute to the village as a coach, community volunteer and engaged parent. My point of view is future-minded, recognizing that societally we are on the cusp of significant change, and the sooner we can adapt our governance to plan for new ways of living, working and interacting in the future, the better off we all will be, but we need to bring everyone together into that future. Lastly, I come to seeking office from a very authentic and grounded perspective, with an eye toward the future and deep roots here in San Luis Obispo.

Abe Lincoln

Abe Lincoln | Courtesy Photo

Abe Lincoln first arrived in San Luis Obispo in 1988 as a Cal Poly freshman and returned to the area in 2016 — 24 years after graduating. He is the executive director of the SLO Noor Foundation, a local non-profit which aims to provide free healthcare to the uninsured residents of the county. Lincoln views himself “more as a resident who wants to contribute than a politician,” and is excited to be back in “the first hometown of [his] own” after all these years, this time with his wife and four children.

Q: What motivated you to run for city council?

A: Since returning to the Central Coast and falling in love with it all over again, I have dedicated my time to volunteering in several capacities to make this a better place to live.  I am a transport driver for Pacific Wildlife Care. I was a Sole Man and Walked a Mile in Her shoes for RISE (Respect. Inspire. Support. Empower.). I am a mentor at the Orfalea College of Business and I spend a lot of time working to make sure as many people who need healthcare in our community can get access to it.

Q: What main issues will you focus on if elected?

A: I have really been focused on issues that some say are “too big” for City Council, but if you can’t make change in your local area how are you going to make it at all?  I believe we as a city need to focus more heavily on our residents. With that, I believe we need to focus on healthcare for all and the elimination of homelessness, especially among students.  I believe we can make significant strides in preventing all sexual violence in our city and I would also like to put a concerted effort into making San Luis Obispo one of the the most inclusive and eventually diverse cities on the Central Coast.

Q: Why should students vote for you?

A: I think students should learn about all the candidates and then find the two that most align with what they feel is important in the town they now call home.  I would encourage students to go to my website abelincoln4slo.town or follow abelincoln4slo on Facebook or Instagram. In the past couple months, I will say that I seem to connect with the 20-somethings more than any other demographic in town.  I do have a 22-year-old daughter and that may help, but I have the most progressive views and principles of all the candidates and I tend to be very straight-forward and least politician-like. I spend a lot of time at Cal Poly in a variety of roles and what I see there is not students, but fellow residents of the town I love.  I believe that students at Cal Poly are just as important to SLO as 30-year residents. I believe you should live anywhere you choose in the city and I firmly believe you should get involved in local government to be sure this town is a place you love when you come back 20 some years later.

James Lopes

James Lopes | Courtesy Photo

James Lopes is a Cal Poly alum and retired city planner. Lopes first moved to San Luis Obispo on New Year’s Day in 1976 and said he feels connected to the city for its “unique location and collegiate nature.”

Q: What motivated you to run for city council?  

A: This council and the previous one two years ago did not have enough independence from their city staff or from developers to represent city residents and neighborhoods first and foremost.  The City Council needs more diversity in skills and knowledge. The current council is blindly pro-growth, causing bad impacts on current residents including students. We need council members who are more experienced with policies and can exercise independent discretion in making decisions.   We need council members who are independent from Cal Poly officials and willing to be assertive toward obtaining student mixed-use villages on campus that will reduce student housing demand in city neighborhoods. The Tribune has endorsed me for election because, “…He would bring professionalism and new ideas to the council, and he would be an excellent representative of those city residents who feel they aren’t adequately heard.”

Q:What main issues will you focus on if elected?  

A: Balancing job growth with increased affordable housing.  Accelerating Cal Poly’s Master Plan implementation, and to be innovative with private developers to house more students in mixed-use campus villages.  Increasing the transit system to a 15-minute wait time. Providing better bike and pedestrian safety on the major streets. Creating a balanced city budget that increases police and fire protection.  Investigating whether the City has adequate water supply for future growth. Protecting and expanding city open spaces and parks and recreation.

Q: Why should students vote for you?

A: I will focus attention on the most efficient, broadest-serving kinds of projects and services that will serve students as well as residents well. I want to increase student housing, create mixed-use urban villages, double transit service, increase street and home safety and security and improve neighborhood relations with students. I want the City to assist Cal Poly to increase student confidence and skills so they can succeed worldwide.

Erica A. Stewart

Erica A. Stewart | Courtesy Photo

Erica A. Stewart first arrived in San Luis Obispo as a Cal Poly freshman in 1990 and has been a resident for more than 20 years. While at Cal Poly, she served as Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) president for the 1994-1995 academic year. Stewart currently serves as a Civil Services Commissioner for the county. She is involved in multiple nonprofits in the county, including the Downtown Association and League of Women Voters.

Q: What motivated you to run for city council?  

A: I want to see the city improve its outreach and felt that my involvement and connections throughout the community could help in this area.

Q: What main issues will you focus on if elected?  

A: Communication.  There are times we need to be more proactive in outreach and do more than just hosting information sessions at the Ludwig Center downtown city officials and staff have to get out into the neighborhoods.  The Park and Rec Department just went through a very intensive outreach program to help develop its next 20 year plan. I would like to see the city embrace a similar model for all we do moving forward.

Q: Why should students vote for you?  

A: I’m a current employee and alumna of the school and serve as the Alumni Association President (representing more than 190,000 alumni.) This makes me uniquely qualified to represent students, faculty, staff and alumni of our school.  I daily get the opportunity to work with students and advocate for the programs and services that they need. Cal Poly would not be the great institution it is if it weren’t for our amazing and engaged students. Cal Poly is San Luis Obispo and San Luis Obispo is Cal Poly — you cannot have one without the other. My goal is to increase the connectivity and integration of the two into one cohesive community.  I would really appreciate the Cal Poly students’ votes.

Bob Voglin

Bob Voglin | Courtesy Photo

Bob Voglin has lived in San Luis Obispo since 1991 and raised his two sons here with his wife. Voglin is a retired salesman and the founder and director of the nonprofit Surfing for Hope Foundation. As a passionate surfer and cancer survivor, Voglin created this nonprofit to  bring the medical and surfing world together to help those affected by cancer.

Q: What motivated you to run for city council?

A: Over the past decade, San Luis Obispo has changed and is losing its quaintness and charm.  We need to re-evaluate the direction San Luis Obispo is growing. I appreciate, and understand, that the community needs more head-of-household jobs.  However, sacrificing the lifestyle that attracts tourists and the reason our residents came here in the first place is the wrong approach.

Q: What main issues will you focus on if elected?

A: My main issues will be to change the city’s Circulation Element passed in 2014 which increased density, loss of parking, increased building heights and adequacy of the city’s existing alcohol regulation.  Support better Mental Health facilities to help combat the homeless population problem. Support environmental solutions to help with one of our cities and worlds biggest challenge, global warming. Use good common sense to address many of our town’s problems.

Q: Why should students vote for you?

A: I feel students should vote for me because I have the unique ability to relate to people of all ages.  My relation with surfing and the surfing community gives me the opportunity to relate to so many different people.  My past experience in business, sales and being involved in various nonprofits give me a wide variety of experiences which would be helpful in making decisions to help our town and our community as we go into the future.

Jeff Specht

Jeff Specht | Courtesy Photo

Jeff Specht is a lifelong resident of San Luis Obispo and raised his three children here. He ran for mayor in 2014 and is an advocate for the homeless and veterans.

Q: What motivated you to run for city council?

A: The voice of the people is not being heard.  The will of the people is not being served.  Our current Mayor and City Council have a deaf ear to the voice of the people and are acting as good errand boys and girls to staff and big developers. They were elected to direct staff, not be directed by staff, big developers and special interest groups. The people of San Luis Obispo deserve better.

Q: What main issues will you focus on if elected?

A: The corruption in City Hall, the misuse of finances, infrastructure and affordable housing.

Q: Why should students vote for you?

A: I will hear their voice and I will see to it their concerns are addressed.  I encourage our local students to speak about their concerns at our local city council meetings and I will be there to address their concerns in a positive manner. If elected I will serve the will of the people:  students, homeless, veterans and elderly.

Editor’s note: The candidates’ responses have been edited for clarity.

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