By Mark A. Diaz
The Coast News complied six questions for Grover Beach City Council candidates to answer. In the running for mayor are Elizabeth “Liz” Doukas, and current councilmembers Jeff Lee and Debbie Peterson. Mayor Shoals does not have the option of running since he has termed out. There are two positions open for the city council with incumbents Barbara Nicolls and Mariam Shah and Robert Robert contending for them. Out of fairness, candidates and their answer are listed in alphabetical order. Coast News printed the answers with only minor edits to constrain answers to 75 words or less.
What is your career?
Doukas: I am a certified shorthand reporter, a court reporter, state and federally certified.
Lee: I am a professional engineer and work for San Luis Obispo County Department of Public Works. I have worked in the public and private sectors, been a private business owner, which gives me perspective on many aspects of the business and professional communities.
Nicolls: I have worked in business offices all my adult life, from receptionist to executive secretary, to bookkeeper while raising two children and one grandson; and maintaining a 56-year marriage. Since moving to Grover Beach in 2000, my vocation has been volunteering with city parks & recreation, citizen police service, community library board of directors member and Librarian, HomeShare SLO Advisory Board, Friends of Prado, and Friends of 40Prado.
Peterson: I am a real estate broker and own my own real estate business, Peterson Team Realty, at 160 W. Grand Avenue, in Grover Beach.
Robert: businessman/ owner: Dr. Electric, 28 years electrical contractor.
Shah: I am an attorney licensed to practice law in New York and Ohio. I was a corporate litigator for seven years. Since moving to the Central Coast ten years ago, I have been a stay-at-home mom to Bibi (9) and Bobby (6).
Why are you running for mayor?
Doukas: I am running for mayor because the interests and concerns of the citizens of Grover Beach have long been pushed to the side due to current and past city councils’ connections to special interests, mostly in the building and development communities and those that support them, over the health and prosperity of the community as a whole. (Edited for length)
Lee: I am running for mayor because I love the City of Grover Beach community and want to make a difference in our community. Having served on the council since 2012, there are many great projects that need to be completed. I have the leadership and communication skills to build consensus and keep the city moving forward. Let’s finish what we’ve started!
Peterson: I want the people of Grover Beach to have a choice of candidates, and I would like to move more quickly on projects that are important to residents. As the first directly-elected female mayor of Grover Beach from 2012-14, I was the only mayor to create a comprehensive plan to fix and finance our streets. The voters agreed with the plan. During my term, the Coastal Commission approved the Beach Front Lodge, and we beat an appeal to the lodge.
Why are you running for city council?
Nicolls: I assisted in two campaigns for city council for my husband, Bill, and became dedicated to our community. When he ‘termed-out’ in 2014 I decided not to waste the history and knowledge of other agencies and ran unopposed. I’m running for a second term to keep the city moving forward on the path we have in progress with infrastructure, economic development and regional cooperation.
Robert: To service my community. I would like more transparency on the city council by the city council members and the mayor.
Shah: I’ve been on the city council for four years, and I am proud of the progress our city is making. I want to continue my work of improving streets, keeping our police and fire departments strong, and pushing economic development opportunities. We have so many exciting things taking off in Grover Beach, from our high speed fiber network “lighting up” later this month, to our train station expansion, to three pending hotel development projects.
What are the most important issues facing Grover Beach?
Doukas: The issues facing Grover Beach now are safe and consistent marijuana dispensary regulations without undue harm to the health, safety and welfare of our citizens. Our current and past city councils have spent a tremendous amount of money on “consultants” for projects that have never come to fruition. Our city has paid to design, re-design and re-design again the Beachfront Lodge and the Ramona Specific Plan, have used our water rate increase moneys to pay $250,000 for infrastructure costs that should have been borne by the developer for the Beachfront Lodge, and are still going to give the developer $775,000. (Edited for length)
Lee: Roads have been the major issue affecting Grover Beach for many years and will continue to be a major issue until they are fixed. Through Measure K, the city has started the process to fix our streets; significant progress has been made and more is coming; we need to remain focused to finish what we have started. Other issues include water conservation, affordable housing, CalPERS liability and continuing to address homelessness.
Nicolls: Lack of affordable housing, needing more head-of-household employment opportunities, aging infrastructure, continuing street rehabilitation, and the homeless crises.
Peterson: According to both residents and businesses, it is public safety — more police on the streets and continued good emergency service response time, and of course, completing street repairs and making sure there are funds to maintain streets once repaired.
Robert: Street repair and maintenance, lodging, the cannabis industry, business growth, code enforcement, taxes, police, our urban canopy, and the CalPERS retirement system.
Shah: All cities in California are facing higher CalPERS funding demands and locally we must maintain funding for the Five Cities Fire Authority. We have been planning for these demands in Grover Beach by aggressively pursuing economic development and meeting with a financial advisor for the past two years. Grover Beach is ready to take on these challenges as long as we continue our current path.
How do you plan to use funds from the growing cannabis industry and transient occupancy tax (TOT)?
Doukas: If we ever get there, that is, actually receiving TOT and cannabis industry moneys, we need to start getting this city on the right track to fiscal health, increased consistent revenue, much needed transparency in our local government, cleaning up this town, and to start listening to the citizens, which are our most valuable asset —they have a lot to say and as I campaign we have a lot of very unhappy citizens… (Edited for length)
Lee: In coordination with community outreach and input, the cannabis funds should be considered one-time funds and used to complete city improvement projects such as water and sewer infrastructure, installing sidewalks and paying down future PERS liability. Similarly, the TOT funds should be used to help market and advertise Grover Beach (along with the Visit SLO Cal organization) and continue to improve our parks for use by residents and visitors alike.
Nicolls: Paying down PERS liability, replace street signs to make them uniform in color & type size, continue up-grading public facilities, rehabilitate the major thoroughfares not covered by K14 Bonds, and protecting the health and safety of our community through adequate Police and Fire Services.
Peterson: Any plan will be that agreed by council majority. My goal is to provide additional public safety improvements requested by the community, such as more street lighting, sidewalks and sidewalk repair, police and fire equipment, and repair, maintenance and improvement of our main streets, particularly Grand Avenue and South 4th Street.
Robert: We need the funds for our street maintenance project, funds to hire additional police officers for the safety of our community, maintain and enhance the city’s urban canopy, positive code enforcement, help the businesses.
Shah: Our first priority will be paying down our CalPERS obligations and adequately funding our police and fire departments. After that, we must address major streets as only residential streets are funded by the K-14 bond measure. We also have a running list of maintenance projects on our public facilities and parks that would be wonderful to address. My dream projects for Grover Beach are complete sidewalks citywide and undergrounding power lines.
For you, what is the job description of a mayor?
Doukas: ALL representatives must represent all of our citizens who work hard every day, pay their taxes, and should have the expectation that they are being fully and completely represented–such is not the case today. Special interests have had and continue to have a stranglehold over our city, putting us way behind as an attractive and fiscally viable destination city. I am not tied to any special interests and will always put the interests of our citizens over all else.
Lee: The mayor is the presiding officer at city meetings and is the elected voice of the community at events and city functions. With that in mind, the mayor is still only one vote on the council. It would be my responsibility to gather community input along with council direction to ensure that clear direction regarding city policy is provided to staff for implementation. I’d be honored to serve you in this capacity.
Peterson: As with all council members, the mayor is one of 5 votes and represents the people of Grover Beach and their best interest. The mayor is the ceremonial representative and spokesperson for the city and chairs council meetings. State law requires the mayor to sit on the South SLO Sanitation District board. The mayor is the city council representative on the Beach Front Lodge Joint Powers Authority.
For you, what is the job description of a city council member?
Nicolls: Listen and relate to our constituents, set appropriate policies for staff, follow-through on all projects, and think out-of-the-box for solutions to needs that arise.
Robert: To act as the legislative branch for the city, to be involved in making policy, to set and work on the city’s goals, to approve major projects as they benefit the city, be aware of the build-out figure designating the growth of our community, to plan land use projects and implement strategic planning for the benefit of our city, to hold our finances accountable to the proposed budget guidelines; be concerned in matters that are of importance to our citizens and the business community, remain an honest and trustworthy person.
Shah: I’m a connection between our residents and the city. It might be intimidating or time consuming to walk into city hall. People know they can ask me for help at school drop off at Grover Heights Elementary or when I’m in the park. They can call me, text me, email me, Facebook me, or yell to me through the car window. I always do my best to find an answer or work out a resolution.
What was the last book you read?
Doukas: Just finished John Grisham’s “Camino Island” and on to “The Meaning of Human Existence” by Edward O. Wilson.
Lee: I’m currently reading several books including “The Go-Giver – a Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea” by Burg & Mann, “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and re-reading “Toxic Charity” by Robert Lupton. However, the book I most recently finished was “Origins” by Dan Brown.
Peterson: “Washed in Gold: The Story Behind the Biggest Money-Laundering Investigation in U.S. History” by Ann Woolner, featuring Carl Knudson, the nationally renowned government corruption auditor who uncovered the Oliver North and Colombian Drug Deal cabals, as well as our South SLO County Sanitation District and Integrated Waste Management (IWMA) scandals.
Nicolls: “Hide” by Lisa Gardner (a real cliff-hanger mystery)
Robert: “Jonathon Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach.
Shah: I read a lot between my roles as city council member, Vice-Chair of the Homeless Services Oversight Committee, and Vice-Chair of the Air Pollution Control District. The last book I read for pleasure was “Golden Girls Forever: An Unauthorized Look Behind the Lanai” by Jim Colucci. I used to watch that TV show with my mom and grandma, and I’ve always loved it.