Atascadero Police and Fire Association
Joint Statement regarding 2020 November Election

Editor,

After much deliberation and discussion, both the Atascadero Police Association and the Atascadero Professional Firefighters Association have concluded that mayoral candidate Josh Donovan and councilmember candidate Nic Mattson have failed to earn our confidence to act in the best interest of public safety if elected.

Donovan has leaned on economic development and becoming more business friendly as the solution to funding city services. Donovan stated on social media, “I think we can do better than this proposed tax [Measure D-20] when it comes to generating revenue, and we can be vigilant with expenses so that we can work toward creating a larger budget for our emergency services.”

The tax measure is expected to generate 4.5 million dollars in revenue for the city. Based upon economic forecast studies, it would take the equivalent of 4.9 Costco’s, 11.5 Walmart or Targets, 26 – 52 La Plaza Developments, or 30 – 75 retail marijuana dispensaries to provide the same tax revenue as measure D-20, which Donovan opposes. We are concerned that Donovan’s statements expose a critical lack of understanding of municipal finance and the amount of development required to adequately fund public safety and other essential city services.

Additionally, Donovan’s reference to being “vigilant with expenses” suggests that Atascadero’s budget has not been managed as efficiently as it would be under his leadership. Considering that Atascadero spends a fraction of the average California city (per capita) for every service category, we firmly believe there is no way to reallocate funding without disrupting services. With two weeks remaining before the election, Donovan offers no specifics on which city services he intends to cut and/or how he will reallocate resources to generate the implied cost savings.

Donovan made the following statement on social media regarding our police officers:

“Our officers are paid a lower wage than other cities, but we are not those cities. It is still a livable wage, and we still have amazing men and women willing to serve our community for the available wages.”

Our officers are already the lowest paid in the county. We have lost five officers to other agencies since September of 2018, and we currently have two officers in the hiring process with other departments. We have had two open dispatcher positions for two years, as we were unable to find qualified candidates to fill those positions at the current wage. It appears Donovan does not understand the critical attrition problem our police department is facing nor the importance of retaining experienced officers to serve our community.

Donovan has not reached out to our Firefighter’s Association to understand their needs or why the members are in support of Measure D-20. The Atascadero Fire Association President recently inquired on social media how Donovan intended to fund public safety without the sales tax measure. Donovan’s response did not inspire confidence when he replied, “I will do all that I can to generate revenue for our city so that we can work toward emergency services being properly funded.” Working towards properly funded emergency services is far from an articulable plan to adequately fund our respective agencies without the sales tax measure.

Instead of supporting the tax measure, Nic Mattson suggests our city should “put our backs into,” focusing on economic development by more aggressively pursuing business growth by creating a “critical mass” of businesses and industry that are coming together with a vision. Even if successful, the Atascadero Police and Fire Association Joint Statement regarding the 2020 November Election amount of economic development needed to fund our public safety agencies is not realistically attainable in the time frame needed and will result in a continued deterioration of services.

During the chamber forum, Mattson shared his opposing view of the tax measure stating, “I don’t find that the city budget is going to fall off of a cliff in the next two years.” This year and subsequent years until 2024/2025, the city is forecasted to operate with a budget deficit. The total deficit between now and 2023/2024 is forecasted to be 2.3 million dollars. We equate Mattson’s lack of urgency in finding a financial solution to a lack of understanding of the perilous financial situation our city faces, especially with regard to public safety.

When Mattson described his support for public safety on his campaign website video, he stated police, fire, and emergency services needed support in four ways: “Morally, emotionally, physically and audibly…” What was conspicuously absent was financial support. At a time when our police and fire departments are stretched to beyond the breaking point, critical needs require funding, and anything short of that is insufficient.

Although we are in favor of the tax measure, we respect everyone’s right to disagree with the merit of the tax and encourage everyone to vote their conscience. Mattson and Donovan oppose the measure yet have described no realistic alternative plan for funding public safety. “Throwing rocks” at the proposed tax measure appears to be a distraction to the fact that neither has any intention or ability to adequately fund public safety if elected.

We believe Donovan and Mattson have chosen their support of public safety as a campaign strategy solely for their own political gain. Both Donovan and Mattson have cited a distrust of funding being allocated to public safety as a reason for their opposition to the tax measure. However, neither voiced these concerns or any concern for public safety at any of the council meetings when this measure was being discussed. Had Donovan and Mattson advocated for a ‘special tax’ during the public council approval process, we would believe their concern for our under-funded police and fire departments to be genuine; however, that is not the case.

For the reasons described herein, the men and women of the Atascadero Police Association and the Atascadero Professional Firefighters Association have no confidence in Nic Mattson or Josh Donovan’s ability to adequately fund public safety if elected to represent the people of Atascadero on City Council.

Ron Overacker, President Atascadero Police Association
Brandon Roberts, President Atascadero Professional Firefighters (Local 3600)

Getting through this together, Atascadero