Dear Editor,

I decided to run for Mayor of Atascadero out of a special love for my hometown and a desire to serve my community. I had long, challenging conversations with my family & closest friends about whether or not the decision to do so was in alignment with my values. That’s actually one of my preferred definitions of integrity: living in alignment with your values.

I knew that by stepping into politics, even at the local level, that I would be opening myself up to scrutiny and attacks, so I had to gain a certain level of comfort with the reality that I can’t please everyone and not everyone is going to agree with me. That’s the beauty of the process; we put our names on ballots because we each believe that we represent a group of people that
think and believe like we do, and we inherently know there are others that don’t.

Recently though, I’ve seen my integrity being called into question and feel the need to respond.


There has been a coordinated attempt to vilify me for negative ad campaigns that have been produced by a Political Action Committee (PAC). As a candidate, I have no control or influence over what the organization produces or distributes to voters.

It has become blatantly apparent that there are people unhappy with the direction of the City. And while there are several PACs operating within Atascadero’s election supporting various causes and candidates, I am not affiliated with any of them.

My campaign is focused on harnessing a positive message and dedicating all of our time and
energy to make Atascadero stronger. I have not attacked my opponents because, at the end of the day, on November 3 – no matter who wins – Atascadero will still be home for all of us.

The Atascadero Police & Fire Associations issued a joint statement attacking my position on Measure D-20 – otherwise known as the 1% Sales Tax increase.

On one hand, I get it. I understand the Associations taking this position and strongly supporting Measure D-20. I really do; I understand the needs and the challenges we are facing. I care, and it matters to me very much! I am a strong supporter of our emergency services and value a safe community.

At the same time, I understand the current perceptions of how this tax measure is landing with a lot of people during a pandemic; I also understand the current financial realities that many individuals and businesses are facing. It is my responsibility, even as a candidate, to represent the voice and interests of the people.

As I’ve campaigned, people have grown increasingly concerned by the fact that the six highest-paid staffers at City Hall cost taxpayers $1.3 million in payroll and benefits. There are concerns that Measure D-20 provides no guarantees that funding will be allocated to emergency services. There is concern that money can be spent on any priority identified by the Mayor and
City Council.

As a candidate, I have no power over whether or not Measure D-20 passes. The proposed tax increase is exactly where it should be: on the ballot for voters to decide. If it passes and I am elected, I will do everything I can to ensure the tax revenue is allocated toward properly funding our emergency services as the measure has been presented. However, even if D-20 passes, we cannot get comfortable and ignore economic development like we have in the past.

The bigger issue is what happens if Measure D-20 doesn’t pass? In the words of the Atascadero
Police Association’s President in a phone call with me: “We go back to the drawing board.” If the Measure D-20 is rejected and the current leadership is re-elected, we can probably expect another poorly devised sales tax with the same flaws that voters despise. As Mayor, if D-20 is not approved, I will introduce an economic vibrancy and reform plan focused on setting metrics
for economic development and job recruitment to Atascadero.

There’s an old saying: retail stores and hotels are a City’s cash register. They bring in easy, direct revenue to City Halls via Sales Taxes and Transient Occupancy Taxes, respectively. It’s time for us to turn our North County strength – proximity to California’s wine frontier – into
a revenue-generating opportunity by fostering additional hotel rooms for travelers. There is also an opportunity to leverage pre-existing revenue streams. A tax on retail cannabis sales has already been approved by voters, and deliveries are being allowed within city limits, but our
leadership has refused to explore retail cannabis locations as an economic development opportunity, so we are actively driving tax revenue into other municipalities.

To resolve our public safety crisis, we may need to work closer with our State and Federal elected officials to seek grants for new cops, firefighters, dispatchers, and equipment.

Simply put, we CAN bring retail businesses to Atascadero, we CAN work toward improving our
public safety infrastructure and we CAN create tax revenue if Measure D-20 does not pass, but
we won’t do it by maintaining the status quo.

We have amazing people that serve our community as part of emergency services, and I fully support them. While the unions have made strong statements of opposition to demonstrate their unwavering commitment to this sales tax measure, I will remain unwavering in my support of our officers, firefighters, and first responders.

The relationships that I’ve built with the people in this city have been and will remain far more important to me than holding public office.

When it comes to this election and our city, be informed and vote your conscience.

If you are interested in learning more about me, my priorities, or would just like to connect, please join me in Sunken Gardens this Friday, October 23, for a Meet & Greet from 4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Josh Donovan, Atascadero