Cunningham was unable to attend the meeting with a last-minute engagement

SAN LUIS OBISPO — A virtual town hall meeting was held on Thursday, Apr. 1, to discuss and answer questions regarding the 2021 legislative session and COVID-19 recovery for San Luis Obispo County.

The town hall meeting was originally meant to be hosted by Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, Congressman Salud Carbajal, and State Senator John Laird.

Unfortunately, it was announced that Cunningham was unable to attend the virtual meeting due to a last-minute engagement.

Getting through this together, Atascadero

Carbajal started the meeting with an opening statement, “I’ve been working hard to ensure the voice of our Central Coast communities are heard loud and clear in congress during this challenging time. With the American Rescue Plan signed into law, we finally now have a national plan in place to vaccinate Americans to tackle this crisis–we finally are making progress towards immunizing everyone who wants a vaccine. It looks like there is finally light at the end of the COVID tunnel.”

He mentioned several projects he is working on, including plans for repurposing Diablo Canyon as a renewable energy source using offshore winds.

Carbajal was also pleased to report his bill, the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act was passed in the House last month, “This bill designates over 240,000 acres of federal land in the Carrisa Plains National Monument and the Los Padres National Forest as wilderness, the highest form of protection and blocks any development in the region including oil and gas drilling.”

Citizens could ask questions through the Facebook live comments or send in a question ahead of time.

Carbajal and Laird each answered questions for what ended up being just under one hour.

Any questions that were not answered during the live town hall will be receiving a written response.

The last question asked was from a resident in Atascadero, “What are your thoughts on finding common ground across party lines so things can get done for the benefit of all?”

Carbajal was first to begin his response to the question, “You know I believe it’s imperative. I think our founding fathers and our founding mothers envisioned that it was perfectly fine to have two parties or multiple parties in our country and our congress and state legislatures. It’s okay to have debate and discourse of ideas and be passionate and discuss issues and differences, but at the end of the day, not demagogy one another, not be uncivil, and I think that lends itself to having mutual respect. And while you might agree with 60 percent, 70 percent of things, there’s always a certain amount of things that we can agree on that if we have mutual respect for one another, we will move solutions forward on those things that we do agree but to create an environment of hate, to create an environment of demagoguing and not having mutual respect for one another doesn’t create an environment that lends itself to collaboration and working across party lines.”

Laird mentioned that they had hoped Cunningham would make it to the town hall as Cunningham had planned.

Both Laird and Carbajal provided examples of them showing bipartisanship, such as reaching out and introducing themselves to the opposite party members. Laird mentioned that working to be bipartisan isn’t easy, but it is a “key part of what we do.”

Throughout town hall, questions were asked about the Pismo Dunes’ closure, repurposing Diablo Canyon, and the homeless crisis, among others.

A resident from Shandon asked what can be done to address traffic on Highway 101.

Carbajal said the solution is to invest in different transit options such as the Amtrak and look into widening the highway to enhance it.

A question through Zoom asked what can be done in California to get better gun control.

Laird responded by saying we need to have a discussion and scientific look at what can be done for gun control in California.

Carbajal mentioned interest in renewing the expired assault rifle band, which he said is a discussion that needs to happen sooner rather than later, along with background checks and giving other states an incentive to create their Red Flag bill. The Red Flag bill allows family members to have firearms temporarily taken away from another distraught family member.

In conclusion of the meeting, Senator Laird mentioned his office has a staff member dedicated to solving EDD (Employment Development Department) cases and for anyone who needs assistance to contact his office.

During Carbajal’s final words, he said he did invite Assemblyman Cunningham to join the town hall, “This is a bipartisan effort that we made every effort to be inclusive. Regrettably, he had something that came up that prevented him from joining us.”