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With nearly 15 years of business management and nonprofit work in Atascadero, I’ve put in a passionate effort to create and support positive working environments for customers, employees and event attendees. Quality customer service, as well as fair and honest treatment of customers, is a hallmark of good business.

In that time, I’ve watched Paso Robles surge on the popularity of wine and spirits, attracting a worldwide notoriety and customer base. Over the past few years, as Atascadero struggled to overcome disproportionate commercial vacancies and an disparate sense of identity around the city. As I have said from the announcement of the plans by Z Villages to build La Plaza, it is momentous in its center of gravity for where we go as a community and I know that many downtown business owners anticipate economic improvement upon its completion.

That is what Atascadero needs at the center of its economic viability — vision and follow through. There is a network of local entrepreneurs that fall into this category and are truly doing the heavy lifting for our community and economy. They are the spearhead aimed against the weight of pandemic shutdowns and the small business owners who are the foundation of our retail base.

In a world of Amazon orders, Target and Costco home delivery, and other services now automating the basic needs of modern life, it is the unique, boutique, and custom experiences that make a downtown, or any other economic hub, attractive — and therefore viable and sustainable. People need a reason to take the trip.

I oppose the sales tax increase in Atascadero in part because it does not add anything to the attraction for shoppers to visit our local businesses, and it does not attract new businesses to invest in our empty spaces. There are other reasons to oppose the sales tax — and on Tuesday, September 22, the Atascadero City Council explained them.

In lobbying for the sales tax increase, the City discussed a possible oversight committee. This was following the receipt of negative feedback from the community. The sales tax increase is unpopular and the City missed its opportunity to secure the good faith of the voters needed to support the measure. The survey by the City focused heavily on funding for police, fire and public safety, which earned broad support, but the formation of the ballot measure failed to add any security or controls that would ensure the funding raised by the sales tax increase was spent on those items of import to the community.

Instead, the loose guidance left the raised funding subject to any number of uses as determined by the City Council, and the discussion on Sept. 22 made it clear that the member of the Council didn’t even have a clear understanding what the money would be spent on. It was a clear miss by the City management to address the one area of highest concern for survey respondents — the trust in the City to do the right thing with the money.

As a City Council candidate, I have a simple platform with three main items — public safety and security, economic and business development, and municipal accountability. I’m one of the local entrepreneurs who knows what it is like to push against the weight of undue governmental mandates and I know that by developing a business-minded culture in Atascadero we can lead the next wave of industry and local growth to build a business community and economic base that can support the needs of our municipal expenses for the maintenance and improvement of our community without the need for tax increases.

Our neighbors in Paso Robles have built a business community through civic leadership and have a wine region that carries the weight of the economy and has a captive audience when it comes to attracting tourism. Atascadero needs to develop that base, take care of its vulnerable and resilient local businesses, and endeavor to define its identity around a vision for the future before increasing sales taxes on an economy that trails far behind its neighbors.

If we do want to sell our residents a sales tax increase, let’s do it right with a solid, itemized plan for spending and a dedication to a vision. We’ll have another chance to do that in 2022 and I ask you to elect me to the council so that I can ensure that the values of importance to our community are not dismissed when making these big decisions.

In your service,
Nicholas Mattson
nic@atascaderostrong.com

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