At a press conference outside City Hall with supporters standing beside her, San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon announced Thursday she is running for reelection.
Harmon, a first-term mayor, narrowly won office in 2016, edging multi-term incumbent Jan Marx by 46 votes. Harmon is currently a year and a half into her two-year term.
“We’ve done so much just in that 18 months,” Harmon said Thursday. “One of the things I am the most proud of in general is just the high level of civility and civic engagement that we have at council.”
Other achievements Harmon has staked claim to include repealing SLO’s controversial rental inspection ordinance, making climate action a major city goal and having San Luis Obispo become a welcoming city — which supports people regardless of their immigration status. Harmon has also touted new city regulations on the distribution of straws and plastic water bottles, as well as the prioritization of bicycle infrastructure and a “less car centric future.”
Harmon also delivered a TEDx talk — a speech titled “How to Turn Advocacy Into Action.” Harmon’s TEDx talk detailed her path from political activist to mayor, which included living in the woods with eco-anarchists, running unsuccessfully for state Assembly and gaining inspiration for a mayoral bid from U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.
While discussing her platform moving forward, Harmon said she plans to continue to battle climate change, as well as the lack of diversity in San Luis Obispo.
During Thursday’s press conference, Harmon briefly addressed San Luis Obispo’s unfunded pension liability problem.
“This is one of the things we are really struggling with and we’re definitely not alone,” Harmon said. “We’re aggressively, mindfully and thoughtfully coming up with a plan to mitigate that challenge and to address that proactively.”
As a conservative estimate, SLO currently has about $150 million in unfunded pension liabilities. Less than two decades ago, the city had $0 in unfunded pension liabilities.
Now, because of rising annual pension costs, the city is facing an approximately $9 million budget deficit over the next three years. The Harmon-led city council is also pushing a sales tax increase initiative.
Nonetheless, Harmon said San Luis Obispo is fiscal leader in California.
“We are statewide leaders on pensions and unfunded liabilities,” Harmon said.
At this time at least three opponents are considering joining Harmon in the mayoral race. The election will take place this November.