Pixel Tracker

Friday, March 22 , 2019, 10:13 am | A Few Clouds 57º

 
 
 
 

Days After Teen Gunned Down, Lompoc Residents Call on Council to Make City Safe

Rare Saturday morning workshop looks to create goals and priorities ahead of City Council budget process, but many complain about crime and gangs

Lompoc City Council Click to view larger
Lompoc residents Erika and Joe Santillan, with their 3-year-old son, attended Saturday’s City Council budget workshop to call for more public safety. “If they (families) feel safe, maybe you’ll have economic growth in that way,” Erika Santillan told the council. “If they don’t feel safe, how are people going to invest in your town?” (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Days after a 17-year-old bystander lost her life in a gang-related shooting, Lompoc residents called on the City Council to make public safety a top priority.

A three-hour workshop to set goals and priorities drew approximately 100 people to City Hall for a Saturday meeting that served as a prelude to the budget review process later this spring.

The workshop occurred five days after a teenage girl babysitting her siblings was shot and killed outside their residence. A known gang member, believed to be the target, also was injured in Monday night’s shooting, which followed what Lompoc police say was another gang-related incident a day earlier.

On Saturday morning, former Santa Barbara residents Erika and Joe Santillan, accompanied by their 3-year-old son, told the City Council that they moved to Lompoc where they could afford to purchase a house although they now commute south to their jobs.

Since moving to Lompoc 18 months ago, burglars broke into their home, taking away their feeling of security.

More young middle-class families should move to Lompoc due to the affordable housing, “but they’re not. They’re scared of coming,” Erika Santillan said.

Instead, she added, their friends are purchasing homes in Buellton, Santa Maria and Ventura.

“Please invest in your community,” she said. “Give the police more funding.

“If they (families) feel safe, maybe you’ll have economic growth in that way. If they don’t feel safe, how are people going to invest in your town? It doesn’t make sense.”

D.A. Taylor said the council’s goal should be to create a safe community.

Lompoc City Council Click to view larger
From left, Lompoc City Councilman Jim Mosby, Mayor Jenelle Osborne and Councilman Victor Vega listen to speakers during Saturday’s workshop. Responding to calls to make public safety a priority, Mosby said expanding the police force would put the city on the level of a police state and cautioned that “we don’t need to take ourselves down that track.” (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“For me, the most important thing is before we can do economic development, before we can do our parks, before we do anything, we absolutely have to have a community that is safe, and we don’t have that,” she said.

A native of Lompoc, Taylor said she does not feel safe, citing a recent attack on a doctor entering the Lompoc Valley Medical Center and other community violence.

Another long-time resident, Lee Davis, said the community needs to work together to battle crime and clean up the city. The city also should to partner with community groups “to bring” good things” to Lompoc, instead of looking to taxes and permits, she added.

“But I do think we should it make it more uncomfortable for crime to be here,” she said. “That’s the only way we’re going to get rid of it.”

Public safety and economic development also topped a community survey recently completed by 1,000 people, city leaders said.

Other speakers called for boosting tourism and focusing on youth programs.

But empty buildings and limited jobs in the city led some speakers to rank economic development as their top concern.

Lompoc City Council Click to view larger
City Manager Jim Throop says a 1-cent sales tax increase would generate up to $5 million, which would give Lompoc some breathing room. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“We need to create policy that creates more economic opportunity and, when that occurs at all levels ... we’ll get a more realistic community that’s good for everybody,” Nick Gonzales said.

Ultimately, the council agreed to goals focused on fully staffing and equipping public safety departments, implementing community development programs to improve opportunities for residents and businesses, providing support and partnerships that empower community members to improve Lompoc, and determining a financial plan for facing pension costs.

For several years, Lompoc has struggled with insufficient revenue to meet expenses along with high pension costs, with many positions, including in police and fire departments, left unstaffed to save money.

While Santa Barbara and Santa Maria successfully asked voters to approve sales tax increases to boost revenue, City Manager Jim Throop said a 1-cent sales tax hike for Lompoc would generate up to $5 million, nowhere near the $18 million Santa Maria expects to see.

“Lompoc is different, and not always in a good way when it comes to finances,” he said.

“The ratios are completely different,” he noted, adding that sale tax hike revenue still would provide breathing room.

While residents called for public safety improvements, the council members revealed they have different opinions about what that would involve.

“It’s not just putting more cops in cars making a safer city,” Councilman Jim Mosby said.

He blamed Lompoc’s shortfall on a recent pay increase that added up to $900,000 in raises for police officers and $600,000 for firefighters.

In addition to police officers, public safety includes library programs and other opportunities for residents, Mosby said.

But if police leaders say they need new positions, those other programs would lose out on funding, he added.

Expanding the police force would put Lompoc on the level of a police state, Mosby said, and “we don’t need to take ourselves down that track.”

“I agree with Councilwoman (Gilda) Cordova, this is not about instituting a police state,” Mayor Jenelle Osborne said.

She added that she wanted to see specialty units to focus on problems related to gangs, narcotics and the homeless.

“We can’t have those if we don’t have enough manpower patrolling as expected for your daily safety,” Osborne added.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today!

Our professional journalists work tirelessly to report on local news so you can be more informed and engaged in your community. This quality, local reporting is free for you to read and share, but it's not free to produce.

You count on us to deliver timely, relevant local news, 24/7. Can we count on you to invest in our newsroom and help secure its future?

We provide special member benefits to show how much we appreciate your support.

Email
I would like give...
Great! You're joining as a Red-Tailed Hawk!
  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.