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Lompoc Takes Final Step for Switch to District-Based Elections

Lompoc City Council members listen to a staff report on the district-based elections process Tuesday. In addition to Mayor Bob Lingl, center, are council members Jim Mosby, Dirk Starbuck, Jenelle Osborne and Victor Vega. Click to view larger
Lompoc City Council members listen to a staff report on the district-based elections process Tuesday. In addition to Mayor Bob Lingl, center, are council members Jim Mosby, Dirk Starbuck, Jenelle Osborne and Victor Vega. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

With one final vote Tuesday night, the Lompoc City Council changed the way they, and future members, will be elected to the panel.

The council approved the second reading of an ordinance implementing district-based elections, and ending the at-large system of city voters picking members to serve.

The action came after the threat of a lawsuit under the California Voting Rights Act and several public hearings held since summer focused on how to carve the city into districts. 

Six public hearings have been held, City Attorney Joe Pannone said, noting Tuesday's action marked the final step. 

“Even though I didn’t think this was necessary in this community I’m very pleased with the way it all came out,” Mayor Bob Lingl said. 

“It went pretty seamless. From what I’ve read and what I’ve seen I think the community will probably benefit from this. I think we did the right thing,” Lingl added. 

The selected map includes a geographically large District 1 on the northern edge of the city with North Avenue serving as the southern border. 

District 2 stretches between North and Chestnut avenues while District 3 falls below Chestnut, and District 4 is the roughly the southeast segment of the city. 

Districts must have approximately the same number of residents, and the city boasts a total population of more than 40,000 residents. 

The Lompoc City Council approved a final map for district elections. Click to view larger
The Lompoc City Council approved a final map for district elections. (City of Lompoc photo)

Under state and federal laws, the city must avoid dividing communities of interest such as neighborhoods, and has to create districts with contiguous boundaries. 

Race can be one criteria, but not the primary one. The districts cannot dilute a neighborhood with a Latino population 

Members of the public and the district’s consultant, National Demographics Corp., submitted 11 maps during the process.

In November, the council pared down the maps to three, rejecting an alternative favored by many speakers. 

The council also has decided that Districts 2 and 3, now filled by Councilmen Dirk Starbuck and Victor Vega, will be up for grabs in November 2018.

Districts 1 and 4, filled by Councilman Jim Mosby and Jenelle Osborne, will have their elections in November 2020. 

Candidates must live in the district they want to represent, and only registered voters in that area will vote for their representative.

The job of mayor, elected every two years, will continue to be selected by all city voters. 

The filing period for the candidates interested in council seats will open in mid-July of the election year and close in early August. 

Lompoc became the fifth city in Santa Barbara County to adopt district-based elections, following Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Goleta and Carpinteria.

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.

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