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Sunday, December 16 , 2018, 7:33 pm | Fair 56º


Ron Fink: 2018 Is Here; What’s Behind Us?

On New Year’s morning, 2017 was officially behind us. Whether you liked the year or thought it was a total disaster, Jan. 1 marked a new start for all of us.

If you celebrated too much, there are scores of remedies available; just Google it. Of course, the best remedy is to prevent the problem before it happens. Moderation never hurts and always works.

On New Year’s Eve, it was fireworks in Hong Kong and Chicago, dropping balls in New York, party hats and whistles that dominated the scene. On Monday, it was the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl game in Pasadena.

Now it’s back to work.

I established a tradition years ago that included waking early on New Year's morning and turning on the TV to watch chilly parade-watchers and people who had been up hours to view the beautiful floats, marching bands and horse corps marching down Colorado Boulevard.

I had just arisen from a comfy bed and was drinking a cup of coffee wondering: Why did those folks spend the night on a cold sidewalk just to watch something they could see in the comfort of their living rooms?
It’s probably the comradery that exists among the crowd that helps them through the night. Of course, these revelers are probably displacing the homeless who have been moved to accommodate them.

So, what will the new year bring to Lompoc politics?

We will have a new city manager in a few months. The former one was railroaded out of town for doing what he was hired to do — run the city.

The new manager will face some serious obstacles, namely three poorly informed city councilmen and a former mayor who think they can run the place better than any hired hand.
The new manager will have some serious challenges. The three officials left him/her with a looming budget shortfall and haven’t any idea about how to increase revenue.

Past city managers and councils already have cut all the fat out of city operations, and even though the workload has increased, total staffing hasn’t in many years. Shuffling folks around can only work so long.

It’s conceivable that in some future budget cycle, parks and recreation venues will have to be closed so essential police and fire services can be maintained. After that, who knows how the city will provide essential services?

A new concept of district elections was forced on the city by well-meaning but under-informed folks who perceived that Hispanics were under represented in Lompoc politics.

Using population, not registered voters, as a measuring tool, four districts were created so there was an even number of Hispanic families in each district.

Although it looks a lot like race-based politics, California courts agreed this arrangement was OK, and many cities, school districts and municipal service districts were obligated to comply.

Will it work out the way proponents hope? Maybe, but with only 23 percent of eligible Hispanic voters casting votes, it’s doubtful.

One councilman has caused unnecessary costs in staff and attorney time over the last year.

His constant requests to explore what he considers “important questions” based on faulty interpretations of parts of staff reports long ago resolved have detracted from the orderly conduct of city business.

And his ongoing feud with the outgoing city manager was uncalled for.

Will this councilman change his strategy in 2018? We’ll have to watch and wait. My guess is it will be more of the same.

It looks like the commercial sale and processing of cannabis will remain a topic of discussion in the new year.

Had the council listened to the reasonable requests of residents and crafted its ordinance in the same orderly and inclusive fashion as other jurisdictions — an ordinance that would allow sales and preserve protections for the people — we'd probably be done with it.

But, they didn’t, so voters appear ready to take matters in their own hands. Elected officials should learn to listen to their constituents and craft legislation that includes all points of view.

Politically, there is a lot of work to be done in 2018. There is an election in November; two council members and the mayor are up for election.

With any luck, we’ll have some new council members who think more about orderly government operations, protecting the rights of their constituents, listening to the city staff on highly technical issues like the budget; and will take the time to read and try to understand the issues before casting their votes.

For the rest of us, have a healthy and prosperous new year.

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committee since 1992, including 12 years on the Lompoc Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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