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Saturday, December 15 , 2018, 1:42 am | Fair 41º


Ron Fink: ‘Broken Windows;’ Lompoc Is Full of Them

A commonly used phrase “broken windows” evolved from a theory proposed by James Q. Wilson and George Kelling in 1982 that used broken windows as a metaphor for disorder within neighborhoods.

Expanding on the theory, they write, “If the first broken window in a building is not repaired, the people who like breaking windows will assume that no one cares about the building and more windows will be broken. Soon the building will have no windows.”

There are several conditions in Lompoc that could be examples of the broken-window theory and many are not just broken glass.

When the Lompoc City Council approved the use of “safe and sane” fireworks in the city limits, ill-advised council members thought the use of illegal fireworks would soon stop.

This hasn’t been the case at all. Since lifting the ban, the use of all fireworks has soared to a year-around occurrence in many neighborhoods.

During the last Fourth of July celebrations, a shooting interrupted an illegal fireworks show in one of the many apartment complexes in town. Still, the council majority refuses to acknowledge the facts and allows the mayhem to continue.

Shopping carts, stolen from markets, are scattered all over town and frequently at recycling drop off points or near homeless encampments.

The City Council approved a shopping cart ordinance in September 2016 that requires business owners to contain the carts on their property and says it’s unlawful to abandon them on any sidewalk, street or other public area, or upon private property or a vacant lot.

But, the current City Council majority has discouraged enforcement of the law, so the number of abandoned carts increased.

There are many poorly maintained properties in town that harbor abandoned and rusting vehicles in their backyards, waist-high weeds, boats, long-term parking of trailers, inoperative cars on streets and in driveways, and damaged buildings to name a few.

A strong code-enforcement program could help eliminate this blight, but the current City Council majority views any code-enforcement efforts as a nuisance. So, the blight continues to worsen as irresponsible residents know there will be no action taken.

Our city parks are in serious need of redevelopment. They are old and worn from years of use and a never-ending series of budget reductions.

Some youth and adult sports fields have become serious hazards because of gopher holes and uneven turf. To their credit, sports teams help maintain the fields so their teams can play safely, but the parks remain threadbare.

The pressure to reduce expenses continues to move money needed for park maintenance and use it for other essential services.

The homeless population is growing in Lompoc and no one seems to know why. Some of these folks are mentally handicapped, others have criminal backgrounds, and they have made little camps in commercial areas, parks, the river bed and in alleys.

Some can be seen wandering down the middle of busy city streets, sleeping near businesses, panhandling and causing disturbances in commercial areas.

Trash is regularly thrown all over the city by folks who think the streets are their personal trash cans. Every time residents pick up the trash, a new crop appears overnight.

The disrespect for public and private property by the people of Lompoc is disheartening. The ones tossing the trash are inconsiderate to say the least; of course, there are laws that prohibit this activity, but there aren’t enough police officers to enforce them, so trash keeps piling up.

I am sure the examples of broken window conditions above can be repeated in many communities, but the attitude of the Lompoc City Council majority is especially troubling because they publicly refuse to take any action to help resolve the problem, instead relying on personal responsibility, which appears to be an endangered concept.

The level of disorder and incivility within our community is increasing every year. Since enforcement activity can’t keep up with the number of violations, and the council majority doesn’t support an aggressive enforcement program, it causes the cancer to grow.

There are many forms of crime that evolve from these conditions; just knowing that community leaders don’t care what people do can lead some to keep pushing the envelope and commit increasingly brazen crimes.

Shoplifting is a daily occurrence, public drunkenness, disruptive behavior, spousal abuse, burglaries and a host of other “minor crimes” impact neighborhoods daily.

So, the biggest “broken window” appears to be an apathetic City Council.

So, what should we do about it? How about electing politicians who have the political stamina necessary to fix broken windows.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear public officials publicly admonish those who are messing up our neighborhoods, and support an aggressive code-enforcement program.

All these problems can be solved. All it takes is commitment, courage and conviction.

— 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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