Friday, November 24 , 2017, 7:59 am | Fair 49º

 
 
 
 

Ron Fink: Council Member Osborne’s Lack of Decorum Stuns Lompoc

As old as I am, I shouldn’t be surprised at how some things turn out; I learned a lesson last week and hope it’s trend-setting.

No matter what political persuasion you are, a respectful response to and inclusion of citizen concerns when making public policy is critical.

Last Tuesday, the Lompoc City Council was conducting what turned out to be the final hearing on a proposed cannabis use ordinance.

Other communities that are considering a similar action still are debating the details, but the great thinkers on the Lompoc City Council ignored reasonable regulation of the process.

About a year ago, city staff proposed a cannabis use ordinance that was immediately rejected as being “too restrictive” and Osborne, along with Councilman Victor Vega, were appointed to an ad hoc committee to develop another, less restrictive law.

Osborne had taken the lead on this project; the commercial growth, processing and sale of cannabis in the city limits had been one of the planks in her 2016 campaign and she would deliver on her promise.

She thought she had the tiger by the tail and easily persuaded three other council members to follow her lead.

Throughout this entire process, concerned citizens inputs were totally ignored as Osborne and Vega plowed ahead with their ill-conceived plan.

They completed their work and then council members Jim Mosby and Dirk Starbuck methodically removed any semblance of accountability for the cannabis industry. It would be a wide-open market with the only restrictions being market forces.

It appears this ordinance was written by and for the commercial cannabis market.

During the Tuesday hearing, Osborne claimed to have received phone calls and e-mails, but rejected them out of hand saying, “That’s not participating.”

Of course, it was only the e-mails and phone conversations from opponents to her plan that weren’t considered “participating” as she has admitted to having numerous conversations with industry representatives and local advocates outside of public hearings.

It all came to a head last Tuesday when a group of speakers from a local church asked to have a church campus they use be considered as a youth center so cannabis-related businesses could not be located near the church.

As most people know, churches provide religious education, wholesome block parties and many daily activities for children and teen-agers.

Mosby, calling the ordinance “an experiment,” had the city attorney read a section from the cannabis ordinances which states this ordinance will be reviewed and can be changed in the future.

So then, why were the speakers late? If this is an ongoing process, it will take work and community input. Why then should people who speak now and in months to come on the cannabis ordinance be discouraged from coming forward due to timing? 

One speaker, who supports unrestricted cannabis operations, banged the podium telling the church members, “If you come late, you get what you get."

Those from the church simply spoke out in concern for the children from their congregation and community who use their campus for beneficial events and classes, and were made to feel less important than those with opposing views.

Osborne would have none of it; she rudely told them they were too late to the debate, conveniently forgetting that several members of the religious community had attended public hearings earlier in the process to express their concerns.

Her public rejection of the parishioners resonated throughout Lompoc. How could she think that treating these people with such disrespect was appropriate decorum for a council member at a public meeting seemed to be the question asked in the community.

When, in earlier meetings, Mayor Bob Lingl advised the council to slow down, and pump the brakes, they ignored him.

The cannabis community dominated those meetings and had the exclusive ear of four council members, and that was made abundantly clear at last Tuesday's meeting.

At the close of the hearing, Lingl advised the council he was aware of a group of citizens that may submit petitions for a referendum on the issue.

This didn’t deter his fellow council members; they adopted the poorly crafted ordinance anyway, and only Lingl dissented.

The following day, the referendum group met, and to their surprise this had become an issue that was drawing the community together. A unified effort would now take place to have voters decide whether the ordinance would survive.

The purpose of this action is to hit the pause button on commercial cannabis activity; it would not preclude personal use or the growing of six plants.

Grass roots community action often results when politicians ignore the legitimate concerns of the people they govern. This will be an example of how that works.

— 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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