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Ron Fink: Lompoc Councilman Jim Mosby Should Stop Criticizing Committee Member Selection Process

At the urging of former mayor John Linn, the Lompoc City Council created the Economic Development Committee in hopes that they could somehow come up with ways to improve the city’s economy. 

The council also directed the city manager to recruit and hire an “Economic Development Director,” but then they had to tinker with it and add the job of “Assistant City Manager.” This resulted in less than 100 percent of her time being dedicated to economic development.

The EDC membership comprises 15 members, both residents of the city and business owners who live outside of the city limits. This was a good mix of motivated people who truly had the best economic interests of Lompoc in their hearts.

But as with all large committees, this group had small factions that had different agendas: some wanted less regulation, others wanted to transform the city into a new look and others took a more systemic approach to the problem.

As with all appointees to the various commissions and committees, these folks came with the idea that they could change the city’s lethargic approach to economic development.

The most challenging task was to respond to the challenge in their charter to “consider each economic market segment and establish target industries and priorities” and then create a strategic plan. 

The idea was that as the economy grew so would the available dollars in the General Fund, which would help fix up the deteriorated park system, pay for more police and firefighters and generally help provide more services.

After the council approved their plan the committee would have considerable authority to “review the business incentives and policies and procedures of City Departments that impact economic development to identify any improvements or potential new programs that would enhance the City’s economic development efforts. 

At the conclusion of that review, the Committee may recommend potential programs and/or revisions of policies and procedures to the City Council.”

But every good plan needs folks with the resources and time to implement it. The government couldn’t implement this plan alone because its scope was to expand commercial development of private property. 

Although some redevelopment funds were available, many local property owners were reluctant to use government money because of all the red tape. 

Besides, if they began renovating their buildings it could have triggered many other costly improvements for disability access, plumbing, electrical and structural upgrades.  

In short, this would be an expensive undertaking and the government dollars would only be a fraction of the money needed.

The other issue was that the EDC tasks seemed to many to be more a function of the Chamber of Commerce, whose membership comprises business operators. 

The COC receives a hefty allotment of city funds each year, and many were scratching their heads trying to figure out why there seemed to be a duplication of effort.

So, the council tasked the committee to “Clearly identify the roles of the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Lompoc in the economic development efforts, and the cross cooperation in these efforts.”

But council members Jim Mosby and Victor Vega, who weren’t involved with the formation of the EDC, wanted to revisit the membership and term of the EDC participants. 

Ironically Mosby was reported in a Noozhawk article concerning the discussion to have claimed that “if you’re not friends with some of the people on the committee, you’re not necessarily in the selection process of the committee” and referred to the selection process as a “clique.”

Maybe Mosby forgot that that is exactly how he got his appointment to the council in the first place.

He also said “I feel like this was pushed down our throats,” referring to appointments recommended by the committee that were approved by the council last month. 

That’s exactly how many in the community felt after Mosby was appointed to the council by a “clique” of old timers. During this kangaroo court the clique ignored one person who had just received over 2,000 votes for the seat and another who was very well qualified.

But Jenelle Osborne, current EDC chair objected to his claim saying, “They (the appointments) weren’t via friendships. They weren’t via buddies,” she said. “This is a think tank for you that you should take advantage of, and be willing to hear even the dissenting voices that we bring forward.” 

This is right on the mark and was the intent of the council in the first place.

This whole flap is representative of what happens when one group of elected politicians devises a plan to address a problem and their solution is inherited by another group. Sometimes, well many times, they don’t agree on either the concept or the implementation of the original idea.

In this case I don’t think that the council member who was throwing the biggest rocks in this discussion was in any position to criticize the membership selection process. Maybe he should have spent more time supporting their efforts rather than taking cheap shots at well-meaning citizens who wanted to help their community.

— 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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