Monday, June 25 , 2018, 5:47 am | Overcast 63º


Ron Fink: Lompoc Mayor John Linn Lacks Many of the Qualities of a Good Leader

Lompoc’s current mayor, John Linn, has turned what could have been a successful term of office into one misstep after another. Often referred to as a micromanager, he has meddled in technical areas and made “interpretations” of city development rules that have hampered development efforts.

The mayor’s job isn’t to make technical judgments concerning developments — his job is to connect developers to the appropriate city staff member, specifically the economic development director or planning manager and then get out of the way and let things happen in an orderly manner.

But, Linn has always run his own businesses and was the unquestioned authority in how they were run; he was also a Scout Master — another position of unquestioned authority. He brought this experience to City Hall and may have felt that he could employ the same leadership style that provided him some level of success in the business world. He was wrong.

The government of any city, county, state and even the federal government is run by committee — not by one person. The political leadership in Lompoc is supposed to provide direction, and then it’s up to the city’s staff to create policies and practices that implement the City Council’s guidance.

Let’s follow one large project through the process — Linn style. A large manufacturing firm was looking to move to Lompoc, they thought they found a suitable property and then Linn inserted himself into the deal.

Linn likes the spotlight and instead of letting the staff handle the specifics of the project, he began telling the company’s owners that the city could offer many incentives so they would relocate to Lompoc. Of course, no such incentives existed because the City Council had never discussed them.

This deal was delayed and almost failed because of his meddling; he did the same thing with a winery on the east end of town.

Apparently he doesn’t like to be hampered by the laws that govern how public business is supposed to be discussed and decisions are made, and he has had a number of run-ins with the provisions of the Ralph M. Brown Act (aka open meetings law).

Several months ago, Linn spoke in favor of a private recreational facility that is outside the city limits and is owned and operated by a supporter during a county Board of Supervisors hearing concerning an appeal of a Planning Commission decision to deny the project.

After being introduced as the mayor of Lompoc and while wearing his official city nameplate, he gave the impression that he represented an official position of the City of Lompoc and indirectly implied that the City Council had agreed to support the project.

When, how, where and who made these decisions is unclear. One thing is certain: There is no record of a public discussion of the deal. The district attorney is investigating, and the DA investigation is an embarrassment to the city.

But even after the city was put on notice by the DA and admonishments by the city attorney, Linn still persists in trying to discuss issues that are not on the agenda — he just doesn’t get it.

Another serious issue is how he treats his peers during council meetings. If he isn’t getting his way or seems to be losing the argument on an issue, he gets downright rude, is dismissive of other council members' comments and frequently attempts to counter their arguments with anecdotal information attributed to an anonymous source or uses self-produced “fact sheets” that on closer scrutiny often prove to be inaccurate.

All council members are elected by a majority of the people, and they are on equal footing when they take their seats. Even though he has a bachelor’s degree in political science, apparently Linn doesn’t understand this.

There is more.

Prior to being elected in 2010, he had a run-in with the planning department concerning a business he wanted to open in an old retail space on Ocean Avenue. He didn’t like the outcome, so after he was elected he tried to eliminate the top staff of the planning department by cutting their budget. He succeeded in getting rid of the planning director, but the council wisely kept other staff members.

In February 2012, Mayor Linn requested and received council approval to work together with staff and identify properties with obvious weed and debris issues to bolster code enforcement efforts. Apparently he has had a change of attitude, at least when it pertains to his own property. More on that next week.

As mayor, Linn lacks many of the qualities of a good leader. His style of leadership demands unquestioned acknowledgment that only he knows the right way to approach an issue. His lack of respect for laws pertaining to open meetings is a serious problem.

There have been a half-dozen mayors in the last few decades, and none of them has created the lack of confidence that surrounds Mayor Linn. Make the right choice for Lompoc on Nov. 4 and support his challenger.

— 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]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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