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Ron Fink: Lompoc’s Important Election Issues

With the mayor’s and two council member seats up for grabs in Lompoc, we have to ask ourselves, “what are the important issues?”

The noisiest issue on everyone’s mind at this point is whether the Motorsports Park is a good idea or not. There are some pluses and minuses.

The pluses first: It will offer an organized activity for folks who favor working on their off-road vehicles and short-track racers at a fresh new venue. The theory is that it will reduce the illegal use of the river bed and stop on-street racing.

The minuses are that it will place an attractive nuisance close to urban housing areas, displace aviation-related activities at the airport, and damage sensitive habitats. Some of these issues can be resolved, others may not.

Another issue that’s raised its head again is the idea that someone will eventually come along who can develop and operate a space center dedicated to the 60-year history of space operations at nearby Vandenberg Air Force Base.

While there have been numerous proposals, all have failed primarily because there seems to be a lack of interest among those who could raise the money necessary to build it.

Lost in the din of these two discussions are many other important issues that are worth considering.

The Lompoc parks system is in dire need of a total overhaul; I highlighted some of the issues in a commentary back in January of 2015 when I said “It’s time to stop just mowing the grass and get creative,” but not much has happened since then.

Prior to my commentary, one little league field was overhauled; however, there are several others in serious need of some tender love and care.

The Lompoc Girls Softball Association, in cooperation with the city, recently renovated Thompson Park, which was constructed over 50 years ago and was well worn. Kudos to the volunteers.

However, one the most used venues, Ryon Park, which hosts the Flower Festival, Spring Arts and a very popular dog show, to name a few, needs a multi-million-dollar overhaul.

The old pool on Ocean Avenue — deemed unsafe nearly a decade ago and steadily becoming an eyesore — needs to be torn down.

The soccer and Little League fields at Riverbend Park need an overhaul including gopher wire, new sod and a properly designed parking lot.

Lompoc Fire Station No. 2 is 30 years overdue for relocation. It is too small to house needed equipment, and the crew cannot reach many parts of its area within the proscribed response time.

The police station, also undersized to serve the community for 30 years, needs an overhaul too.

A permanent solution is needed for police and fire staffing. The high attrition rate is becoming a budget issue.

Both departments rely heavily on state and federal grants to keep their staffs employed. But these grants come and go; when they aren’t available a serious staffing shortage could occur.

Our community should project a better image.

Another much discussed topic recently was what to do about all those shopping carts that find their way into every neighborhood in town.

This may seem like a minor issue, but abandoned shopping carts, like broken windows and poorly maintained landscaping, begin a cycle of blight that can spread like a cancer.

Back yards and alleys need to be cleaned up. Take a Google Earth trip around town and you’ll see that yards of many citizens are cluttered with accumulated junk and overgrown with weeds.

Some prominent citizens maintain seriously deteriorated properties and when confronted they employ their political clout to hamper code enforcement efforts.

Yes, there are many issues that face our city. Some candidates favor a program that addresses the high profile ideas like the Motorsports Park and illusive Space Center; others want greater things for Lompoc.

In my view, ideas that advance the overall image and business economy of the city resonate the best. The city needs a lot of effort to awake from several decades of benign neglect by both elected leaders and the folks that ran city hall.

Some candidates today also believe that they are much more adept at running city government than anyone else in town, even though they have no experience in any of the many things government does. Some politicians have the idea that only they can save the city.

We should be wary on election day and reflect on what it is that we want our city to be in both the present and the future. What is it that we want Lompoc to be known for: its economic growth, improving neighborhoods, arts, flowers and fine wine or an off-road vehicle park that displaces a successful business?

Who you choose to lead our city will determine how we are viewed to the outside world and ultimately where the city goes — backward or forward.

Investors pay close attention to what a community thinks of itself before they sink large sums of money into any project.

It’s your community; you decide. Do you want to have positive growth or stick with stale ideas?

— 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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