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Tuesday, January 22 , 2019, 7:04 am | Fair 53º


Ron Fink: Supporting Candidates; New Team Needed in Lompoc

I am supporting the election of Jenelle Osborne for mayor of Lompoc, and Robert Cuthbert and Shirley Sherman as City Council members.

I came to this conclusion after studying the accomplishments, or lack thereof, of the current council majority. Three council members have been in total control of the agenda and any directions given to city staff for the last four years.

Their block vote has consistently been to oppose any efforts by Mayor Bob Lingl; many think it was due to his landslide wins over their choice for mayor in two previous elections.

Clearly, voters rejected the ideas offered by former mayor John Linn, but that didn’t deter councilmen Jim Mosby, Dirk Starbuck and Victor Vega from following his lead even when Linn was a private citizen.

The fiscal future of Lompoc looks bleak. In a recent public meeting, the city manager told the gathering that the “city’s finances have reached critical mass” and the next budget would result in “cutting more services.”

The services he was talking about are in the Police, Fire and Parks departments.

Recently, the council had to freeze the filling of 20 open and authorized positions — nine of them in the Police Department —  just to make the current budget balance.

This means that in addition to these cuts, more are forthcoming since another $1 million plus must be found.

The trio of councilmen knew this because they had been told the same thing in the last budget hearings two-years ago.

At the time, the city manager proposed a temporary sales tax measure to help bridge the 30-year gap until public employee retirement fund contributions could be brought under control.

The city has taken positive action to reign in retirement costs, but it will take a few years until the changes produce the desired results. City employee groups have cooperated in this effort.

But, the trio decided that no tax measure would be placed on the ballot. Rather, they would streamline city government operations. How they would do this remains a mystery because they aren’t talking about it.

Instead, they posed for pictures at a photo op while filling gopher holes at Ryon Park; this demonstrates the type of short-term, ineffective leadership they have offered the last four years.

Some advocate “cutting city hall staff,” but most of the staff time at City Hall is devoted to the Enterprise Funds, which obtain their operating revenue from user fees on trash collection, water, waste water and electric services.

Other staff members manage a number of grant programs funded by state and federal agencies, and prepare the necessary reports to justify how the money is spent.

Without these folks, grants would no longer be available to the city and, if reports aren’t filed, existing grants would be withdrawn.

Clearly, the revenue/expenditure ledger for the General Fund is the key issue in this campaign.

Cutting their way out of this problem isn’t realistic since staff reorganizations and cuts of the past have left the city unable to adequately maintain vital infrastructure such as parks and interior roads.

So, no matter who is elected, there is a huge problem that requires a solution; the current council majority has firmly demonstrated they are unable to handle this issue.

Will a new team be able to handle it? I am willing to take a chance, let new ideas come into play to resolve a long-standing issue. The ideas of the past few years haven’t worked.

Elect Jenelle Osborne as mayor of Lompoc, and Robert Cuthbert and Shirley Sherman as council members.

— 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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