Councilman Jim Mosby claims he has been trying to have a City Council discussion concerning the vagabonds who scavenge through the trash everyday and night looking for treasures for the last five years. He finally got his wish. Some would say Mosby is an expert on trash accumulation.

He said his primary concern was over the many diseases that could be contracted or spread from trash container lids. He also said removing trash from city-provided containers is “one of the most violated” ordinances in the city.

Another point Mosby made was that the city paid in excess of $500,000 to clean up trash hauled to homeless camps in the riverbed, and now more trash is finding its way to both the riverbed and various camps hidden in bushes all over town. The trash then becomes an attraction for vermin and insects that can spread disease.

Ironically, Mosby also said there was “an accumulation (of trash) near Highway 1 and Ocean Avenue.” I wonder if he was referring to all the derelict vehicles and discarded materials on his own property next to River Park in the county area near that intersection? Probably not.

Daily, we see that scavengers leave trash and tipped-over trash containers lying around after they have searched for buried treasure. And they often use stolen shopping carts to convey their materials to the recycle vendor or their camps, and then leave the carts scattered around town.

The staff noted in their report that it is technically a crime to scavenge recyclable materials and that “administrative citations (fines) may be issued.”

Councilwoman Gilda Cordova asked, “What happens when a person doesn’t have the means to pay the fines associated with violating the Lompoc Municipal Code?”

The city attorney responded: “Obviously, it’s impossible to get money from someone who doesn’t have it” and “the likelihood of getting a judge to issue jail time for this type of violation is pretty slim.”

Cordova then expressed concern that the city has an ordinance and no means to enforce it.

It’s important to note here that “anarchy” means the absence of government, which appears to be happening concerning enforcement of laws with increased frequency in many cities including Lompoc.

We are a nation of laws and the city attorney’s response to this question is indicative of a trend to ignore certain laws in favor of the violator and instead punish the victims — in this case, the victims are obligated to clean up the mess left by the violators.

Then the staff said the code enforcement officer currently has no means to issue citations, and they were recommending the city instead “move forward with a scavenging educational pilot program using the Solid Waste Code enforcement officer.

“The scavenging educational pilot program would be for a six-month period followed by a compilation and review of pilot results.”

Councilwoman Cordova pointed out that since most scavenging occurs in the early morning hours, it’s questionable how many people could be reached by a code enforcement officer working during the normal business day.

Despite all these concerns, Councilman Mosby made a motion to try out the education pilot program for 30 days, establish a tracking system for offenders who were contacted, and then bring back a report to the council before they begin assessing fines. The motion passed 5-0.

Before approving this motion, the council members should have asked themselves how they were going to persuade people to somehow change their ways just because you ask them nicely to stop breaking the rules?

It was refreshing that Councilman Mosby had taken an interest in trying to enforce a section of the Municipal Code that would help make the city a cleaner and more healthful place to live.

In the past he led efforts to eliminate a code enforcement function as part of his budget slashing efforts. And, as his properties clearly indicate, he has little interest in keeping his own property orderly.

Considering this will be done in “government time” we won’t know if it even works until March of next year when the staff has been directed to bring a progress report back to the council.

In the meantime, it’s doubtful much will change because as one public commenter put it, the scavengers she caught dumping trash on the property she manages had told her “go ahead and call (the police) we’ll be gone before they show up.”

And, with the city attorney seemingly unwilling to prosecute and courts to punish violators, why should they stop?

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry. He has been following Lompoc politics since 1992, and after serving 23 years appointed to various Lompoc commissions retired from public service. The opinions expressed are his own.