What started off as a relatively benign presentation by the Lompoc city manager with regards to the City Hall lobby COVID-19 redesign turned into an unseemly display of male chauvinism by one councilman.

The ways in which people can access services are being reinagined at numerous public locations. The city of Lompoc is no different. The City Hall lobby is usually a busy place with scores of customers coming and going every day, but it has been closed for several weeks and apparently won’t be opening soon.

Prior to social-distancing concerns, folks just queued up in front of the service window where their needs were met. Of course, now this would be a serious transgression, so something had to be done.

A secondary concern was associated with the safety of the employees if a violent person were to come in; such individuals could easily jump the counter and potentially injure employees.
Another issue was that people entering and leaving used the same door and walking space inside the area; the width of these areas didn’t allow for the recommended 6-foot clearance between people.

These concerns were discussed on June 3 as part of the city managers presentation concerning lobby improvements needed to reopen for business. Trying to create a cost-effective and organized queue system for five service windows serving different needs in an existing common space is going to be difficult.

Two methods were discussed for queuing people up. The first was to simply create lines, 6 feet apart, in front of each service window. The other was to create a serpentine line like those used at amusement parks. To do this the current reception area would be eliminated to allow up to 25 customers to line and maintain required spacing.

A second door opposite the City Hall entrance would be used to allow customers to leave, thus maintain the 6-foot distance when coming in and going out. Many commercial establishments are using the same entry/exit method.

To solve the security/sneeze protection issue, a plexiglass partition would separate customers from the staff at the service windows. I am sure you have seen these arrangements at a number of locations.

While a cost estimate wasn’t available, the city manager indicated that since about 90 percent of the customers are there for utility issues, the Enterprise Fund would pay for any changes. He was asking for additional suggestions from the council.

Councilman Jim Mosby had a different idea. First, he wanted a bilingual employee to “guide traffic;” an additional plastic barrier at the front door; removal of the furniture in the lobby area to preclude people from sitting down to wait (using the space for queuing); and maintaining the current reception area for use when the social distancing requirements are terminated.

Mayor Jenelle Osborne agreed with most of Mosby’s ideas and suggested repurposing the small conference room in the lobby and turning it into the reception area. She observed that it was way too small anyway and the floor space could be used more effectively.

Councilman Mosby was not going to be denied his ideas; although the city manager had suggested he could return with all ideas, Mosby was having none of it. He pressured his two accomplices to support his idea and ignored the mayor’s suggestions out-of-hand.

But this time he failed, only Councilman Victor Vega, who seconded the motion, supported Mosby’s motion, and it died for lack of a third vote.

This is Mosby’s style; his bullying tactics are well known, and if you watched the entire council meeting, his disdain for the two female members of the council is palpable. This character flaw is discouraging to see in an elected official. Maybe Mosby needs some social grooming if he wishes to continue public service; but it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

— Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active with Lompoc municipal government commissions and committees 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 news@noozhawk.com. Click here to read his previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.