The Lompoc City Council is a constant source of fodder for this weekly commentary; the Nov. 5 meeting was no different.

During the last two budgets, the council majority has under-funded management staff to the point that several key positions were cut. Councilmen figured they could cut their way out of their growing fiscal problems, but of course they have been proven wrong.

These staff positions were needed to respond to both citizen and council requests for information and to manage all the various programs, assure regulatory compliance, and dispatch reams of reports to county and state agencies to prove we are following the rules.

Apparently, some councilmen just don’t get it when it comes to why their council requests aren’t being answered. Councilman Victor Vega, who always claims “he gets it,” wanted to get answers within 90 days or have the city manager explain why.

The city manager offered a reasonable solution; why don’t we discuss the list (24 open requests) and have the council prioritize which items are most important. He also said staff shortages have limited his ability to respond promptly to council concerns.

Vega then pressed on and asked the city attorney if the council could set a date when an item needed to appear on the agenda and alleged the “staff might not be taking these requests seriously” or that council requests “might not be a priority for staff.” Vega claimed he had studied the Council Handbook for guidance concerning council requests.

The guidance says: “Any item within the Council’s jurisdiction may be placed on an agenda by a majority of Council Members, the City Manager, the City Attorney, the City Management Services Director, or the City Clerk. During a meeting, any Council Member may request an item be placed on a future agenda for the Council to decide whether that matter should be returned to Council for consideration and whether, when it is returned, staff should prepare a staff report discussing the matter and with recommendations.”

You will note that having the council set a date for the return of an item or establish any priority isn’t included in the guidance. The attorney agreed that dates could be included in the requests but cautioned that when setting a date, the council should set one that the staff can reasonably respond to considering the current staffing limitations.

Vega has three open requests on the list. One is to “Review of all (12) City Boards, Commissions, and Committees.” Another is to provide a “Review of CCU (Commercial Cannabis Use) Application Process.”

Reviewing the CCU process and Councilman Jim Mosby’s request to provide an “Assessment of CCU License Application Deposit(s)” seem to be stale topics since more than 20 applications have been received and are in various stages of review.

Some of the items individual councilmembers request aren’t simple to respond to; some require a substantial amount of research and can require legal or financial opinions before a formal answer is provided.

For example, Mayor Jenelle Osborne requested that staff investigate the preapproved Accessory Dwelling Unit design program in another city so some planning fees could be waived.

Other open items such as “Review of Letter to County RE: Ocean Park Amenities” (Mosby) concerns county issues and since Mosby is a county parks commissioner, he should be able to resolve this during the county parks commission meetings.

There are lots of things councilmembers could have requested. For example, what’s the plan to fix our streets and alleys; how much aged water and wastewater line has been replaced since the last two rate increases; or, what’s the plan to reduce unfunded liabilities to a manageable level?

These would seem far more important that asking for a “Discussion of City Clerk and Treasurer being Council appointed positions” which was a third request by Councilman Vega.

In times of budgetary challenges (not enough funds to adequately run the city and pay down unfunded liabilities), councilmembers must understand it may take several months to respond to their requests.

I figure if the council is satisfied that budget constraints have resulted in severely deteriorated streets, poorly maintained parks, loss of children’s play equipment in  parks, the inability to attract police officers or firefighters due to substandard pay, and cuts to staff positions, then they ought to understand why their requests won’t be met with quick responses.

— 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 Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.