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Santa Maria Sun / Commentary

The following article was posted on January 23rd, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 19, Issue 47 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 19, Issue 47

Lompoc's in trouble

The city needs to pass a sales tax increase to pay off its pension debt

By JUSTIN RUHGE

Mayor Bob Lingl, the best mayor Lompoc had in the past 10 years, has retired. Lingl, who beat out ex-mayor John Linn, has been a blessing to Lompoc for the past four years. His well-attended Thursday get-togethers, “Coffee With Bob,” provided badly needed visibility on city issues. City Councilmember Jenelle Osborne was elected mayor in the Nov. 6 election. These two supported sound financial budgets for years. However, now the city of Lompoc is floating into financial oblivion with Jim Mosby, Dirk Starbuck, and Victor Vega as Lompoc City Council members. These three have done untold damage to the future of Lompoc. The new problem the city faces is the result of the total mismanagement of CalPERS civil service benefits that created a financial disaster for cities all over California, and Lompoc has been caught up in this disastrous web. Lompoc’s “bill” for CalPERS is more than $70 million.
   
In presenting the former city budget, then City Manager Patrick Wiemiller pointed out the problems for the city in graphic details. Mosby, Starbuck, and Vega did not grasp the finality of the situation. Lingl and Osborne “got it.”
   
Lompoc could solve the problem by temporarily increasing sales taxes by 1 percent to pay for the debt over 10 years or could decide not to raise taxes—which would push the city into possible bankruptcy. The “bill” is not going away; we have to pay for it one way or another. You taxpayers may say, “I do not want to pay for someone’s retirement,” but you will now and in the future whether you like it or not. Your option is to raise the sales tax to pay for the bill or eliminate all city services to pay for the bill. The citizens of Lompoc should be given a chance to review their options and make a decision on these issues at the ballot box. Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Guadalupe, and the county have made this decision, why not Lompoc?
   
Councilmember Mosby and his two befuddled followers, Starbuck and Vega, would not listen to the city staff members who were way above their pay grades, with financial experience, and had been working on this problem for several months. The triad refused to listen to the professional experts, instead listening to ex-mayor Linn. The result is cutting everything, from police, to fire, to parks, to the dog show, to staff … . In the meantime, we still have to pay the pension bill with interest.
   
The Mosby triad had disdain for former City Manager Wiemiller because of his frankness on a need for a sales tax. Wiemiller resigned under protest. He was the best manager the city has had, and was hired by Santa Maria as the assistant city manager. The assistant Lompoc city manager quit, and so did the second assistant. Both got better jobs elsewhere. The fire chief left, as did the manager of public works. The city employees used their own funds to support the candidates running to replace Mosby, Starbuck, and Vega in the Nov. 6 election. A new city manager, Jim Throop, was hired but the police chief just announced his resignation.
   
The triad cut the police budget drastically. They allowed the sale of fireworks but did not add more police support. And the worst, they promoted an open door policy on the sale of cannabis—dope—in Lompoc. Even more layoffs and closures are predicted for the future, maybe even the library, chamber, and museum will go. They know no limit. Their antics had the county grand jury investigating Lompoc again.
   
A recent budget review by the new city manager shows a financial deficit that cannot be solved by cuts. Voters need to approve a sales tax to solve this problem.
   
The next election that the sales tax issue could make the ballot is in 2020. The past tax action for a ballot vote was deliberately stopped by the triad in 2017. We are in this mess today because of their bad judgement.
   
The voters must take action or suffer the consequences. A recall vote may be needed to get this done this time.

Justin M. Ruhge is a 25-year resient of Lompoc who also happens to be a senior. Send your thoughts through the editor at clanham@santamariasun.com or write a rebuttal for publication and email it to letters@santamariasun.com.




Weekly Poll
How should the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District improve its A-G completion rates?

Align graduation requirements with university entrance requirements.
Ensure that students and parents are well aware of A-Gs and what they are before high school.
Improve support services and summer school classes for students who fall behind.
Completion rates are fine as is. Not everyone wants to go to a four-year college!

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