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Santa Maria Sun / Commentary

The following article was posted on June 4th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 14 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 20, Issue 14

Ego foregoes common sense

By RON FINK

Lompoc City Councilmember Jim Mosby is still searching for truth but can’t seem to find it. His recent statements and the actions he supported on May 28 are indicative of a person who is totally out of touch with the needs of the constituents he serves and seemingly unable to simply tell the truth.

Preparing a two-year budget is a complicated task; having council members who consistently misrepresent the information they feel is important to their cause isn’t helpful. Mosby is a master at misrepresentation, which has been proven dozens of times during the current and past budget debates.

For example, during a budget workshop on May 15, flapping his ever-present stack of papers, he claimed that “it was never really discussed with us what’s going on with revenue,” and “it was never discussed why [10-year] revenue projections were $1.5 million off in 2019-20 and $2 million off in 2020-21.”

This, of course, was false. During a special workshop on Dec. 8, 2018, the management services director told the council that the cause of revenue projection shortfalls was partially due to a “housing bubble,” meaning that when comparing 2018 to 2006, there is a remarkable decrease in housing construction.

He also told them that rising interest rates influence Lompoc city government; those funds with large balances like the enterprise and special funds earn revenue, but it brings very little increase to the general fund that has a much smaller balance.

Then the management services director discussed “where we are” at great length, specifically explaining revenue “variances” or missing the target. The variances occurred because of the lower revenue stream, not because of budgeted expenses.

The loss of revenue in the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2018, was $1.3 million. The primary losses were caused by not meeting revenue projections for transient occupancy taxes; issuance of building permits and planning and development fees caused by a lack of planned buildout; lower recreation venue fees; inability to sell excess city property; and lower street and road fund transfers from the state.

This condition will likely continue since new development is moving at a snail’s pace.

In a May 28 letter to the editor in the Lompoc Record, Mosby said, “I’m not willing to allow the drastic budget measures presented by city staff in the last two budget workshops as the only course of action for council to take on our city budget” and claimed that “the average income in Lompoc was $20,000, well below the median income of city management.” 

He also wrote that “there needs to be discussion about how much more money City Hall will be taking from the people with the proposed sales tax increase, how long the 100 percent increase will be in effect, and for what specific purpose.”

First, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s website, the median household income in Lompoc is $49,074. And, secondly, a 1 percent sales tax increase does not equal a 100 percent increase of the current 7.5 percent sales tax rate. A fifth grader could figure that one out.

To cap it off, Councilmembers Mosby, Dirk Starbuck, and Victor Vega have consistently said that they had no intention of cutting public safety. This, too, turned out to be a total misrepresentation of what they would eventually direct the staff to do.

The May 28 meeting began when staff made a very short presentation of five cost-cutting scenarios; each cut public safety by anywhere between $1.2 million and $1.9 million.

This really upset the folks attending this meeting, and in an unusual move for this series of workshops, Mayor Jenelle Osborne wanted to hear from the public before the council made any decisions. All but one of the several speakers harshly criticized the three councilmen for taking the position that the public should not be allowed to vote on a sales tax measure.

Speaker after speaker pleaded with them to place a tax measure on the ballot. Mayor Osborne made a motion that council direct staff to prepare a budget that included a place holder for the proposed tax revenue and continue with staffing as approved in the 2017-19 budget. This motion failed on a 3-2 vote.

Then, in what appeared to be a rehearsed action by the three councilmen, Starbuck introduced the idea of adopting one of five options that included elimination of all code enforcement officers, two planners, the public information officer, support for the chamber of commerce, suspension of two negotiated pay steps for firefighters, holding vacant several positions, and a total of $1.9 million in public safety cuts primarily to the fire department.

I say rehearsed, as in pre-coordinated, because just as Starbuck was finished speaking, Mosby made the motion to direct staff to exercise that option, and Vega quickly seconded it. Of course, it passed 3-2; so much for their commitment to not cut public safety dollars.

Mayor Osborne was clearly upset. 

“There is nothing wrong with putting off those firings if we don’t have to eliminate those people. I ask you why you’d want to go ahead and see blood and see pink slips go out as of July 1 just to prove your point that you want to cut now,” she said.

“It’s not visionary,” she later said of the path taken by the council majority. “It’s setting up a legacy of failure. It’s saying you have no will to respect the community, and I think better of you all [the public].”

An observer of government once said, “Politicians will do the right thing, but only after everything else they tried failed.” Trying to solve this problem by cutting the budget is a sure path to failure. It’s time for the citizens to act and submit a petition to place a sales tax measure on the ballot.

While they are at it, maybe they should submit three recall petitions for three councilmen who have failed to place the interest of the community above their own selfish egos while thinking, “Look at me, finally the big man on the block; get in my way and you’re gone.” 

Ron Fink writes for the Sun from Lompoc. Send your comments through the editor at clanham@santamariasun.com or write a letter to the editor for publication and email it to
letters@santamariasun.com.




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