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Santa Maria Sun / Commentary

The following article was posted on September 9th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 28 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 21, Issue 28

Lompoc's 4th District challenger would bring needed new leadership

By RON FINK

As the Nov. 3 election nears, Lompoc residents have some serious choices to make. One of them is who will serve to represent the 4th District of the city on the southwest side of town. This district is one of the older areas of the city, and the commercial areas have suffered as the central business district moved a mile and a half north more than 30 years ago.

I recently interviewed Jeremy Ball, who is running for that seat. He has carefully analyzed key issues in the 4th District. His observations are that it’s “the look and feel of our town. For years, we’ve been forced to accept the degradation of our parks. Other areas of our city look abandoned. We have to acknowledge that blight from any source weighs heavily on Lompoc’s ability to attract new businesses and new families.”

This is especially true with Ryon Park, host to community- and regional-level festivals. This park has needed some serious attention for a couple of decades. Several smaller pocket parks throughout the residential neighborhoods and Centennial Park in the old town area of this district are prime examples of parks needing tender love and care.

Many commercial and private residential properties are also in decline.

Ball concluded that several factors lead to this condition. 

“Well, for starters, the council majority, including my challenger, decided to eliminate our code enforcement. How is this a good idea; how is this leadership? Did Lompoc look too nice? If we want to talk about vision, what does this say to the next generation about our local commitment to their futures when Lompoc looks forgotten?” Ball asked.

Soon after the election, in early spring the council will begin discussing budget priorities for the next two fiscal years. During the past two budget cycles, the focus of the council majority has been to eliminate many key positions; those poorly executed budget-cutting sessions were led by Ball’s competitor in this election.

“My priority for the budget is to stabilize public safety (fire/police) while keeping focus on our long-term goals that are clearly laid out in the 2030 General Plan,” Ball said. “I feel strongly that we need to stabilize our overall public safety sector and strengthen our ability to retain and attract qualified workers across several of our departments. We’ve cut back so much that it’s difficult for our city to function, let alone thrive.”

Over the last few years, the level of violence in some sectors of the city has escalated with some areas subjected to weekly shooting incidents and innocent people are being killed. 

“I’m old enough to remember when we focused on a more balanced approach. It wasn’t that long ago that we would go an entire year without a murder,” Ball said. “We figured out how to fund a more comprehensive approach, and we generally kept the peace.”

The recent pandemic has caused a major disruption to the business sector. I asked what can the city government do to help business recover from COVID-19 losses? 

“One thing that could help is to make sure that our county, state, and federal leaders hear from Lompoc’s leaders ... and I mean constantly! As resources become available, we need to know,” he told me.

“If we don’t have a seat at the table (in good standing), we will surely miss out. Our council should be painting a clear picture of our current challenges and working with other leaders to make sure Lompoc doesn’t get left behind. It saddens me that leadership has eliminated the economic development department as well as the public information officer. These are critical mistakes in times like these.”

Ball is facing an opponent who is not above bullying his fellow council members into agreeing with his point of view to the exclusion of all other ideas, especially from the female members of the council. We have also witnessed his badgering of city staff during council meetings. A change of attitude on the council dais is needed, and Ball could be the change agent.

“My opponent’s leadership style is nothing short of abrasive and divisive. He is a deeply polarizing figure in the community, and his treatment of city staff, including those who work to protect and serve, is deplorable,” he said.

“I want to be inclusive of all viewpoints and find ways to work together even when we disagree. Yes, I want city staff to be held accountable, but I also want them to feel motivated and supported by their leaders so they can confidently and efficiently do their jobs,” Ball added.

“Lompoc has always had a self-esteem problem, and yet we have an extremely talented and diverse community. I want to bring more attention to the positive changes that are happening and work to solve what needs to change with thoughtful, compassionate leadership.”

Two men are vying for the 4th District seat, and one of them may alter the political landscape if elected. Jeremy Ball is a bright young man whose political philosophy and vision is to better our economic situation and make public policy to improve Lompoc. 

Ron Fink writes to the Sun from Lompoc. Send your thoughts, comments, and opinionated letters to letters@santamariasun.com. 









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