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Santa Maria Sun / Commentary

The following article was posted on November 18th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 38 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 21, Issue 38

The election ushered in a new era for Lompoc's leadership

By RON FINK

By all accounts, the recent election had the highest level of participation in anyone’s memory—a stunning 85 percent countywide! Maybe this is the only positive outcome of the COVID-19 virus pandemic. I think that our county handled this well by allowing four in-person days of voting and counting vote-by-mail ballots as they arrived to provide an accurate count quickly on election night.

In Lompoc, this election provided a breath of political fresh air. It appears that Mayor Jenelle Osborne and newcomer Jeremy Ball (4th District) have achieved victories in this year’s election. Councilwoman Gilda Cordova ran unopposed but garnered an impressive vote of confidence.

The now repudiated three-vote bloc consisting of Jim Mosby, Dirk Starbuck, and Victor Vega has been broken by these victories. What was supposed to be an endorsement of Mosby’s political agenda turned out to be an embarrassing loss, as his challenger is leading with an overwhelming 60 percent margin of the votes cast.

I think I heard a big sigh of relief from the professional staff at City Hall when the results were announced. No longer will they be plagued by regular and lengthy diatribes from now lame duck Mosby who professed to know everything about city government. As he exits the building for the last time as an elected official, staff will now have considerably more time to focus on their tasks.

With Mosby’s exit he takes with him his appointee to the Utilities Commission, John Linn. With Mosby’s blessing and vote, Linn created havoc—specifically in the wastewater division—by convincing his three enablers to grant waivers to wastewater pretreatment program standards. The Environmental Protection Agency later found fault with and reversed this decision saying that management of this system was a technical, not political, process.

This is but one of the many problems created by the Mosby-led coalition of the three amigos.

As for the winner of the 4th District race, Ball, he should take his mandate seriously. In the next four years he will need to put in the hard work necessary to create a record of achievement that includes proposals that match his campaign promises. We will see if he can help move the needle toward an improved economy.

Although Councilwoman Cordova was unopposed, she still spent the time reaching out to voters in the 1st District as if she had an opponent. It paid off, as they voted to support her—and even though only one vote would have elected her, so far she has more than 3,500 votes in a district with a little more than 4,500 registered voters.

In the last three years, she has established herself as an advocate for accountability without “bashing the staff”; this is a tightrope that she walks with confidence as she employs her successful business background to make reasonable, fact-based, and well-thought-out decisions.

Mayor Osborne is leading with about 55 percent of the votes cast, thus handing her challenger, Councilman Vega, a defeat he wasn’t prepared for. She has been hampered by a three-person voting bloc for the last two years. Now that she has a different group of council members, maybe she can advance her agenda to improve the city.

If she continues to work as she did in the last two years and has the support of the council majority, the city could begin to recover from the destructive decisions of the past several years. It will take some serious work to undo the mistakes of the three-member “wrecking crew” who are no longer in power, but voters seem to have placed confidence in the abilities of the new majority to improve things.

The upcoming budget discussions next spring will test Osborne’s ability to capitalize on the strengths of her fellow council members as they create their list of priorities and provide guidance to the staff for how discretionary tax money should be spent.

There is a lot to be done; the violent crime rate is soaring, and the city’s infrastructure needs a serious overhaul. The emergency radio communication system needs a major upgrade; the police department needs more room; fire station 1 needs a major seismic renovation; fire station 2 needs to be relocated; an effective emergency operations center is long overdue; interior streets need some major repairs; Ryon Park needs a complete rebuild; and the more than 50-year-old City Hall needs a remodel.

This is the tip of the iceberg, and these projects won’t be cheap; the new council needs to ensure those projects are included in long-range planning and then work with the city manager to identify funding mechanisms. 

Perhaps now the council will return to fact-based decision-making rather than relying on unfounded claims from unknown sources and faulty analysis of outdated information, which has been the cornerstone in the three amigos’ reign for the last several years. 

Based on many years of watching the politics of Lompoc, I would say that the light at the end of the tunnel as a result of this election is an opening to a new era in our city rather than the speeding train of the past that hit us head-on with destructive decision-making. 

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










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