When Robert Cuthbert decided to throw his hat back into the ring for a seat on the Lompoc City Council, he said he was motivated in large part to help solve the city’s budget woes, improve communication on the dais and bring “new ideas” to local government.
Cuthbert is running this year to represent Lompoc’s 3rd District — which encompasses much of the eastern portion of the city — in the city’s first-ever district-based election process. The 62-year-old, who will be on the Nov. 6 ballot up against incumbent Dirk Starbuck, is no stranger to the Lompoc political scene as this will be his seventh time seeking a seat on the council.
While those previous election bids — most recently in 2014 — did not yield favorable results for him, Cuthbert noted that he spent the time between those campaigns staying active in the community, including as an advocate for political causes and with a 10-year stint on the Lompoc Public Safety Commission.
“If anything, I am not a typical politician, but the work I do is political,” he said. “Once elected, my point will prove out. I want what is best for the whole community; not what’s best for me, nor what’s best for friends.”
While Cuthbert’s bid will ultimately be decided by voters in the 3rd District, he said he felt like the major issues affecting the district were essentially the same as those facing the city overall: the budget, homelessness, a flagging economy, a lack of housing, underfunding of essential services, and blight.
“The most important issue is the budget, and it was important years ago,” he said. “The council, in its majority, has failed to grasp the urgency of the situation. We live in a state with some of the highest taxes in the nation, but to not allow a vote of the people for a small sales tax just kicks the can down the road, again. If the cannabis tax passes in November it will be little relief, and it’s unpredictable.”
Cuthbert is referring to the council’s split decision during last year’s budget hearings to not place three tax measures on this year’s ballot. Starbuck, Cuthbert’s opponent, was one of the council members who opposed the placement of the taxes and was on the successful side of a 3-2 vote to not do so.
Cuthbert said he was in favor of looking at any avenue possible to cut costs and increase revenue.
“The council must stop hoping for the best, and we need to consider all contingencies, including contracting out to the county emergency services and the building department, funding for nonessential programs, and the possible sale of city-owned properties,” he said. “The only other alternative is bankruptcy, and that needs to be avoided at all costs. Let’s just know what can be done before the 11th hour.
“In politics, perception is important,” he added, “and the perception by the public is a council majority out of touch and self-interested.”
Cuthbert said he would emphasize transparency as a council member and would not hold animosities over past votes or disagreements.
“I have the temperament to let grudges go and move on,” he said. “I will not be a rubber stamp for staff recommendations, nor will I dismiss recommendations without clear reasons and understanding. After all, we have hired experts.”
Cuthbert, who lists his occupation as a retail sales manager, has lived in Lompoc for 30 years.