Rub a dub dub, three men in a tub …
The tub is the city of Lompoc, which is leaking like a sieve, and the three men are the council majority of Jim Mosby, Victor Vega and Dirk Starbuck, who seem to be bent on making sure the city continues on its perilous track of adopting inadequate budgets and will guarantee vital services will be cut.
Look at the recent history. Those three drove the last city manager to seek employment elsewhere because he would not stop warning them about the looming CalPers debt crisis and suggesting various taxes and/or fee increases to help balance the budget.
Mosby stated flatly that the poor citizens of Lompoc could never be expected to support such awful proposals, so there was no point in placing any of the suggestions before them. He assured everyone that he, as a self-proclaimed financial expert, would find plenty of fat in the budget that could be cut without considering any new revenue sources.
So, in customary lock-step, the three men voted to slash the budget without placing any proposed taxes on the ballot for citizens to consider.
Fast-forward to last Wednesday's budget planning session. Department heads gave their reports, requested at the last council budget session. Their budgets were cut to the bone, and further cuts would endanger public safety, basic services every resident expects, and failed to meet obligations such as the city's agreement to provide mutual aid to other fire departments when the next inevitable mega-fire erupts.
We are already operating without sufficient numbers of police officers. Our fire chief likened the city to the Titanic after it hit the iceberg, and said the council needs to consider ways to do more than try to bail faster.
Mosby's ideas did not pan out so well, since the city is in a deeper hole now, and is limping along without the services needed to keep up with street paving, tree trimming, weed abatement, library staffing and more. Neither of the budget proposals, sans sales tax revenue projections, will let us off lightly. Public safety, code enforcement, planning staff, and basic services are on the chopping block.
What was the reaction of that same majority to the staff reports?
Vega, always up for a good skirmish, announced that city staff had not shown proper respect for his and the other two men's wishes. He did not say it in a polite or respectful way. I heard someone sitting a few rows behind me mutter, “what a jerk.”
Members of the public, reflecting the very liberal to very conservative views of our diverse community, have taken to demonstrating in front of the building and taking the floor during the public-comment period to tell the council we would very much like to have an opportunity to make up our own minds about a proposed 1-cent sales tax by having it placed on the ballot.
Well, we can't have that. Predictably, the majority once again worked in lock-step to forbid consideration of any budget that entertained the idea of additional revenue from a sales tax, despite a very informative report on other cities around us, all of which adopted a sales tax increase because they had the common sense and trust in their own citizens to place the tax on an earlier ballot.
For crying out loud, it's a 1-cent sales tax that would be paid by everyone who buys taxable goods in Lompoc, not just our “poor” residents.
The council majority should note that its performance reflects a deep and abiding disrespect for the citizens of Lompoc. If you want respect, earn it.