The Lompoc City Council moved forward Tuesday night in its potential transition to district-based elections and, separately, gave a vote of confidence to City Manager Patrick Wiemiller, who had come under fire recently by some members of the governing body.
Regarding the district-based elections, the council reviewed some key points it will need to consider in the process and also held the first of five required public hearings on the matter. The decision for the council to reinforce its support for Wiemiller was reached after a discussion in closed session and then revealed publicly early in the open meeting by Mayor Bob Lingl.
Wiemiller’s job had seemingly been in jeopardy after Councilmen Jim Mosby and Victor Vega over the past month had each called for performance reviews for the city manager with the possibility of discipline or termination. They had aired grievances with Wiemiller during the course of the council’s extended budget deliberations over the spring and summer.
The council reached a compromise at its meeting on Sept. 19, when it voted to hold the closed-session meeting with Wiemiller and the city’s legal advisers ahead of Tuesday’s meeting to clear the air among everyone involved.
Lingl said Tuesday that the closed-door meeting was productive.
“We had a very good discussion back and forth, and at the end we had a unanimous vote of confidence from the five of us for our city manager,” he said.
Later in the meeting, Wiemiller expressed appreciation for the support.
“I want to thank the council for their vote of confidence and for the instruction and recommendations I heard — I take those to heart,” he said. “And thank you for the opportunity to continue my service here in the city.”
With that issue seemingly resolved, the council moved on to other topics, including the district-based election transition.
The council had voted on Sept. 5 to move forward with the transition process, rather than try to fight potential litigation from a group of community members against the city for alleged violation of the Voting Rights Act.
Lompoc is one of several cities and/or districts around the state that has at least started a transition from at-large to district-based elections. The move is intended to give more of a voice to historically underrepresented racial groups, including Hispanics.
Among the decisions the Lompoc City Council will face is whether to proceed with a plan to have the transition completed for the November 2018 general election, and what criteria to use for consideration of district boundaries.
To help with that latter issue, City Attorney Joe Pannone on Tuesday presented a slideshow created by consulting firm National Demographics Inc., which offered some data for the council to take into account. Among the demographic data was a map showing the areas of town that have the highest concentration of Latino residents. These were found to be between O Street, College Avenue, A Street and Central Avenue — essentially the core of the city.
The map noted that “to comply with the Federal Voting Rights Act requirements for districts, this neighborhood must not be divided in a way that dilutes its voting strength.”
Pannone suggested that two districts could potentially be created within that zone of highly concentrated Latino residents, and then two more districts outside of that zone.
The only action taken by the council Tuesday was to schedule the second of the five public hearings for its next regular meeting on Oct. 17. A representative of National Demographics is expected to be at that meeting to further assist in the creation of district maps.
Just two speakers offered comment at Tuesday’s first public hearing.
The first speaker said he was supportive of the move and suggested to the council that it follow the lead of other communities and consider school attendance boundaries when determining possible borders for districts.
The second speaker was former Lompoc Mayor John Linn. In his comments, Linn suggested that the council look at adding an additional two City Council seats. He said the city, as it does now, had five members — a mayor and four council members — way back when the city’s population was a quarter of the current total. He suggested that maybe now is the time to grow the governance body.
National Demographics will be designing a website through which the public can view information related to the city’s transition, according to city staff. That website will have a link to the city’s website and include information on how members of the public can submit their own draft district maps for the city council to consider.
The company will also post all draft district maps for public review, according to the city’s staff report, which noted that those maps will not be created until after the second public hearing.
It is not until the third public hearing that the City Council may consider draft district maps, as well as the sequence of elections in which district-based elections will be implemented, according to city staff.
Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the council reviewed a draft of an ordinance that would regulate cannabis use within the city. The draft proposal was ultimately returned to city staff for a range of revisions and is expected to be brought back to the council at a future meeting for a new first reading.
The next meeting of the Lompoc City Council is slated for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at City Hall, 100 Civic Center Plaza.