Lompoc, CA – The city of Lompoc is demonstrating how government can and will retaliate against its own citizens when they dare to challenge even the smallest mistake made by government — road work.
Elaine Valla and Lompoc councilman James Mosby intend to put a stop to it in their city. According to the Lompoc Record:
“Lompoc resident Elaine Valla, who owns several properties in the city, said she had gone decades without receiving any notices related to code enforcement violations.
That all changed, she said, about five years ago when she complained to the city about what she felt was inadequate street construction work that was done by city crews near one of her properties.”
Valla said the road work created a large bump at one of her properties, making it inaccessible without a large truck. Understandably, she and her late husband refused to sign the completed work form, and that’s when the trouble started.
Valla began receiving notices of code violations at multiple properties, often for the most trivial of things. This included a barbecue pit left near a trash can, tenants having tires parked partially on gravel, having a portable basketball hoop and an old toilet being left in plain view while one property was being renovated.
Valla was ordered to stop work at the property until she got a permit to replace the toilet. She promptly went to get the ridiculous permit to avoid further costs in construction delays.
In May we described how government takes away your right to do something and sells it back to you as a “license.” The same applies to the notion of requiring a “permit” for everyday things such as toilets.
“It’s just been a lot of stupid little things,” Valla said. “They decided they were gonna hassle me for every little thing.”
She has been battling the city over the incessant, petty charges of code violations for five years, and it’s cost her $48,000 in rent during that time. More significant, though, is the mental toll of dealing with government run amok.
Councilman Mosby put it in plain terms, saying, Valla was “a victim of payback from the city.”
“People feel that if they make noise, the city is using code enforcement to silence them,” Mosby went on to say. “A lot of people are feeling harassed.
“What I’ve been concerned with is that it’s changing the flavor of the town. It’s separating (the city) into ‘us vs. them,’ and that’s not how it’s supposed to be. We’re supposed to work together toward a common goal and we’re not doing that.”
Mosby has also been subject to repeated targeting by the city at his own properties in Lompoc, after Mayor Bob Lingl promised in 2014 to be more “proactive” in code enforcement policy.
As a result, the number of code enforcement cases “nearly tripled from 307 in the 2011-12 fiscal year to 915 in the 2015-16 fiscal year.” Targeted residents note that the way policy is interpreted has changed in the last couple of years.
It’s an example of how government—despite all the claims of justness and fairness in applying the law of the land—does what it wants to the citizenry, when it wants. Intimidation and retaliation are indeed tools of the state when people dare to question. It happens at every level of government, from federal to state to local.
City Manager Patrick Wiemiller, of course, doesn’t think there is anything retaliatory in the way code enforcement is being applied.
“I have never heard that allegation before, so my only response to such an allegation would be to ask for details from nonanonymous people with firsthand knowledge of facts to step forward so that I may investigate,” said WieMiller.
After eight months of trying, Councilman Mosby managed to get the issue of code enforcement included as a topic of the July 19 meeting. Many residents voiced their concerns at the “testy” meeting about being targeted, but no votes were held on the matter.
One councilman said the city should be held accountable for code violations at an old city pool building.
Time will tell whether the city will acknowledge the financial and mental toll their harassment has taken on the residents of Lompoc.