Aaron Starr 2, Oxnard 1, in utility rate battle

By George Millerstoputilityrateincreases

Starr obtains expedited hearing date for Starr v City of Oxnard case to get rate rollback on the ballot

Local Oxnard business executive, civic activist and City Council candidate Aaron Starr and his Moving Oxnard Forward (MOF) grassroot activist organization have pressured the city to lower business and permit fees, as well as make it easier to do business and get things done in the City.

But, when the city filed its enormous utility rate rate increase proposal, the group pivoted to oppose it, claiming the city was mismanaging the utilities, demanding too much money and that the books were so poorly kept that they had no idea what the rates should be. MOF got legal advice, mailed 60,000 brochures opposing the increases and soliciting written protests, posted huge signs around town and made 18,000 telephone calls, as well as protesting at city hall and packing the hearing to fill council chambers, three more overflow halls and still had more people outside the room.

KEYTV report: http://www.keyt.com/news/city-of-oxnard-sued-over-utility-rate-increase/38896624

They submitted about 5000 protests, not enough to legally halt the increases, but enough to get the attention of the city, to drop the water and wastewater increases. But the Council approved the increase for wastewater, which is in far more precarious condition. Evidently. that wasn’t good enough for Starr, who believed that the $675 million dollar price tag to rebuild the system and more than double city debt to about a billion dollars was outrageous and unnecessary. The plans have since been downsized to about $500 million in two major phases and divided into a mid-term fix and a longer term rebuild of the oldest portions of the processing plant. But he believes that the proposed increases, the first one already in effect, were designed for the higher cost of services analysis and are excessive.

Starr makes comments on rate increase struggle and has lawsuit served on Oxnard at Council meeting ….

Finally, Starr filed a ballot initiative to repeal the increase. The City was supposed to have finalized the initiative summary language for the ballot so petitions could be circulated by Starr’s group to get it on the ballot. Instead, it waited until the deadline day and instead filed a lawsuit to stop the initiative on grounds that have already been overruled for at least two California cities in the past.

Starr flips Pancake

Undeterred, Starr hired the law firm that accomplished that feat and countersued, having it theatrically served to the Council and City Attorney at a recent meeting (see video above).  A problem was that the hearing was set for August 18, far too late to help him with the ballot initiative. Per Starr last night, he went to the judge yesterday (via his attorney) and got an expedited hearing date of April 15 at 1:30 PM. He said the City’s hired attorney, a Ms. Pancake, tried to argue that it would not cause the plaintiff irreparable harm if delayed until 2018 and that that Superior Court Judge Rocky Baio mocked her when she claimed that. The City wanted a May 23 or 24 date, which is after signatures have to be turned in.

We have heard cries of outrage even from people who don’t support Starr’s cause, exclaiming that these are underhanded, even unethical legal tricks, the antithesis of the “open, transparent” government the City claims to favor.

Per Starr, in a recent KEYTV interview, City Attorney Stephen Fischer told the interviewer that he just wanted to get guidance from the court. We’ll soon see how readily he accepts it.

Statement from City Attorney Stephen Fischer

“The City will explain to the Court why the proposed initiative would prevent it from protecting the health and safety of Oxnard’s residents and from meeting its contractual obligations to bondholders. We look forward to the Court’s thoughtful consideration of the impact the initiative would have on an essential government function and the City’s ability to set wastewater rates at a level sufficient to meet its obligations as required by statute.”

 

Last article, which also contains links to others:

https://citizensjournal.us/oxnard-moves-to-block-voter-initiative-to-roll-back-wastewater-rate-increase/


George Miller is Publisher of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard.

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2 Responses to Aaron Starr 2, Oxnard 1, in utility rate battle

  1. Larry Stein April 8, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    Please note that an item on the City of Oxnard Agenda for 04/02/2016 is proposing a 5 year plan to spend less than $80,000,000 to fix the waste water facility compared to the proposed $300,000,000+

    Reply

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