Oxnard: Starr Challenges City’s Measure B “Oxnard Government Accountability and Ethics Act” Verbiage, Ballot Argument, Legality

By George Miller, Oxnard, CA

Oxnard’s Battling Ballot Initiatives- These are far reaching measures, so voters should get familiar with them

Moving Oxnard Forward, Inc. activist and financial executive Aaron Starr authored and obtained petition signatures for a record five ballot initiatives- a massive and expensive undertaking. In parallel, or some say reaction, the city initiated its own “Oxnard Government Accountability and Ethics Act” (Measure B), which in part competes with and Starr claims is a much watered down version of the Moving Oxnard Forward initiatives. Agenda materials for this start on page 277 in the 10-15-19 City Council Agenda Materials. Discussion can be viewed in the meeting video in item M-1.

(L-R) Aaron Starr, Moving Oxnard Forward; Alex Nguyen, Oxnard City Manager

Starr has submitted his signatures. The city has approved four of the five measures based on sampling and is 100% checking the fifth one, which Starr is confident will pass muster. Now the same ballot initiative argument process for pro, con and rebuttals must be formulated like have been done for measure B.

Starr’s team told Citizens Journal that the Measure B and ballot argument language are deceptive, that parts of Measure B are confusing, redundant with existing law and maybe even unconstitutional, then proceeded to explain why.

Starr’s group believes that the term limits section of Measure B contains very “watered down” term limits which are less stringent and enable some office holders to circumvent them altogether.

Starr believes that some of the campaign finance restrictions are absurd, unworkable, and even violate First Amendment free speech rights. He also says it appears to be targeted at his financing of ballot initiatives, which he says is protected by multiple court rulings. He told us that Asst City Attorney Rozell said and wrote that the measure was not intended to restrict such actions, but Starr points out that the Measure as written would do just that.

He also believes that the restrictions on gifts are unconstitutionally vague and would entrap people who behaved even in ethical, normal ways.

Starr and his wife Alicia Percell pointed out that the city’s expenditures of $177,600 on surveys and attempts to assess and influence public opinion were:

  1. De facto campaigning with taxpayer dollars
  2. Were done without the normally required bidding procedures and Purchasing Agent participation.

Starr, as usual, has put his money and effort where his mouth is, filing protests and two lawsuits to help prevent what he believes is unlawful.

More on the survey later in this article.

 

Measure B and Argument Texts

Read Oxnard Measure B

Read Measure B Proposed ballot argument language:

2019.11.26 Argument in Favor of Measure B – Oxnard City Council

2019.11.26 Argument Against Measure B – Moving Oxnard Forward

2019.12.06 Rebuttal to Argument Against Measure B – Oxnard City Council

 

Note that Starr’s rebuttal to the city’s argument in favor of Measure B was not filed. It was submitted and was technically denied on a deadline dispute, even though the City Clerk had discretion to accept it.

Here’s what they tried to file: Rebuttal to Argument in Favor of Measure B – Completed Form – To Be Filed — 2019-12-06

In the past, Starr/Moving Oxnard Forward (MOF) filed and won a lawsuit against Mayor Tim Flynn, who filed a fallacious ballot statement and was forced by MOF/Court to change it and pay court costs. Starr lost the subsequent election to Flynn. MOF has won multiple lawsuits related to his measure M rollback of wastewater rate increases, currently appealed by the city. They also filed a lawsuit against what Starr  says are illegally levied utility infrastructure fees.

 

Attempt to Justify Measure B and New Sales Tax via a Resident Survey Challenged by Starr/Moving Oxnard Forward

Moving Oxnard Forward has aggressively gone after a city survey used to help justify Measure B and a new 1.5% increase to the sales tax.

The organization has aggressively sought out information on the survey’s questionnaire and full dataset of results. They believe the city is using this as a campaign tool.

Alicia Percell submitted 5 requests for information, some of which were refused on various what she believes are pretexts. Response to these public information requests was only partial, explained as being restricted by exemptions due to “attorney-client privilege,” attorney work product, official information, trade secrets, certain tax information and if the public interest in nondisclosure exceeds the public interest in disclosure.

The city claims that these exclusions would bar release of even things like the  survey questionnaire, written reports, spreadsheets, topline results, frequencies, cross tabulation tables, and detailed survey response data .

Moving Oxnard Forward quickly filed a lawsuit on December 2, which pleads that the cited exemptions to the public information request are inapplicable, to force disclosure of the requested information:

Read Lawsuit to force disclosure of data: 2019_12_02 Petition for Writ of Mandate – as filed with court

The organization filed a second on December 6, challenging the constitutionality of Measure B’s approach to donation and gift restrictions.”

Read lawsuit challenging Measure B Constitutionality: 2019_12_06 Complaint Filed

We read both documents in their entirety and only gave you a layman’s summary of key points, minus most of the obscure but important legal mumbo jumbo, which we note was formulated by attorney Chad Morgan, Esq., who has already beaten the city multiple times in Ventura County Superior Court.

Sales Tax 1 1/2 % increase attempt.

As of now, the city hasn’t attempted to place the proposed sales tax on the ballot, but appears to be laying the groundwork and testing the waters to do so.

Buried in hundreds of pages in the 10-15-19 Council meeting agenda package, lumped in with Measure B was a proposed 1 1/2% increase in the sales tax for Oxnard taxable sales transactions. This would generate an estimated additional $45 million dollars annually and be an enormous and very regressive tax, targeted at consumers, many of whom in Oxnard are low income people.

The city presented a survey result in the October 15 meeting agenda, which they claim people surveyed favored a 1 1/2% sales tax increase. In fact, the survey question as described merely asked if they favored additional revenue sources. The question didn’t say how much or what form the revenue source would take.  Examples of revenue sources are: sales taxes, property taxes, business taxes, hotel/rental taxes, infrastructure fees, revenue sharing, grants, etc.

 

We asked City Mgr. Alex Nguyen to comment for his article but have not heard back from him. If we ever do, we will include that in a later article.

 

Some relevant articles:

Oxnard Council- Short Term Rental Rules Debated; State of Region Summarized; Aaron Starr Initiatives Moved Along

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https://www.vcstar.com/story/news/2019/10/09/oxnard-consider-2020-ballot-measure-term-limits/3909978002/

https://www.vcstar.com/story/news/2019/10/05/aaron-starr-ballot-initiatives-oxnard-signatures/1923976001/

 

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


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Dotty Pringle

I believe the City may be practicing embezzlement again. Remember when the FBI shut city down?

Embezzlement:
Theft of assets entrusted to another person by the person that the assets were entrusted to.