Oxnard to hold special meetings on utility rate increases, YMCA, on short notice: utility rate ballots mailed

By George Miller

At last week’s city council meeting, no mention at all was made that there would be two additional emergency special meetings next transparencyweek. But in flurry of pre-holiday activity, these were reportedly scheduled, plus ballots to poll residents on utility rate increases were mailed out (we haven’t seen them yet).

We call them “emergency” meetings, because surely they wouldn’t be scheduled so suddenly and without even consulting neighborhood council leadership unless they were to address emergencies- right? We couldn’t find them listed on the city web site as of press time, Saturday afternoon, December 5. (note: added late Sat. afternoon). After we contacted Assistant City Manager Scott Whitney, they appeared shortly thereafter.

Interestingly, Interim City Attorney Stephen Fischer announced at a recent council meeting that such meetings require only a 48 hour notice. But, if they knew that they were going to hold these meetings, why weren’t they announced immediately so that stakeholders would have adequate time to prepare?

We received this from Neighborhood Council President Mike Gleason:

I just got off the phone with the City Manager’s office, who advised that there will be Special City Council Meetings, on Wednesday and Thursday next week. These meetings are not yet indicated in the “Upcoming Events” section.

Both meetings are said to be essentially single-item agendas, and have a start time of 5:00 PM

Wed, 12/09         Special meeting for the YMCA to report on the findings of the market research they have done on the two possible sites for a new YMCA:

  1. the corner of 5th and Patterson, and
  2. the property at the corner of Gonzales and Oxnard Blvd. (Sports Park Site)

Thu, 12/10           Special meeting to explain to the public the need for the rate increases from the perspective of aging infrastructure

Additionally, I’m told the notices of the proposed water/sewer/solid waste rate increases went out yesterday, including protest information.

WhitneyScottBlue

Asst. City MAnager Scott Whitney at Council meeting, first week on the job. Photo: CitizensJournal.us

Assistant City Manager Scott Whitney weighs in

The City has a slightly different view, per Mr. Whitney, seeing the meetings as an opportunity to educate the public on the why and wherefore of, for example,  utility rates, including background,  what is needed, why, proposed rates with options, and the utility rate assistance program. He said the Utility Rate Commission meetings had been very poorly attended. Whitney explained that tens of millions of dollars will be needed just to patch up the existing systems and this would be paid for via higher rates and new bond issues.

Regarding the utility rates ballot sent out, he informed us that the city wasn’t aware of any commitment to do a prior

Oxnard Wastewater Treatment Plant

Oxnard Wastewater Treatment Plant

review of it with INCO and that it was reduced from 18 pages to 6, making it presumably more digestible (I still haven’t received mine as of Saturday night).

City management sees a large backlog of city business built up and multiple extra meetings are needed to clear it, with even more meetings in December than November, which already had five meetings, while some other cities go “dark” during the holiday season.

Inter-Neighborhood Council (INCO) officials were not consulted on the content and layout of the ballots, which have been quite controversial. See our past articles on that and other subjects mentioned here in our News- Oxnard section. Residents have pointed out that it it takes a 50%+ vote of ALL ratepayers to stop a proposed rate increase, which is nearly impossible to do. In addition, only choices all (the full program increase) or nothing are offered on the ballot. How  this information is presented on the ballot is very important. If you’d like to weigh in on the large proposed rate increases, it would be good to come to the THURSDAY December 10 meeting at 5 PM to participate.

Meeting notices added to city meetings web site late Saturday afternoon, sans agendi:

Upcoming Events
Name Date Agenda Video
City Council Meeting December 8, 2015 – 05:00 PM View Agenda
City Council – SPECIAL MEETING • 1. YMCA Report 2. Priority Based Budgeting Presentation 3. Discuss 10/29/15 City Council Workshop Report (we added link) December 9, 2015 – 05:00 PM
City Council – SPECIAL MEETING REVIEW OF UTILITY RATES December 10, 2015 – 05:00 PM

These latter two are in addition to the regular Tuesday December 8 City Council meeting.

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

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