Resident anger over Oxnard maneuver to shut down ballot initiative for wastewater rate hike rescinding

Banksters threaten default action

By George MillerOxnardDeclaratoryRelief3-22-16

We reported last week that the city had employed a slick legal maneuver (complaint for declaratory relief) to stall the wastewater rate increase-rescinding ballot initiative filed by local activist/City Council candidate Aaron Starr. The City claimed that the initiative was “illegal” because it would deprive the City of revenues needed to provide service to the residents. The wastewater fund is dangerously low, due to the level of drawdown and lack of rate increases for years. The first annual increase of rates went into effect in March billings. Starr claims much of the planned work is unnecessary, premature or inefficiently planned/conducted and the increases are excessive at 88% compounded over several years. He also left open the possibility of arriving at a lower rate which would meet reduced, but reasonable expectations and achieve targeted reserve levels at a slower rate. The city has many unfilled technical positions contributing to mismanagement and large consulting expenses to fill some of that gap.

At the 3-29-16 Oxnard City Council meeting, several residents made angry comments about this maneuver, which the City unleashed right on the deadline  day when they were supposed to finalize the ballot initiative summary wording. This should have been completed by the city at the earliest possible date, to allow time for back and forth negotiation.

Brett Munoz was disappointed that the city resorted to “suing Starr, a private Citizen …. infringing his constitutional rights” and that this was “unAmerican.” He said that the City should rescind the lawsuit.

Both Mayor Flynn and City Manager Nyhoff offered to meet with this reporter on the subject, so stay tuned- we’ll let readers know one way or another.

Starr’s comments appear a little farther down in this article.

Al Velasquez objected to the City “suing Starr” to stop the initiative and attempt to instill fear in him. He said that “we no longer have a free America,” which his middle namesake (Rudolf) had “fought in the WWII Battle of the Bulge for.”

We were told that a threatening bank letter helped to panic the city into its action:

MUFGUnionBankOxnardLetter

However, we think this may be unlikely, as the letter referred to was supposedly dated 3-24-16 (unless there was prior warning of it) and this declaratory relief complaint supposedly was filed on 3-23-16. Starr said the complaint has yet to be formally served to him.

Aaron Starr, candidate

Aaron Starr, candidate

Text of City Council candidate/activist Aaron Starr statement at 3-30-16 Council meeting:

Last Wednesday I expected to receive from the city a title and summary (as required by law) for the initiative I filed on March 8.  Instead, I was informed that the city was using taxpayer funds to sue me for daring to exercise my constitutional rights.  How is this not a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (or SLAPP)?

Page 1 of the lawsuit states:

“Accordingly, the City brings this declaratory relief action to seek judicial clarification regarding the Initiative’s lawfulness at the earliest possible time.  Indeed, because the City must disclose the Initiative in connection with offering bonds – as its mere existence creates risk for potential bond purchasers – the City urgently needs to resolve this action so it may sell bonds at a reasonable price…”

You’re not fooling anyone with this rhetoric pretending to be in a hurry.  This suit is without merit.  If you were in a hurry, you would be seeking a writ, not a civil case that will drag on for many months.

We all know this is actually a DELAY tactic.  Without the title and summary, we can’t start collecting petition signatures, and if you succeed this lawsuit will likely prevent it from being on the ballot this November.

If you’re in such a hurry, why haven’t I even been served?  It’s been almost a week.  I’m not aware of any attempt to serve me yet.  That’s because you’re not in a hurry.  I say, “Bring it on!”

If you delay the people in their attempt to bring this to the voters, YOUR LAWSUIT will likely mean this will not make the November ballot, and this decision will be hanging over your heads for AN EXTRA TWO YEARS until the next election cycle.  YOU are the ones causing the delays, so don’t whine to me about the side effects.

I know it was uncomfortable for you to have so many citizens show up for the rate hike hearing, but you seem to have forgotten that your decisions impact real people.

Page 7 of the lawsuit alleges the Initiative would force the City to set rates too low to meet its various obligations.  Nonsense!  We are not saying you cannot raise any rates at all, just that an 88% increase is outrageous and unwarranted – that’s $326 per year for a typical family.

I live here, I want a wastewater system that works!  I also don’t want a bankrupt city, and this lawsuit just digs you into a deeper hole.

We had a meeting scheduled to discuss utility finances with city staff, but instead the city cancelled it and filed suit.

You’re going to have to learn to manage your money better.  The city’s finances are an embarrassment, you cannot even produce financial statements that can be audited, but somehow you know with precision how much bond proceeds you need to get by for the next several decades.

The residents of this city understand the game you’re playing and they’re not going to tolerate it.

This is going to end badly for you.

 

Al Velasquez statement for Oxnard City Council March 29, 2016 Meeting during public comment.
 
Good evening Mayor Flynn, Council Members and Staff. My name is Alfred Rudolph Velasquez. I am here this evening to protest the city of Oxnard leadership for suing Aaron Starr, for filing an initiative against the excessive wastewater rate increase’s the public has been subjected to by the Oxnard city councils decision.
 
I personally believe the Oxnard City Council is directly or indirectly denying Mr Starr, and myself ( Al Velasquez) and every citizen in this City their Constitutional Right by not allowing  us the opportunity to sign the initiative, to be submitted to the County Clerk for it to be placed on the Nov 2016 Ballot.
 
I resent the fact that the Oxnard City Council, in my opinion choose to tie up and delay the due process thru court Litigation with the intent of the Initiative not meeting the required time dead line for the Nov 2016 Ballot Election. 
 
What can we expect Next from the Oxnard City Council and the Mayor of the City?
 
Am I (Al Velasquez) also going to to get sued next by the Oxnard City Council and Mayor, because I Emailed the State Controllers Department (Betty.T.Yee) on January 2016, requesting they come to the City Of Oxnard and do an audit, on the City of Oxnard Finance Department and the City Treasure Department.
 
I am beginning to feel that I am no longer living in a Free America, where one can express their personal opinion and exercise their Constitutional Rights without fear of being threatened or sued by the City Of Oxnard. 
 
I did not vote for you people to sit up there and then use my own tax dollars to sue me or anyone else for exercising Our Constitutional Rights.
 
Please note! I will not be voting for any one of you who voted for the excessive WASTEWATER RATE INCREASE’S in the Nov 2016 Election nor will I be voting for any one of you who voted to sue Aaron Starr.
 
I would like to remind the City Council and Mayor, we are not living in 1943 and 1944.
 
Please note my Mother’s five Brothers served and fought in World War Two so that I and others thru out the world could have ” FREEDOM AND RIGHTS’
 
Please note! I was named after my uncle Alfred who was killed during the battle of the budge while crossing the Rhine River and never to be found.

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

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One Response to Resident anger over Oxnard maneuver to shut down ballot initiative for wastewater rate hike rescinding

  1. William "Bill" Hicks March 30, 2016 at 7:05 am

    It’s a “legal” maneuver. From someone that doesn’t particularly have a legal background, my guess is that it’s not too dissimilar to the legal maneuver of bankruptcy.

    Again, not from someone with a legal background, my guess is that rates should have gone up incrementally a long time ago, but city council members ere too timid; they chose to just kick the can down the road until it was a big problem.

    Any way you look at it, it doesn’t look like city council did their job; not much different than moonbeam and other former governors that didn’t provide infrastructure to our antiquated water system until it was at the point of draconian measures we currently are going through with our water shortage due to drought.

    Reply

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