Anatomy of a Recall

By Doug Hubbard

It had been brewing for years–the mismanagement of  city finances and policies by elected and appointed Oxnard city officials.

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It came to head when the city council voted to increase sewer rates by a staggering 87 percent. 

Furious citizens, led by Aaron Starr of Moving Oxnard Forward (MOF),  launched an initiative process to roll back the rate hikes. The necessary paper work was filed on March 8, 2016, with the Oxnard City Clerk’s office, who then had 15 days to produce a “title and summery.” This is mandatory before starting to gather signatures. It should be noted here that the signatures needed to be gathered by a May 20, 2016, deadline to make the November 8th  ballot.

But in a secret closed door session, the City Council voted to block the initiative process from getting on the November ballot. No “title and summary” was forthcoming, despite California laws to the contrary.

This violated our rights for “redress of our grievances,” which is guaranteed under the first amendment of the US Constitution, and, of course, the California Constitution, granting us the right to the imitative process.

The City Council also violated their own sworn oath of office which reads in part — “I, ____________name_______________, solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California.” So much for their sworn pledge, and it speaks volumes about their ethics.

On March 23, 2016, the city filed a lawsuit against Starr with the dual purpose of not only stopping the initiative, but also of draining Starr and MOF of their funds to fight a legal battle in the courts.

Starr filed their intent on March 8th and the “title and summary” was due on or before March 23, but by April 5, 2016, the necessary paper work was not forthcoming. A counter lawsuit was filed in Superior Court to force the city to produce the “title and summary,” and Judge Rocky Baio, on April 15, ordered the city to release the paper work.

When April 18  rolled around and no paper work was available, Starr prepared a contempt action against the city. 

Calculating that there was inadequate time left to collect all the necessary signatures needed, and that they had stalled long enough, the city finally released the paper work on April 20th. 

Remember that there was a May 20 deadline to get the initiative on the ballot. But the city miscalculated. After 10 days of printing and organizing , Starr’s group hit the streets. In just 16 days, needing 1430 signatures, they collected 3,947–two days before the May 20 deadline. 

Measure M  passed by 72%, Almost 3 in 4 voted to roll back the rate increases.

Now, in a blatant attack on the underlying principal of our democratic process, the city wants the judge to invalidate Measure M, the will of the people. At this time that decision is still in the hands of the courts.

 

Eugene D. Hubbard is retired from the motion picture special effects business, an Oxnard resident since 1970 and still active in local civic affairs.


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